Category Archives: Free Speech

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“Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.” — Salman Rushdie


Before we say anything else, let’s agree that every nation and culture is weird, bizarre, inane, ludicrous, and so on until we run out of adjectives.

Some Middle East cultures force their women to cover their faces. Ultra orthodox Jews practice Kapparot around the high holidays, wherein a person (okay, a man) reads Psalms 107:17-20 and Job 33:23-24, then grasps a live chicken and swings it over his head, thereby transferring his sins to the soul of the chicken. Emmis (Yiddish: the truth.)


Here’s more. Many subcontinent Indians still practice dowry wherein the family of a girl child must sell home or land or even go into crushing debt to fork over a pile of rupees to the family of the girl’s future husband.

People in the town of Phuket in Thailand celebrate their annual Vegetarian Festival by sticking knives and spears through their cheeks and other penetrable parts of their bodies.

Some Somalians girls still undergo female circumcision, which is a palatable way of say clitoridectomy, which itself is a palatable way of saying those people are jerks

Many Mongolians refuse to pee in the direction of the rising or setting sun, fearing the act would demonstrate disrespect toward the holy orb.

Hey, Point That Thing The Other Way!

Under Bubi law, people of different social classes in Equatorial Guinea are forbidden from eating together.

Before we start patting ourselves on the back a little too much, remember Americans value the gun over all other items and concepts mentioned in our Constitution.

We also drive to the gym to workout.

We consume more calories and fats than any other peoples in the history of the Earth, yet an alarming percentage of us still suffer malnutrition.

Starvation Diet

America is the most technologically and educationally advanced nation of all time, yet many folks in this holy land believe the Earth is 6000 years old and that angels hover around us, making sure safes don’t fall on our heads.

So we, too, are kinky beyond all reason.

I was reminded of this by a report on NPR this morning. It was part of StoryCorps, which I usually try to ignore, being constitutionally incapable of caring about whether some husband and wife I don’t know are in love with each other. It is the definitive emotional porn, which is inferior to sexual porn in that the latter at least has a payoff in the end.

Anyway, today’s Story Corps deals with a teacher who describes his first few days at Chicago’s notorious Marshall High School, which is to secondary education what Stateville Correctional Center is to charm school.

Marshall kids get killed by stray bullets with alarming regularity. Many a Marshall teacher considers the day a success when no student flings a shiv at her. The next time the name Shakespeare is bandied about in Marshall’s halls will be the first time in a long time.


The teacher, a fellow named Tyrese Graham, says that on his first day at the school, he tried to get his class to quiet down. One student, according to Graham, shouted out that he musn’t know what the fuck school he was at.

Another student asked who the fuck he thought he was.


Graham goes on to recount the first funeral of a student he had to attend. A young man had been shot in the head by a drive-by shooter aiming at someone else. The dead boy’s mother also was hit in the arm. Graham says he did his best to present a strong front but eventually broke down and sobbed in the funeral parlor.


He says he wondered what the hell he was getting himself into that first week on the job. He promised himself he’d get through one year and then get out. But Graham eventually learned to love the place. He calls it more than a job. “[Y]ou’re dedicating your life to this,” he says.

Now, that’s a hell of a story, one every citizen of these Great United States, Inc. should hear.

It’s a hell of a lot more meaningful than the typical StoryCorps piece about someone’s grandmother falling in love as a young girl.

Anyway, here’s the bizarre part. Before the story ran, the announcer issued a warning — there will be language, she said, that may be offensive to some people.

Clearly, she was referring to the F-bombs mentioned above. Now it gets really psychotic: the F-bombs were bleeped out. Even the online version of the story ran the word [expletive] rather than the original spoken word.

In other words, you might be offended by not hearing the strong language. Your ears and sensibilities might be so fragile that the mere thought of the dirty word would ruin your day.

Not of course, the idea that high school kids are getting their brains blown out or even that the typical Marshall class is as docile as a pack of hyenas.

No. The F-bomb — or, rather, the very idea of it — might boil your blood.

Man. We are one nation of weirdos under god.


Click GO!


Who else?

Today: Sunday, November 6, 2011


So, we all got an extra hour of sleep last night, right? Why, then, do I feel as though a truck hit me this morning?

Fall. Back.

I hardly had the energy to acknowledge the existence of the Irish Tough Guys in Soma Coffee this morning. Tough Guy Tom was busy proclaiming that everything Republican candidates for president say now is a lie.

“Every single thing that comes out of their mouth,” he said. “No exceptions. All lies.”

Tough Guy Pat was busy ignoring Tough Guy Tom. Pat scrolled through his Smart Phone and pronounced that IU’s loss to Ohio State yesterday was a moral victory.

Which was in direct opposition to an earlier pronouncement. Earlier this sad season, IU had worn different color helmets and still went out and got sliced up by one mediocre opponent or another. Tough Guy Pat was disgusted.

“F. different colored helmets,” his spewed. “F. the band. F. moral victories. I just wanna see some wins, baby!”


I still haven’t decided what to do about the F-bomb issue. Do I spell it out in these precincts? Or do I play it safe and stick with the “F.” thing? Tell us your thoughts.

Free Speech Advocate Mario Savio After Dropping F-bombs, 1964


The Loved One and I passed by the IU Credit Union branch on Winslow Road yesterday on our way to the recycling center. The parking lot was packed. The Loved One remembered that it was Bank Transfer Day.

“You think those people are all transferring their accounts?” she asked. “Or is the place that crowded every Saturday morning?”

“Search me,” I said.

Neither the Herald Times nor the Indy Star seem to have been all that interested in the event.

The HT had nothing on it and the Star buried a perfunctory piece about Occupy folks marching through downtown. The Star piece did mention that protesters are urging people to transfer their accounts but didn’t specifically mention the Day thing.

Papers from Philly to California to Texas, though, trumpeted BTD.

Question: Did Bloomington forget about BTD and the IU Credit Union parking lot was just packed coincidentally, or did our faithful local journalistic institutions simply ignore it all?

And if they did ignore Bank Transfer Day, why?


Media scholar and lawyer Lisa Barr points out a Guardian piece about the chilling effect online trollers who threaten rape and violence are having on female bloggers.

The trollers, according to many notable online female scribes, are explicit in their threats.

But that’s not the saddest thing about the problem. Hell, men who are scared to death they have tiny penises have screamed obscenities at women since the beginning of time. Sadly, I fear there’ll always be men who make me feel embarrassed to possess XY chromosomes.

No, the saddest part is a number of women are giving up blogging.

Wrong reaction.

We writers know from the get-go that we’ll be taking a lot of abuse for our views. And people who are stirred to put pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard just to tell an essayist or opinionist who wrong she or he is are too often less evolved than the flatworm.

Guess what, kids — you just let those apes win.

A Petri Dish Full Of Flatworms: No Trollers Here


Ex-pat painter/author/educator and all-around good egg Anna Witte has released a new children’s book called “Lola’s Fandango.” Witte formerly taught Spanish at IU but due to the school’s policy of jettisoning people who aren’t on the tenure track, she had to move to Seattle, Washington to earn her daily bread.

“Lola” is Witte’s second kids’ tome. She scored with The Parrot Tico Tango in 2004. She wrote and illustrated that one. This time around it’s her words and illustrator Micha Archer‘s pix.

Witte says children’s books publishers prefer the work to be split up between two people.

I hope she does the illustrations on her next book. Her paintings are hanging in living rooms all around Bloomington.

Witte’s Work

Witte promises to come back to SoCent Indiana after the completion of the current school year. Look for an online exhibition of Witte’s work here soon.

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