Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bar None

While I’m not up enough on the early release of AP affiliate news around the globe to bring you information you probably haven’t already heard, I did think this article about the proposal to ban swearing in St. Louis bars deserved some further debate.

The article contends that police officers in the area need greater leeway in promoting the public peace, specifically in rowdy, night-crowd bars. The proposal is said to lump in the act of cussing with a short list of other “questionable” practices which, if outlawed, would give police the exceptional berth they’d need for better crowd control.

Um, am I allowed to say “screw debate” or “this is fucking ridiculous?” Perhaps “pish-tosh” would be more appropriate. Our illustrious Bullet of My Pants once put it very succinctly. “You cannot make being an asshole against the law!”

I suppose, however, that my mere swearing in an obscure blog entry does little to show these life-o-phobes for the mental nonparticipants that they are. I am absolutely certain that the St. Louis meeting scheduled to discuss the topic will be all but laughed out of existence. Nonetheless, if I trust only in the skimped human gathering of a far off Metropolis to learn from this proposed, obtuse doctrine, I’d be failing my readers. Okay, reader.

Why? Why bars? Well, let’s first handle the “why not” of the tale. This is NOT to give law enforcement officers more leeway for crowd control. That’s a lie. I am well aware that the tenants of freedom as observed in our nation leave a great many law enforcement officers with the feeling of having their hands tied. It is the observance of that feeling that actually makes a great many heroes, their awareness of their limitations, their need to supplement allowable force with immense doses of simple human appeal. An officer who refuses to overstep bounds or who acknowledges the privileges awarded her/him in enforcement is usually a fine example for the rest of the force. More often it is the staunch, black-and-white philosophy of law enforcement that sees hypocrisies and even law breaking on the part of officers and legislators.

I guarantee this “outlaw swearing” idea is not coming from an officer(s) who feels her/his hands are tied. Those officers already know that there is far and away enough existing legislation to do what they need to do in a bar crowd or any other crowd. “Disorderly conduct” ring any bells? Do “noise ordinances” sound familiar to anyone? A heavier handed “inciting to riot” might even come into play here. “Public intoxication” laws have a million incarnations across the country. “Failure to comply” is another funny derivative of “resisting arrest” that, dare I say, might take place in a St. Louis bar from time to time. “Indecent exposure” continues the list while “disturbing the peace” sees countless applications and “reckless endangerment” pretty much knocks the point home. By almost any of these existing laws, the law enforcement officer is provided the authority to exercise good, common sense between arriving on the scene and determining if an arrest is necessary. With any of these laws, it is up to the officer to determine whether somebody just advised him to go fuck himself or if the patron uttered “fuck” when his quarterback’s pass was intercepted in the third quarter. The simple fact is that sometimes swearing constitutes disorderly conduct, and sometimes it does not. Sometimes swearing is part of inciting to riot, sometimes it is not. Sometimes swearing is a direct failure to comply, and sometime it is not. The determination is now up to the officer on the scene. Legislate anti-swearing law, and the officer will have no choice. Any cuss would represent a failure to comply. Any drinking game would be tantamount to disorder by definition. No reasonable police officer wants this. They do not want what little authority they DO have, even with “tied hands,” to be taken away, therefore further tying their hands. It’s a no-brainer.

So, if it is not officers who feel they have tied hands bringing the topic up for proposal, then who…and more importantly why?

The first possibility is the staunch black-and-white legislators and enforcement officers mentioned above. Look for the hypocrisies people! If good cops would never bring it up, then bad cops have an ulterior motive in doing so. Don’t fall for it, whatever it is!

The next possibility is the Disneyfiers of the world. These are the corporations that think all reasonable people want to live in a Magic Kingdom and wear purple pants with great big buttons. Not too long ago, New York City’s Times Square and its surrounding areas were home to an urban nightlife which included a huge real estate swath of cheap, overtly disgusting, adult-only entertainment services. During the day, Times Square was a tourist attraction like none other, drawing in families and theatre-goers, PG-13 seekers and photophiles. Late night Times Square was a completely different place, a place that would sell double-sided dildos on the street, third hand, and home to a clientele who would buy them. Several conservative mayoralties later, for better or for worse, Times Square now looks like the Lion King threw up on it. Candy shops, Mickey merchandising, authentic Bugs Bunny tie-tack outlets and retro’ themed cafes have all obliterated any trace of a single glow-in-the-dark condom within walking distance of the Marriot Marquis. While I was no fan of 25 cent peep shows or those who’d freelance the same outside at 8th and 42nd, I can’t say that I’m all that enthralled with New York City being a big Betty Boop cartoon either. Sex slave DVD knock-offs disgusted me, but near zero variance in the available, touristy, consumer wares, none of which I would ever buy, doesn’t seem quite like Times Square either.

