Note: This is one of several “Best of Shoe: Untied” retreads I post from time-to-time. Basically I’m going to rerun some of my most popular articles according to comments and pageviews. If you’ve already read them, just move along, nothing to see here. However, if you’re one of my many new readers and haven’t seen some of my earlier stuff, this might be for you. What follows are some of my thoughts regarding our national obsession with what people say and how they say it. It has special significance in relation to Gordon Gee’s recent comments and the trouble they caused him.
So Dane Cook is in some hot water for some joke he made the other night regarding the Colorado shootings. Let me get one thing straight. I’m not a huge Dane Cook fan. I have nothing against the guy, I just find him, well, unfunny, not very creative and
exceptionally sort of stupid. That said, the uproar over his comments during his schtick are way over the top in my opinion. After all it was only a joke, nothing more. Just words. Here’s what he said:
“Man, that thing in Colorado was terrible. But you know the new Batman movie sucks, right? I can picture somebody sittting in the 10th row, about 25-minutes into the movie, saying something like, ‘This movie is bad. Somebody shoot me.’ And then . . .”
Hardy-har-har. Sort of amusing but not really. My issue with the joke is not with the content but with the fact that it’s just not that funny. Hey, my friends will tell you I’ve told jokes about 9/11, Dale Earnhardt and almost anything else that might be deemed inappropropriate by normal folks. To me funny is funny, and my ability to laugh about 9/11 has absolutely zero correlation with my sympathy for the victims and for what happened that day.
They’re only words, folks.
I used to get very upset when people would make an inapproriate comment or a racist joke. And although I still feel a racist joke is ignorant and offensive, I usually don’t say anything anymore. You can’t fight every dumbass in the world, so I just walk away. They’re just words. Actions, on the other hand, can really hurt.
Maybe the Hip-Hop culture has, in a way, contributed to the lessening of the impact when you hear the word with such regularity. So, maybe when I hear it now it’s not so much of a shock. Still, I still hate that damn word. When Jay-Z, Snoop, or anyone else uses it I just cringe. So many negatives over history attached to it.
Ultimately though? Just a word.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the power of words. I understand they can be hurtful. A woman recently told the parent of one of my students that her kid would never learn a thing in my class. Even though I knew it was bullshit it hurt to think someone would think that about something I love to do so much. Words can sting. It’s just that I think as a country we’ve become way too thin-skinned. I started teaching in the classroom for the first time in 15-years this past year, and at some point (oh, it may have been the first day) I said:
“Alright! Everybody shut up!”
Audible gasps from the students. One of them said, “Mr. Shoe, we’re not supposed to say those words.” There may have even been a tear in his eye.
And to that I responded: “Bleh.”
Appparently these words, over the past few years, have become off-limits in the classroom. Apparently damages self-esteem or something. Listen, if a teacher telling you to shut up destroys your fragile emotional state that badly you’re in for a tumultuous, stressful life.
They’re only words. Here’s some advice. Relax and learn to deal with it, the sooner the better.
And how about the sports teams with the Indian names. Really? Is it really that offensive to American Indians for a team to be called the Redskins? The Seminoles? Is the Chief Wahoo logo really really that upsetting to people? It’s a smiling cartoon head for God’s sake.
Speaking of team names, it seems we’re sort of selective, aren’t we? I mean, I consider myself a good American patriot, but hey New England Patriots, I ain’t mad at ya.
Howza ’bout the Philadelphia 76ers? Ya think my man George Washington woud be “offended” because a basketball team was named after him and his posse? I think not. He’d probably respond with a quizzical look and say:
“What’s basketball?” Then he’d go kick some Hessian ass and change the course of history.
The point is they’re just names. Words. They can’t hurt you. Mom was right. Sticks and stones and all that.
One final thought on words. I’m always hearing about a fight starting because somebody was “disrepected”. This always makes me laugh. First off, have you done anything to earn this “respect” in the first place? And if so, why do you care if some doofus doesn’t recognize this? Big deal. Life goes on. Smile and walk away. It’s not worth wasting negative energy over it. People are idiots. They’re not worth your time. They can’t hurt you.
They’re only words.
[Originally published July 29th, 2012.]