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Sep-28-2009 22:19printcomments

America the Prude

America! Wake up and get a life. Sometimes people swear. Get over it.

American prudes
Courtesy: classicalvalues.com

(CALGARY, Alberta) - As a society, America is in a parlous condition. One of the principle causes, I think, is the inability of Americans as a people to face reality. That, coupled with an incredible hypocrisy has brought America low. Two egregious examples. No one can forget, even if they never saw it (I didn’t), Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” (the term, used in all seriousness, sounds like something that would emerge from a Monty Python skit) and secondly Bono, receiving a Golden Globes Award in 2003 was so delighted that he said . "This is really, really f------ brilliant." The context and the great smile on his face makes clear that his comment is neither profane or obscene.

Try telling that to all the “concerned” citizens whose main “concern” is to impose their small-minded, backward-looking, Puritanism on the entire nation. The tragedy to this is that the majority of Americans just roll over and let them do it.

That same night when Bono was twisting the ears of the nation, an interesting statistic to compile and compare would be the number of people killed on the various programs and movies broadcast that same evening. No hypocrisy there.

In her debut performance on Saturday Night Live on the show’s live premiere of September 26, Jenny Slate dropped what is has come to be euphuistically called the F-Bomb. It was well after midnight when it happened so there probably shouldn’t be any significant repercussion unless we find out that some religious whacko was breast feeding her 2-year old while sitting on the couch watching SNL and that child may now be psychologically damaged for life. Watch for it on Fox News.

This is not a new phenomenon. My own experience goes back to the early 1960s and the Kingston Trio’s release of “Greenback Dollar”. I heard it on the radio and the chorus, sung several times through the song went:

And I don't give a damn about a greenback dollar, spend it as fast as I can. For a wailin' song and a good guitar, the only things that I understand, poor boy, the only things that I understand.

I only heard it that way two or three times until it was censored, and in the chorus the word “damn” was replaced by a twang of the guitar. But the fact that I heard “damn” two or three times on the radio goes a long way toward explaining my current twisted personality.

Jump ahead a few years to 1968 when Spanky and Our Gang released a song called “Give a Damn”. Because of the “profanity” in the title it was banned in several states, but still hit #43 on the national charts. It was also banned in some of the southern states—probably because it was a comment on racism—a bit of a sensitive topic in the South in the 1960s. It was later performed live on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, resulting in the CBS Standards and Practices division receiving “numerous” complaints about the song's title being used during “family viewing hours”. One complainer, according to Tom Smothers, was Richard Nixon—and we know what kind of language he used!

In 1968 the Vietnam War was boiling over and while some “concerned” citizens were objecting to the theme of the song; “How to give a damn about your fellow man,” tens of thousands of young Americans and young Vietnamese were being killed, crippled and mutilated in another manufactured war. Too many Americans chose prudery and hypocrisy over giving a damn.

You can listen to “Give a damn” here.

Give a Damn: Spanky and our gang

(On a personal note, I’d forgotten about the song and haven’t heard it in probably 30 years; it still chokes me up to hear it. This reaction makes me realize someething else. A person who is not moved by the subject matter of this song is not a human being in the civilized sense of the word.)

There’s one word that does offend me: heck. The most well known recent example was Bush commending the head of FEMA after Hurricane Katrina: “Heckuva job, Brownie.”

When I hear someone use heck I think of a person who is trying to be “with it” but is too nervous or afraid to go the whole way and say hell. But even “hell” is not a necessary word. There is no shortage of regular English words to demonstrate positive enthusiasm: “Great/Fantastic/Outstanding job Brownie.” See what I mean?

John Ibbitson is a columnist with the Globe and Mail here in Canada. He once used the word “heck” in a column and I sent him an email asking him why he would use such a “warm spit” word like heck, instead of hell. He actually replied and said, “my mother reads this paper.” I couldn’t believe it. A national columnist admitting that he didn’t write for an audience of readers, but wrote for the approval of his mother. My suggestion is: If you want to use the word hell, use it. But if you want to use it but are afraid to, then find one of the many perfectly suitable English words.

In a final example leading to my conclusion I recall a Dilbert comic of years ago. Dilbert is standing in the garage beside the mechanic and the hood of his car is up. He says, “I think it’s the carburator.”

The mechanic says, “What!”

Dilbert replies: “I think it’s the *#$%& carburator.” He then apologizes: “Sorry, I forgot where I was.”

But former VP Dick Cheney didn’t forget where he was on June 24, 2004. He was in the Senate Chamber and got into an argument with Democratic senator Patrick J. Leahy about Cheney’s ties to Halliburton. Cheney’s reasoned response was to tell Leahy to “F… yourself”. Cheney’s office did not deny what the VP said, but his spokesman, Kevin S. Kellems, characterized it as “a frank exchange of views”. ROTFLMAO.

Even G. W. Bush in a famous Talk magazine interview with Tucker Carlson in 1999, dropped repeated F-bombs. And it wasn’t the last time W spoke that way.

America! Wake up and get a life. People swear. Get over it.


Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which explains why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class—a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue, although a lot of his views could be described as left-wing. He understands that who he is, is largely defined by where he came from. The focus for Daniel’s writing came in 1972. After a trip to Europe he moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. Alberta, and Calgary in particular, was extremely conservative Bible Belt country, more like Houston than any other Canadian city (a direct influence of the oil industry). Two successive Premiers of the province, from 1935 to 1971, had been Baptist evangelicals with their own weekly Sunday radio program—Back to the Bible Hour, while in office. In Alberta everything was distorted by religion.

Although he had published a few pieces (unpaid) in the local daily, the Calgary Herald, it was not until 1975 that he could actually make a living from journalism when, from 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman (1979-1993), Canada’s top business writer (notably a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting with the CBC. You can write to Daniel at: Salem-News@gravityshadow.com

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.