Growing up in the suburbs, we used to have a chain of franchised stores called Times Square Stores. It was a department store, of sorts, following on the heels of Grant’s and their competitors, with the exception of the fact that in each TSS department, some different franchise was making the profit. The only reason anyone ever went to Times Square Stores in the suburbs was the selection. It was the nincompoop, working class dream that one could get a new set of Good Year tires just paces from tiny, pink, Easter shoes that made it attractive. You could get a full set of earthtone, stoneware dishes in the department right next to the sale on imported newts and newt tank accessories. Before Wal*Mart and Kmart, before Target and Caldor, Times Square Stores made selection diversity synonymous with convenience. I knew about Times Square Stores before I ever knew about Times Square. Once I learned about the place the store was named after, I couldn’t wait to grow old enough to go there. I mean, if the price and selection at the store that BORROWED the name was so colossal, then the real Times Square was going to have products I’d never even imagined on the shelf. Sure, I was dismayed to eventually discover that the “products I’d never even imagined” were nipple clamps and assless chaps, but a guy’s got to learn somehow. Though I never made these impulse buys either, still, they were in fact things I’d never imagined, just as I’d suspected. Besides, lewd toys weren’t the only items available in Times Square, just the majority of them. Today, I can get the same Minnie Mouse pom-pom socks in Times Square that I can get in the Disney Store in Boise, Idaho. Figuratively, that’s about all I can get. Granted, I have to acknowledge the place is much better and that there is more to Times Square than shopping. However, homogenizing Times Square, in the end, gives me absolutely no reason to go there. Their money now comes from some one else and goes someplace else, eventually reaching old Walt in his hyperbolic chamber.

That’s the rub with the theory of Disneyfiers promoting anti-swearing law in St. Louis. If there is any truth to it, one must follow who’d be making the money. The city? The superstores? Special interest groups? Who would profit from a master plan to Disneyfy the area. Step one, make grown men say fiddlesticks. Step two, bring back floor length house frocks and put saltpeter in the food. Step three, build a rat in pants that can be seen from space. St. Louis, I ache for you.

In the end, however, I think it is neither of these groups that would try to suggest such legislation. I think, in our gut, when we look at both the absurdity of the law and the fact that it would only apply to bars and not St. Louis as a whole, we’d have to put our finger-pointing money on FAMILIES WITH SMALL CHILDREN! Ahhhhhhhhh!

This is my generation’s fault, yes FAULT! Oh sure, they lump us all into this Gen X category straining to find any one pan-spawn factor that unites us. That’s because they are looking for something positive. In practice, it’s much easier to find lists of similarities when we look directly at our own faults. We Gen Xers think that since the first step of a process is the hardest, we don’t have to take any of the other steps. We think that if we haven’t heard of something before, it must not be true. We think that part of the determination of whether an act is right or wrong is whether or not we get caught. We think that a two page email is way too long to read as books collect dust on our shelves. We think that everything old is useless and that everything new needs to be user friendly to be worthwhile. Convenience and comfort are actually priorities. And, and, and we think that every place we might ever set foot, even by accident, has to be completely innocuous to our children!

To quote George Carlin, “Fuck the children!” Listen, I write as a brand new father of an absolutely perfect 14 week old daughter. I hold her and feed her and change her diapers every day. I joke about her becoming U.S. President in 2042. I speak both baby talk and educational lingo to her on the regular while always making time for play. She is my light, my heart, and my hope. We waited and tried for a very long time just to have her and I relish what will be our time together. I fear for her safety, plan and wish for her future, pray for her happiness, and even wonder at her simple presence with my own child-like eyes.

Even I, however, realize that there is a difference between a child and an adult, the adult being the first tier. It’s not as vast as say, the difference between another animal and a human, but it is an enormous difference nonetheless. For me to expect that every single threshold I might cross, that each and every doorway I might darken, has somehow keenly brought itself up to the benign specs that would fascinate, but not negatively impact a six year old is the epitome of self-centered drek. Overwrite that MP3! Wear bulkier pants! Picket HBO! Give that guy a ticket for spitting! The color of that blouse is way to close to fleshtone! It’s like we want to raise a nation of Eloi.

