Miss Curfew, Go to Prison

RedEye June 18, 2012

It’s been a difficult month if you enjoy Fanta or hate watching the Cubs lose.
Last month in New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on sodas larger than 16 ounces in restaurants and other select outlets.
Meanwhile, the small town of Middleborough, Mass., earlier this month overwhelmingly passed a ban on cursing. Pending (unlikely) approval from the state’s attorney general’s office, police will be required to hand out $20 citations to people who say naughty words in public.
Besides the icky Orwellian undertones of being ticketed for language, the swearing ban raises a whole lot of questions. First and foremost: Can I say “ass” if I’m referring to a bro in Wrigleyville, or if I just mean an actual donkey?
In all seriousness, the world is crumbling all around us and we’re worried about being offended?
People have become so absurdly self-centered that being personally offended now requires legislation. I call it Running to Mommy Syndrome. The world suddenly is full of people who lack personal accountability to eat right, raise their kids not to swear and, well … what else can they blame on someone else?
Instead of taking some responsibility for themselves, they’re running to mommy and tattling when things don’t go their way. We’re creating a troubling Nanny State in which good manners and life lessons are dictated to adults by authority figures.
What’s next? Maybe some small town in North Carolina will start fining people who don’t write thank-you cards for birthday presents, or possibly in Wyoming they’ll institute a curfew to make sure everyone gets a full eight hours of sleep a night, or perhaps by this time next year we’ll all have government-issued bonnets and matching bibs.
What makes these new laws even more baffling is that they’re declaring that swearing and eating junk food is bad for you. Guess what? They aren’t.
It’s good to drink soda because you have to learn moderation. It’s good to hear people swear because it teaches you how to grow a thicker skin.
You can’t move through life in a bubble in which other people are punished for allowing you to develop poor eating habits and offending your dainty Victorian sensibilities. My right to offend you with my wondrous Diet Coke intake and colorful language come football season (give me a break, Cutler!) outweighs your right to be offended by it.
Being offended is how we grow as people. Things that are different or make you uncomfortable or challenge you are important. Yes, that even includes cursing.
This isn’t a G-rated world where cartoon characters sing songs to teach us how important it is to brush your teeth and wear sunscreen. You have to make those decisions on your own and teach those lessons to your kids.
We can easily coexist with people whose lifestyle choices (impolite manners and super burrito-intake included) are different or even annoying to us. Here’s how: Ignore them. If you disagree with their behaviors, then don’t take on their bad habits in your own life. Just let them be.
Getting offended and then creating laws to make yourself feel better about your razor-thin skin is a waste of time, energy and discourse. Really, it’s all a bunch of bull$?%@.
You can bill me for the one, Middleborough.