Mona Charen

I don't know what it means to "shank a short approach" and am perhaps thereby disqualified from opining on this subject, but surely Justice Stevens cannot seriously be suggesting that uttering swear words is not indecent. Even a sorely tested golfer who let fly with such a word under the duress of seeing his partner (note: it's apparently not the justice himself who commits these unpardonable errors on the links) shank a short approach could be expected to apologize immediately to all within hearing (and particularly to the hapless partner) for his bad manners. Americans even have a phrase for such situations: "Please excuse my French."

Liberals are always on the ramparts attempting to kneecap tradition and standards. The New York Times was sure that expletive use on TV was no problem. "There is scant evidence that the public is up in arms about an occasional coarse word. The words the commission finds so offensive, and so in need of punishment, are the sort commonly heard in PG-rated movies and walking down the street." Actually, the FCC had received many, many complaints about the language (and more) on television, which remains, despite technological advances, uniquely invasive into people's lives. Besides, the fact that these words have been so aggressively foisted upon us by Hollywood does not mean that they have lost their power to offend. I heard a linguist recently lecturing on the effect that hearing profanity produces in the brain. All sorts of hormones and chemicals are activated, whether we say we're offended or not.

This is not a new story, of course. In 1971, the Supreme Court decided a case (Cohen v. California) that concerned a 19-year-old who had worn a t-shirt saying "F- the Draft" in a Los Angeles courthouse. The Court held that Cohen's conduct was protected by the First Amendment. "One man's vulgarity is another's lyric," wrote Justice John Marshall Harlan.

By such steps we have arrived at where we are. Just a tip -- practice up before taking to the golf course with Mr. Justice Stevens.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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