Today, as I was parked outside my bank, a young white man of about nineteen or twenty years drove past in a half ton Chevy truck. On the rear window of his truck were the foot tall words: FEAR THIS, BITCH. (The comma is mine.) Attached to the truck's trailer hitch were a pair of large plastic testicles, no doubt to show this was a very masculine vehicle. There was nothing else about the pick up or its driver that was extraordinary. This could have been one of thousands of local yahoos on his way to work in the oil patch or in one of the machine shops that service the oil fields. Some trucks I have seen bear more provocative messages than this particular truck did, and indeed there are probably local women who have nastier messages tatooed on their shoulders. So common are insulting words on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and rear windows I may be the only one who saw the truck today who paid it any mind.
Neither the words on the truck nor its artificial genitalia were homemade; they had been purchased at some truckstop or in a convenience store and stamped on ready made. Which means several things: First, there are tens of thousands of other trucks in America that must have the same attachments or else the industry producing them would not exist. Second, there are factories--I expect they are in some dark corner of southern Asia--wherein workers crank out moronic catch phrases and plastic testicles. (What must the people inside those factories think of Americans? What do those same workers tell their children they do all day? Would a father or mother really tell the kiddies they make little replicas of bull glands so rednecks on the other side of the world can put them on their trucks?) Third, there are creative people, people of the sort who are in marketing departments or in the research and development segments of major corporations, who decided what American consumers want are large curse words and plastic testicles they can use to deminish the resale values of their forty thousand dollar pick ups. Lastly--and I realize this makes me sound like the middle-aged guy I am--there was a time when a young fellow driving down the main street of a small western town in the middle of the day with the word "BITCH" emblazoned on his vehicle would be running a considerable risk; such a daring young fellow might, in times past, never have grown to be an old fellow, for before he reached the end of the main street some other yahoos would have pulled him over and used his callow head for a football. Today, everyone, even here in the boondocks, pretends not to notice.
Which brings me to Don Imus.
Unless the reader (if I have any readers) of this blog has been on the Space Shuttle for the past two days, the reader will know that radio shock jock Don Imus is in trouble for calling the black women basketball players at Rutgers University "nappy-headed hos." Now, I do not want to defend such rascist, sexist and downright mean words. Mr. Imus was obviously wrong to say them. But, in the modern culture we have created, rather I should say, in the modern civilization we have created, wherein casual vulgarity is unremarked in even the smallest and most provential of towns, it is hypocrisy on steroids to point to an aging radio personality with a loose mouth and declare that his vulgarities are unbearable while so much else is. Nor will it do to say that because Imus is white he cannot say what rappers and stand-up comics say every day. The rappers and comics may be black, but their audience is mostly white, and lots of those white people consuming their product are getting a dirty little thrill every time they hear black people speak ill of themselves. It is those same same easily thrilled people that Imus also panders to, the great boobisamoi who support the rappers, the comics, and, yes, the companies that make nasty things to stick on their oversized trucks. Unless we are willing to condemn the great ocean of vulgarity we have sailed upon for the past fifty years, it will not do to condemn one small puddle Imus has made. Those who say otherwise are akin to the French policeman in "Casablanca" who proclaims in mock horror that "there is gambling going here!" inside Rick's casino, and then pockets his usual share of the winnings.