Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bill O'Reilly and Small-Town America

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I read a piece on The Disgruntled Chemist and Pharyngula about this classic Bill O'Reilly comment on kids, cursing, and public schools:

OK. That happens every day, all day in the public schools here in New York City. And I know it happens in Chicago and Los Angeles and Boston and Washington, D.C. In any major urban center. It doesn't happen in the small towns; it happens in the cities. I live in New York. I'm not gonna have my 6-, 7-, 8-, 9-year-old go to a school where they're saying that stuff in the hallway and the teacher doesn't do anything about it. You know, private school, that does not happen.

I don't wish to comment too much about the argument for or against public schools, because this simply has no bearing, whatsoever, about government funding of schools. After all, being funded by the government or by mom and dad, or having scary nun teachers will change the way people talk.

What I'm confused about is what Bill O'reilly is trying to say about small towns, big cities, and cursing. Let me try to deconstruct as I go. Bill O'Reilly believes in a fantasy called "profanity." I do not hold this belief. The idea of profanity is an ancient religious belief, stemming from the idea that gods and demons can be controlled by the uttering of their names in ritual. Thus the commandment against "taking the Lord's name in vain." And we know that this nonsense is just not true.

I once heard an explanation about why cursing is bad on the kids' show, Arthur. Arthur's mom explains that cursing is bad because many people consider it to be rude. Using curse words means you want to hurt people. So, saying "fuck" is bad because people say so. And when your mom says that you are supposed to be hurt by it, I suppose you can be hurt by it. And so on. Cursing is nothing but a social construct. It's like saying God exists, because people believe in it.

From there it must be easy to assume that cursing is the same as other "bad behaviors," and should be treated as such. Kids who curse, the idiot believes, are kids who smoke and do drugs. Idiots believe that this is a behavior of bad people also, since, after all, bad people curse. And people who smoke and do drugs are loose sexually. And everybody knows that people who are loose sexually are bad people. Because they curse, smoke, and do drugs. And so on. And this is what happens in big cities, right?

Of course, the idea this doesn't happen in small towns is totally false, and either the ramblings of a lunatic or a liar. But what are the implications? What is to be done about these big cities? Does Bill O'Reilly think that children should be taken away from big cities? Is it everyone's duty, as a citizen and moral person, to move to small towns in order to protect their children? Or is a private school a way of mimicking the small town experience?

Most of you reading this know how silly this all is. After all, in the smallest of towns, cursing and smoking and sleeping around is pretty much all there is to do. Well, that and every conceivable truly evil action there is to do, can be done, and is done, in small towns. Actions like rape, murder, incest, gay bashing, wife beating, and lynchings. You know. Like they did in the good old days. In the small towns. Where they vote for Bush and don't swear.

1 comment:

breakerslion said...

"Of course, the idea this doesn't happen in small towns is totally false, and either the ramblings of a lunatic or a liar."

Not mutually exclusive.