22 July 2009: Censorship issue on our plates

Censorship issues on our plates

You might say censoring personalized license plates by Department of Motor Vehicles employees is a bunch of CRAP. But self-appointed censors at the DMV wouldn’t allow you to spout your message from the vantage point of your license plate.

If you wanted, however, to state that it’s NOCRAP, you’d be just fine.

And if you want everyone to know you still DOIT despite being an OLDFRT, you can state neither. You could, though, boast you DIDIT like the man/woman who proudly proclaims 8KIDZ.

It can get sticky when government gets in the business of defining morality since someone has to let us know what’s OK and what isn’t to protect ourselves, as conservatives are fond to caution against, from ourselves.

But in so doing, one ultimately has only his/her own sense of what’s moral and ethical. Such are the vagaries for the censor in this gray and relative world.

By now you might be aware of the health braggadocio that was dying to convey her passion for tofu vis-à-vis her license plate. Her request for the plate ILUVTOFU didn’t slip by eagle-eyed DMV ayatollahs ever on the lookout for moral turpitude.

Have you ever made the statement, “I never looked at it that way”? The reason you didn’t might have been that your brain was trained to see it the way you always did.

Look at the accompanying picture of the woman. At first glance, do you see a young woman or a crone, an old woman? Can you see both? Did you see both possibilities immediately?

The picture is an optical illusion that your brain initially deciphers based on what it has been trained or conditioned to.

What explains your visual interpretation? Age? Gender? Culture?

Seeing the world in certain patterns begins in infancy when, wrapped in our mothers’ arms, we start to observe and explore the magical universe around us.

It’s not long after we learn “potty-mouth” words are not OK and that f**k is the most provocative word of all despite it being loaded with a rich history, from at least the 13th century in the name of John le F**ker.

So, it’s very early in life’s stages we learn “right and wrong” and begin to filter the world through the lens of that conditioning. Throw in reinforcing measures of priests, imans, rabbis, ministers, and teachers, but not coaches, and before you know it, the whole world is in a conspiracy to corrupt as is evidenced by inane and pitiful license plate messages like 666EVL, CONDOM, and XXXXXXX.

Thus, the need for prelates at the DMV to determine what you can post on your vehicle’s rear end to embarrass yourself.

Predictably though, they do make a mess of things. They say it’s OK to be ONTOP but not going for AQUICKY, be PROGUN but not being 1*4GUNS, advocate for MMMBEER but not be 4-HEMP, be 2SEXY as long as you’re not TOOSEXY, and to GETNAKD but not be a NUDIST.

When I pulled up the picture of the woman on the Internet after years of not seeing it, I had to scrutinize it closely to find the crone even though I have seen it dozens of times.

Likewise, when looking over many of the plates’ messages, censored and uncensored, I often find I am unable to decipher them. Perhaps, it is because I am either MRFUBAR, which passes muster, or a GEEK, which doesn’t. But then, I wasn’t able as a child to find bogeymen under my bed, and that failed skill set has carried over into adulthood.

Should anything go? Even a moral relativist or a First Amendment fire-breather like me ought to squirm at the idea of absolute license on the license plate.

Words have power, of course, and can incite to violence. It’s called hate speech. For example, KILL_?_ (enter the name of the person or group) can’t fly.

But words that simply offend?

There is a line between salacious and acceptable words, ideas, practices and behaviors, but I’ll be DA**ED (darned) if I can ascertain precisely where it lies. I wouldn’t make an effective censor.

Back to the tofu message: Would the U mean “you” or “up” to the dirty minded? Can the lady help it if others with pre-conditioned mindsets read it as a wish or a preference?

Merriam-Webster defines “f**k up,” after all, in transitive and intransitive forms: (i) to act foolishly or stupidly; (t) to ruin or spoil especially through stupidity or carelessness, which gives rise to this suggestion: ADMVFU.

I don’t know about you, but I have grown weary of the progeny of those early English invaders and theocrats, also known as the Puritans, imposing their moral codes, tastes, and practices on the rest of us.

Maybe that makes me 1-BAD-A, which is OK, or ONEBADA, which isn’t, but I should think it would make at least me an OLPOOP, which I would request except that some OLDOG has beaten me to it.

For more and to see how you might do as a censor, visit the ACLU of Colorado website at http://www.aclu-co.org/vanityplate/vanityplate.html.


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