As long as there are both adults and children in a free enterprise society, there will be businesses that target every niche. There are going to be some businesses that cater directly to children: Gymboree, Fruit Roll-Ups, rated G films. There will be others that cater to adults with a particularly naughty feel: Hooters, strip clubs, casinos. There will be still others that cater to adults with no such naughty feel: sports bars, cigar bars, red carpet affairs, wine tastings, gaming tournaments. Lastly, there will always be businesses that cater to the whole family: Red Robin, parades, zoos, Friendly’s, amusement parks, museums, etc.

To attempt to make EVERY place “family friendly” only serves to put other family friendly businesses out to pasture. Claiming and asserting that everything or that almost everything is supposed to fit into a single, American, child-proof niche, makes a shitload of competition within that niche and puts people out of work while dumbing down the consumer. Yet, you do not need demographics and economic mumbo jumbo to convince you. What you need is to swallow a much more jagged pill!

Starbucks is not responsible for raising your children! You are! Oh sure, it’s easy to agree with when stated like that, but have you examined where you’ve failed this test? In truth, the very existence of “family friendly” restaurants and their kind is because YOU are too much of a baby to make a sacrifice for your child. In American decades past, families took children to visit other family members and that was about it. The rest of the time, babies and kids were at home and at least one adult was too, parenting. Babies and kids, for the most part, were completely unseen in hotels, in restaurants, on planes, or wandering the exquisitely safe aisles of the local hardware store. Just the outside chance your child might cry was considered embarrassing, even rude. You’d catch a child or two at the movies or in a shopping cart, but they were frequently the exception…and if they so much as spoke too loudly they were immediately removed by the parent. Somewhere along the line, you, you who wanted to be a rock star and have the world on a platter, you decided that you weren’t willing to give up your daily mocha frappuchino. You weren’t willing to miss the limited time only bacon cheeseburger burrito at Taco Bell. You felt that just because you had a kid, that was no reason you had to give up going out on Saturday or had to put the last place bowling league on hold for a while. You didn’t want to learn how to cook for your child so you decided that the grillman at the local T.G.I. Fridays was going to do it for you, along with all the unyielding nutrition that the occasional cockroach and rat tail have to offer. You couldn’t miss the Joe Namath look-alike contest at Stumpy’s so you insisted that Stumpy add curly fries and clean peanuts to the toaster-oven menu. You decided that the seven dollars that was supposed to go into your child’s college fund was better spent on a Happy Meal because you just had to get out of the house. You were not okay putting your child first and your friends second so you dragged your little toe-headed pumpkin to every booze cruise, antique show, monster truck rally, spa day, tech expo, whites sale, treadmill workout, police auction, and quilting bee on three continents. Sure, you claimed to have ultra-modern parenting skills by virtue of the fact that your kids were exposed to so much, but we know you. More importantly, you know you. You filled the child’s days with all your personal, trivial pleasures because you, yourself had so little to expose them to at home. When it came to raising a child, you were a void, a vacuum of anything remotely relevant and you chose instead to distract your offspring from that with breads and circuses for as long as possible. If you truly wanted to infuse diversity of exposure into your child’s life you’d be taking them to poetry readings and religious studies, to live theatre and on camping trips, to political campaign headquarters and national monuments, to volunteer in assisted living facilities and to charity bike rides, to fireworks displays and to county fairs. Instead you took the child to Pizza Hut and came out the cool parent when you sprang for an extra topping.

Of course, anyone would have to acknowledge two more recent points of order to this trend. First, no one wishes to downplay the sheer torture it is to hold down a job or two and raise a child as a single parent. I doff my hat to those who do. You are heroes. Second, it is true that the very decades I speak of when explaining that kids spent much time at home were decades where a family could get by on a single income. Today, almost all similarly classed families require two incomes to make the same headway. It is not your hardship or schedule at which I target my venom.

