This is a post where I am starting with no idea where I’m going. I’m not sure how I feel and I am hoping to discover an opinion in an exploration of an issue.
The issue is: Trash Talking.
Actually, the issue is deeper and much bigger than just that; it is the concept of engineering, rather than teaching, behavior.
When I read articles, such as one that I read today, about legislation being passed to stop certain behaviors in order to reduce: a) Hurt feelings, b) Offensive actions or remarks, c) Stereotyping, d) Anger and/or violence that results, or e) All of the above; my first reaction is an understanding of why such laws are passed and I sympathize with the premise.
However, I also think that it’s possible that the more a society protects itself in this way, the more vulnerable we can become.
Case in point: The state of New Jersey has outlawed “trash talking” at high school sporting events: http://news.yahoo.com/jersey-nothing-better-outlaw-trash-talking-high-school-150615870.html;_ylt=AwrNUPj4bMRRajQAHQD_wgt.
Trash talking is offensive and often riles the trash “talkees” into an irrational state of mind. It is vulgar by design, it is intentionally insulting and disrespectful, and can incite many negative reactions. It is contrary to “good sportsmanship” which should be the primary intention in all, but specifically education-based athletics.
I AGREE with the premise of the new law, but it does challenge the First Amendment. While it is not lawful to slander, libel or to incite a riot or sedition, it is lawful to be an ass. It isn’t ethical or moral to be offensive, but it might be legal.
Behavior needs to be taught, not enforced by legislation. We can have zero tolerance policies when it comes to vulgar words and actions in schools, or for “bullying” but these policies do not necessarily stop the offensive or violent behavior, they simply move it elsewhere.
If a player on a football field rises to a higher level of competition because the competitive anger the game requires is transposed into language, we cannot be surprised at that manifestation; but what we can do, if we are concerned as parents, educators or spectators, is take on the responsibility to teach the “offenders” alternative or more ethical standards and show examples of the behavior we expect.
I am as repulsed as anyone when I hear a racial epithet, but, where I make a distinction is in the fact that I want to end the intention behind a racial slur by promoting equality, but I do not believe that forbidding the slur takes even one step in that direction.
If I hear someone make a sexist comment (I’ve even reprimanded myself), I am compelled to correct them.
When people swear in a context where society has generally agreed that it is inappropriate, I will express my displeasure or ask that respect be shown to others.
I walk away from ethnic or sexist jokes.
My children don’t swear. Once, recently, my 14 year old was so angry at me that he hollered, “What the HELL are you doing?”
I told him that I found his words and tone disrespectful, and it hasn’t happened since. It could, I’m sure, but I’m also sure that it will never be a habit.
We are a society of laws, that’s a fact, and laws keep the parameters of civilization manageable and lead us closer to real justice, but we cannot have a law for everything we don’t like; we cannot legislate every questionable behavior. Not when that legislation is replacing what it is that we should be doing: TEACHING.
So, that’s where I was going with this…