At risk of sounding like an old fogey, I remember a time when people being interviewed for television or newspapers, minded their language. For the few who forgot, the tv and radio media would use their bleep button and the newspapers typed in (expletive deleted.) In my part of the world, all that has gone away. Even our public broadcaster, the CBC allows vulgar and profane comments on prime time.
I first became aware of this degradation of public civility when I was a young school teacher. There was a labour dispute in our area and the spokesperson for one side use swear words in an interview and the broadcaster let them go. Perhaps the union spokesman was using the language of the shop floor, perhaps he was trying to show his members that he was a strong advocate, perhaps he hoped to intimidate the other side. Whatever his motives, the result was to
debase the argument into a school yard
shouting match, with each side ramping up
That initial awareness came to me many years ago and since that time the level of incivility in public discourse has risen (or sunk?) in an ever escalating curve. The entertainment industry seems to consider lots of swearing necessary to the success of a movie or television show. Even so called "date" movies assault the listeners ears with obscenities. Swearing is now so pervasive and casual that it has lost much of its shock value, and has becoming tiresome and boring instead.
In the USA they are into an election campaign. The first televised debate was a low-key, polite affair and the pundits and politicos have jumped all over President Obama for not taking a more offensive stance. No doubt, we'll hear more character assassination in the coming weeks.
In Canada, my own province is heading into an election next May, so the parties and candidates are staking out their ground now. To my surprise and delight, I heard one politician say, "It serves no purpose to tear down these good people personally, and I am not going to do it." Good people? He called the opposing party, "good people!" Wow! I'm encouraged. I'll vote for this candidate. Someone who recognizes that all who seek to serve in public office are deserving of respect at a personal level. One may hate their politics, but the candidates are "good people." So, I'm proudly donning my old fogey hat and
I've already given up movies that contain the "coarse language" warning and I won't buy books filled with profanity. As a follower of Christ, can I do less? Perhaps if we all banded together and refused to let the foul-mouthed invade our screens and our personal space, we could raise the level of civil in civil society.
What about you? Is public debate in your county respectful and productive? If it isn't, what will you do about it?
Her website is www.alicevaldal.com
She also blogs at http://saanichpeninsulapc.blogspot.ca/