I speak only of the parents of my generation that think the money they make is 100% their own to spend. I speak of the thick skulls who honestly believe they cannot leave the house without make-up, the lonely masses that have actually developed an addiction to shopping, the fence post geniuses who cannot “make it through the week” without a Krispy Kreme, the intricate thinkers that claim it will cost more to buy school supplies than it will to shut off the cable for a month, the consumer hoarders who claim that a cluttered house is still a clean house because clutter is not dirt. It is you. You with all your flimsy, flighty, whimsical personal wants, not a one sacrificed at the sudden alter of parenthood, you who still think you can have it all if you try and that dying by trying is somehow admirable, you have paved the way for the outcry, “Give us family friendly!” It is you, the enabler. You need someplace to go, go, go. Your condescending, uncompromising, unwillingness to stay at home and read a book aloud or just take a walk in the woods with your kid has sprinkled fast food chains and tabloid magazine racks over the blemished face of a once great country. Now, having expanded your kid-friendly options to McDonald’s and drug stores and Ikea, fashion outlets and racquetball clubs and virtual reality kiosks, travel and concerts and dance clubs, now you want to go further and take the bars too. Sure you could drag the entire family on an Amtrak excursion to the Mall of America, but you miss having a beer with the boys and watching the instant replay of the Chargers’ shoddy defense. You know Dr. Phil will hate you if you do it by yourself, so the only way to accomplish it is to drag Buffy and Jody into happy hour. That means unplugging the juke. That means you’ll demand pork nuggets and crayons at the table. That means the seat at the end of the bar is now the homework seat that makes your bartender no money. These are things you’ll demand to make yourself look like a good parent after having failed miserably at it. Not being a bar-goer myself, I’m almost apt to let you have them. After all, it’s no skin off my nose. You do all the work and that’s all the many more places I’ll be able to take my daughter to pee at the drop of a hat. However, when you are willing to rescind the basic tenants of freedom of speech by FORCING Big Tom and Stinky to say, “Fudge that coach in the patooty,” BY LAW, that’s where I draw the line. Every establishment will not be molded into a haven, bar none, that prevents me from calling Child Protective Services on you. If there is nothing good at home, then you are a crappy parent anyway and I am not going to reward you with cheesy fries and malt liquor.

There are plenty of words that offend me. There are even more words that I just do not want to hear. However, I am not indigent enough to think that people need to be ticketed or to go to jail for their use, even around my daughter. Has no one in the St. Louis legislature seen Demolition Man? Exactly what you are proposing was one of the biggest running gags in the film. Are you trying to be the laughing stock of the U.S.? Is there not one city representative who’d ever watched Footloose? Is Kevin Bacon coming to dance at your meeting? St. Louis, I love your zoo. I marveled at your basilica. The steamboats, the arch, every fiber of visitor in me found plenty to satisfy in your fine city. Again, I don’t even go to bars. Yet, if you see fit, under any cockamamie excuse, to pass a law against parts of speech; slang, cuss, or otherwise; you’ll pretty much be off my destinations list for good. Legislators are not lexicographers and passing the bar does not give literal dominion over them.

To conclude, I am probably wrong on all counts. Perhaps there are no bad cops, Disneyfiers, or marginal parents screaming for this St. Louis meeting to take place, for this law to become a reality. But you are having the meeting and you are then stretching for a way to explain it. Somebody out there has their underwear in a knot or is salivating at the prospect of making money at the expense of others. Somebody out there is hankerin’ for a Beverly Hills Cop style take-down technique or the chance to overtly redeem himself from being a crappy father. Whatever the source of the idea, you are not truly saying. You’ve refrained from stating a viable reason and in the doing are basically calling your own St. Louis citizens too stupid to notice. I don’t believe the people of St. Louis are that dumb for a second! St. Louis, you’ve got your work cut out for you and I hope the meeting is severely baptized in what will prove history’s greatest morphology of creative and everlasting profanity. Good luck pig fuckers!


bullet said...

St. Louis also has (or used to have) the video game museum. There was quite a bit of cursing in there, as well, when I found that even with 10 or so more years of experience with ever more sophisticated and complicated video games I was still unable to work or even understand the basic rules and mechanics of Dragon's Lair.

They also have honor system mass transit, which is simultaneously awesome and ridiculous.

And don't forget the Gateway to the West, one of the weirdest monuments, ever.

The point here being St' Louis is a wonderful enigma and even the attempt to understand it may drive you to the brink of the abyss.

bullet said...

Oh, also, cursing is bad because it makes baby Jesus cry.

I think you instinctively knew this to be the reason for the law, as one of your labels for the post is "christian nationalism".

I also feel like we may be overusing "you have got to be fucking kidding me," but, honestly, how can you not?

Anonymous said...

Great post! I love this line:

...the Disneyfiers of the world. These are the corporations that think all reasonable people want to live in a Magic Kingdom and wear purple pants with great big button.


The Exterminator said...

Very nice post.

These are the corporations that think all reasonable people want to live in a Magic Kingdom and wear purple pants with great big button.
Don't forget the ears. Or, if the bill doesn't pass: Don't forget the fucking ears.

...the fence post geniuses who cannot “make it through the week” without a Krispy Kreme ...
Yeah. heh, heh. They don't realize how much better Hostess Sno Balls are.