Warning: The following contains adult language, which was bleeped out in the print edition. It might cause you to gasp, clutch your pearls, and go into a twitter, so continue at your own peril.
In the Democratic debate last week, Beto O’Rourke expressively but poignantly described a scene at the Odessa, TX massacre in which a young girl of fifteen bled to death as her mother frantically and helplessly looked on. The wounds she died of came from the hands of one pissed-off, fucked-up, shit-for-brains young man.
Okay, that was it. Did you gasp, clutch, or go a’twitter? Maybe not, perhaps because my editor likely b*****d-out letters of the f-bomb, the s-word, and possibly even the p-word. After all, this is a community newspaper.
You might nod at that explanation, agreeing it makes sense. But think about it. Really think about it.
The deeper issue is not an editor being compelled to bleep certain words, passages, and other incendiary language; it’s about another that bores deep into one’s psyche: What is that that deeply offends sensibilities that professional considerations demand that he “clean it up”?
In this case, is it the image of a mother watching her daughter bleed to death that offends or the adjectives used to describe the shooter?
In the movie “Passion of the Christ,” director Mel Gibson gruesomely depicts Jesus being whipped, mutilated, and nailed to the cross so for him to die excruciatingly slowly. The graphic scene is disturbing and controversial to be sure. But one wonders if Jesus were gay. After all, he consorted only with men unless one subscribes to Dan Brown’s theory that he bedded Mary Magdalene. And then there is that curious passage in Luke in which he says, “I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.” Hmm…
Whoa! you might say. Cognitive dissonance here. How did you get from a graphic crucifixion scene to sexual orientation and men copulating with men?
Easy. For some Christians, the notion of Jesus being gay is more than offensive. That, in turn, provokes this question. Which offends greater: The horrific depiction of Jesus being ignominiously tortured and impaled or him sleeping suggestively with John?
I’ll leave that for them to debate because the larger question here goes beyond that which offends one’s sensibilities. Why do certain images or words offend, while others might merely shock?
In a scene in the TV M*A*S*H series, Frank is all a’twitter over something he deems pornographic. Hawkeye fires back at him by saying, “I’ll tell you something more pornographic than that. This war!”
War as pornography. How about war in the streets? Innocents being mowed down on principle. Not the principle of white supremacy but of the inviolability of the Second Amendment.
War weaponry in the hands of f****d-up civilians with the license to turn America into a killing field. Beto dropping the f-bomb describing it. Moralists gasping, clutching their pearls, and fanning themselves. Which offends? Why?
Words are far more powerful than bullets. They can heal and comfort, but they can also be virtual bullets, inciting the emotionally disturbed, others causing different people to gasp and take umbrage by triggering provocative, heightened emotions. Notice my use of “trigger,” a subtle allusion to guns.
Pornography. Porn as gratuitous violence. An unlimited Second Amendment interpretation to justify and promote that which reasonable interpretations of the First Amendment limits.
The f-word. What offends? The word or the act that it decries?
What offends your moral sensibilities more: The young girl bleeding to death as her mother looked on or the utterance of the f-bomb to succinctly describe it?