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written by Bill:
Pull over or shut up
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Them's fightin' words
Watch your *#&$+&@* language!
Your comments about this column are welcome ~ e-mail Bill at
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     Growing up on Dad’s farm, I encountered a variety of men hired to help keep the place running.
Tagging along, as I often did as a youngster, I sometimes would be exposed to what might euphemistically be called “colorful language.” The men Dad hired for subsistence wages were not educated and their vocabularies were limited. In fact, I’ve often thought in retrospect, if a few choice epithets had been removed from their language base some might have been nearly mute.
     Dad’s standard caution: “You’ll hear all the words, but don’t learn to cuss like a hired man.”
     Yes, I did learn all the words, and I’ll admit I haven’t always sufficiently heeded Dad’s admonition not to cuss like a hired man. The occasional outburst, properly deployed, can be a great stress reliever.
And, as a devoted golfer whose passion for the game exceeds his skill, I’d find it difficult indeed to complete a round without hooking a few comments out of bounds.
Dad might understand that. I’ve seen a few wrenches fly through blue air when a machine he was repairing stubbornly refused to respond to his attentions.
What he wouldn’t accept – and I don’t either – is how foul language has become so commonplace in everyday conversation. Take a walk in most public places and I’ll almost guarantee you’ll hear the f-bomb more than once, blurted out by men and women of various ages, but more common among that age cohort so beloved of marketers, the coveted 18- to 35-year-old bracket.
       They are, after all, the group raised on HBO and R(or worse)-rated films. They cannot remember a time when John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant could make a movie without blistering sensitive ears.
     They also have grown up in a decidedly distracted and self-focused time. Odds are, during that walk in a public place, some of the f-bombs you hear will come from the mouths of people blabbing away on a mobile device (formerly known as a phone). Why should they be sensitive to your reactions? They don’t even know you’re there.
A long time ago I also developed a tendency to speak up in protest when the wrong words were used around women and children. Undoubtedly, that particular personality tic is a direct result of Dad’s willingness to tell people to watch their language.
Today, though, pointedly asking somebody to clean it up can provoke a confrontation.
For example: A few years back, when my youngest son was 10 or so, he attended a professional basketball game with his brother and me. On the way out of the stadium we were in the midst of a big crowd. Two guys, late 20-somethings, were next to us and clearly had been enjoying the beverage that made Milwaukee famous. They were loud and their language punctuated the air around them with f-bombs and other assorted nasties.
     Quite reasonably, I thought, I said to them, “Hey guys, watch what you’re saying. I’ve got a kid here.”
     The next string of profanities came with an invitation to fight. I was seriously considering accepting – the older son, by my side, was a military man just off training in hand-to-hand combat, which did wonders for my confidence. After an exchange of words, though, better judgment returned and we walked the other way.
     One more example. A few years earlier, a friend and I were taking our small children on some rides at a carnival. Sure enough, a couple of teenage boys walked up beside us loudly bellowing the f-bomb and a few of its cousins.
     Again, I chose to speak up. “Knock it off, guys. Don’t talk like that around little kids.”
Bet this won’t surprise you, either. The response was vulgar.
     My repeated, “Come on, knock it off,” elicited this response: “Why don’t you make me, you old ----. I’m under-age. You’ll get arrested.”
     There are times when I still wonder if the fine would have been worth the satisfaction of teaching the rotten brat a lesson.
     The point is this: What has happened to the basic human civility, so common not that long ago, that made the everyday challenges of life more bearable? Just by treating others respectfully, we can each do our part to lower the temperature of our hot-headed world.
And why are so many people reluctant – afraid, maybe – to speak up and demand respect, especially on behalf of kids, who cannot speak up for themselves? Are parents today not teaching their offspring the lesson my Dad taught me? “Don’t cuss like a hired man, and don’t tolerate people who do around women and children.”
     Maybe, in this coarsened climate, good folks worry that if they do speak up some punk will pull a gun on them. It’s not an unjustified concern. The world gets weirder every day.
     Staying silent, though, allows the punks to win. I can’t reconcile that to my sense of adult responsibility.
     The least we can do, as parents and grandparents, is talk to the kids in our own families. Think of it as a small but important contribution to a better society.
Bill Barth
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