Say Anything…

Where have you gone Norman Peterson? Our sarcasm turns its lonely eyes to you…

The other day, I was working on The Classic when I had to
run into town for a part. As I was driving out of our little cul de sac, I
noticed the local PD trying to catch speeders who tended to use that stretch of
road as a drag strip.

“What a shit head,” I muttered. And then I felt bad as I
drove by and looked at him.

Sure enough, he had no discernable facial features. Just a
pile of shit on top of his neck. And it was clear the flies were bothering him.

On the way into town, I got passed by a “Fast and Furious”
Honda that was zipping in and out of traffic.

“Fucking douche bag,” I hollered. When we caught up to each
other, at the next stop light, I was about to scream at the guy when I noticed
that it wasn’t his fault he drove that way. After all, it’s got to be hard to
shift and steer with all that hot water and vinegar splashing all over the
place and only one tube-like appendage to control the car.

I got the part and came home only to find I couldn’t get the
starter out as easily as I thought. I banged my hand on the underside of the
car and threw the wrench across the room.

“Goddammit!” I screamed. Of course, I hadn’t expected my
Lord and Savior to hear me, so I was worried that he had taken my only
half-inch drive ratchet and condemned it to the Underworld. Fortunately for me,
I said “dammit” not “damn it” so when I found my precious tool in the driveway,
God had just built a little hydroelectric power station around it.

Last week, I know that I saidwe all have to take
responsibility for our words.
I still believe that. However, there has to be
some level of sanity that goes with that. There’s a world of difference between
a political figure telling women who had abortions that it’s likely their own
if the child they do bear has some physical or mental deformities and a
post by a professor on Facebook.

Gloria Gadsden, a sociology professor at East Stroudsburg
University, has been suspended by the school for two comments she made on
In one, she asked if anyone knew where she could find a hitman because
“it’s been that kind of day.” In a second comment, she said she “didn’t want to
kill even one student :-)” on that day.

Obviously, this isn’t exactly what you’d hope for out of a
professor, but the dean of her school suggested that comments posed a threat,
citing a fatal shooting in Alabama by a professor at UA-Huntsville. Gadsden
said she feels this is issue harkens to her essay a few years ago, criticizing
universities for their inability to hire and retain minority faculty. Experts,
however, are noting that Facebook is a publishing space and that the words can
do a great deal of harm. Others have noted that failure to do something on the
part of an institution can lead to even bigger problems if it turned out the “I
want to kill you” musing wasn’t simply a bit of venting.

Bill Simmons once noted the need for a VP of Common Sense in
sports and I think we need to take that a step further. We need a VP of Common
Sense in life.

Common sense would dictate that, even with only 32 Facebook
“friends,” posting something to the World Wide Web about wanting to have a
student “hit” isn’t smart. (To be fair, if I were Gadsden, I’d go back and
scrutinize those 32 “friends” as one of them clearly ratted her out to the
administration. So much for your digital BFFs…) However, common sense would
also dictate that in a setting like Facebook, off-the-cuff comments are likely
to occur. We can’t go to bars anymore to drink and bitch about our days because
we’re afraid of having one too many and ending up on the police blotter. We
can’t gather with people at the office and complain in the break room, for fear
of work-place harassment laws. We tend not to live in the same area as our
friends do, simply because life isn’t like it was in the 1950s, where we grew
up in the neighborhood, went to PS 112 together, worked at the factory and
never left our home town until we died. Facebook is like a virtual bar in some
cases for some people. (Of course, venting at a regular bar can be problematic as well.Just ask the
mayor of Sheboygan.

To that end, suspending her and having a security guard
escort her off campus is like trying to kill a fly with a sledgehammer.

A simple, “OK, let’s NOT do that again” would probably have

2 thoughts on “Say Anything…

  1. The Dean sent around a link to an article on Gadsden.
    Coming from the south, I have a lot of sympathy for her on the grounds that “I wanted to kill ’em” is a colloquially accepted expression of exasperation without an intent to take action. Not to mention, even with those you love, there are moments where there is a part of you that probably wanted to kill them (dark side, psychology, etc.) Quelling expression of this dark side seems like a socially mandated repression – and as Freud implied, if you cork up the chimney, the smoke is gonna come out in some less acceptable form.
    That being said, Facebook is a public forum (not to mention a confusing privacy policy that seems to change by the minute sometimes).
    I’ll let the statisticians argue about whether there is actually more violence -or- is we just happen to be reporting it more. (not to mention, a violent act in south Florida is reported in the Ankorage news as if it were local).
    But the perception is that of everyone going ballistic. We suspend kids for having a plastic butter knife at school. we can no longer sing “Glory, Glory Hallelujah; Teacher hit me with a ruler; Met her at the Door with a Loaded 44…” which in my days was a common kids way of letting off steam.
    So the Good Professor was remarkably niave – and I’m surprised a sociologist didn’t understand this change in the sociology.

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