Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Jan. 27, 2004 / 4 Shevat, 5764

Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports


On public cursing and other public sins


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | You want to know what many conservatives and liberals agree on? That there is little or no moral difference between public and private behavior.

This belief of mine has been reinforced by a large number of e-mails reacting to my column on how Democrats are far more at home with using curse words in public than are conservatives.

Religious conservatives who disagreed wrote that G-d knows and judges all our actions, private and public, while other conservatives noted that a man's character is best demonstrated by his behavior "when no one is looking."

Liberal objectors generally offered two other arguments: right-wing hypocrisy and the triviality of the issue.

The hypocrisy argument: Didn't George W. Bush call a New York Times correspondent an "a — hole"? And didn't he once say "f — - Saddam" to some officials in his White House office? Therefore, aren't I a hypocrite when I point out that Sen. John Kerry used the f-word in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine; that a Howard Dean fundraiser at which he was present was filled with obscenity-laced humor; and that a formal dinner of the Democratic support group moveon.org was also filled with obscenities?

The other liberal argument is that cursing is no big deal. To make their point, a number of liberal correspondents wittily filled their e-mails to me with the f-word. Only a "f — -ing moron conservative" (to some of my correspondents a redundant phrase) would be more concerned with cursing than with global warming.

In short, many conservatives think public cursing and private cursing are equally wrong, and many liberals believe that public and private cursing are equally OK.

They are both wrong.

Let me use a personal illustration. I do a daily national radio show. If I used an expletive on the air, would any conservative think it was no worse an infraction, no more serious a sin, than if I used that word alone with a friend?

I consider the answer obvious, but apparently it is not, so further explanation is necessary.
Some actions are wrong whether done in private or public. Murder is obviously wrong whether committed in public or in private. But some actions are wrong only when committed in public. Making love to your spouse in private is wonderful, but on a public bus, the identical act is immoral.

Now why? Why does the presence of others in and of itself render some acts wrong? Because everything we do in public affects society. That is not true of everything we do in private. In fact, the very act of distinguishing between public and private behavior shows that we do care about society. My desisting from language on the radio that I might use in the presence of a friend is my way of honoring the public.

Donate to JWR


As is, for example, the way we dress in public. That we now dress for others the same as we dress at home is not a social gain. People wearing shorts and T-shirts to church does not honor a house of worship, while wearing such clothes at home is a non-issue.

Here is another example: It is always illegal to drive through a red light. But it is not always equally wrong (morally). When a driver goes through a red light with anyone (literally any one) seeing it, that driver has publicly announced that the rules of society do not apply to him. That can be a far more dangerous thing for society than going through a red light at 3 a.m. on a deserted road when no cars and no pedestrians can see it.

If using an expletive is always sinful, we must all agree that the gravity of this sin fully depends on when, why and where it is used. That is why I am not troubled to learn that President Bush once used the f-word privately when speaking about the monster known as Saddam Hussein.
Frankly, I am somewhat relieved to know he is real, not a saint (saints shouldn't be presidents — I suspect that Jimmy Carter, a particularly poor president, never used such language), and to know that he really hated a man worthy of hate. However, had the president deliberately used the word in an interview and not immediately apologized, I would question his commitment to the rules of decency that make our civilization better. That is why what Sen. Kerry did frightens me.

As for the liberals who think that using the f-word in public is no big deal, it is good to have them say so. Anything that clarifies the massive values-differences between the Left and the Right is helpful. We who are not on the Left think public cursing is a big deal, because we believe that people can pollute their soul, their character, and, yes, their society, just as they can pollute their rivers and their air and their lungs.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


JWR contributor Dennis Prager hosts a national daily radio show based in Los Angeles. He the author of, most recently, "Happiness is a Serious Problem". Click here to comment on this column.

Up


01/24/04: $#^% Republicans
01/13/04: A column about my last column
01/06/04: JIMMY CARTER: ‘COMPASSION FOR MORDOR’
09/09/03: The Dems' counter-revolution
08/12/03: What makes a liberal?
08/05/03: A grand victory at the Grand Canyon
07/29/03: Vanessa Bryant deserves admiration, not contempt
07/22/03: Tony, you're killing us: Inside a Leftist brain
07/15/03: Would you rather your teenager smoke or cheat?
07/01/03: Liberal damage to black America is enormous
06/24/03: Unlike any other arrogance
06/18/03: More innocents die when we don't have capital punishment
06/10/03: Only a Palestinian civil war will bring peace
06/03/03: The legal system is now our enemy
05/28/03: Monkeys and atheists
05/20/03: Women pretending to be men
05/13/03: My week at Stanford
05/06/03: Burn families, barbecue chickens: why some can't tell the difference
04/25/03: Much talent, little wisdom
04/15/03: America the good
04/08/03: Dear Germany: Have you learned anything?
04/01/03: Saddam offered professorship at U.S. college
03/25/03: Grieve for Rachel Corrie's parents, but spare us the hagiography
03/18/03: Blame the Jews?
03/11/03: The Lone Ranger rides again
03/04/03: Dan and Saddam
02/26/03: Which will the world's future be: Muslim, European or American?
02/18/03: When have millions of Europeans ever been wrong?
02/11/03: Don't waste your money on an expensive college
02/04/03: What the world would like the president to say
01/28/03: How memories paralyze: Why Jews and blacks vote Democrat, cont'd
01/21/03: Why Jews and blacks vote Democrat
01/14/03: Why the Arab world hates America --- time to myth-bust
01/07/03: Conservatives have talk radio; liberals have everything else
12/31/02: If you believe that people are basically good . . .
12/17/02: Lott, Clinton, and the problem of the career politician
12/10/02: The healthiest and longest living generation of humans since the 900-year-olds of Genesis are being scared silly
12/04/02: Morally neutral reporting is dishonest reporting
11/26/02: Understand Nigeria and you understand the Islamic threat
11/19/02: James Bond meets his most fanatical foe yet -- anti-smokers
11/12/02: Conservatives need to be more compassionate on divorce
11/05/02: Of course, the great majority of Muslims are peaceful -- so what?
10/29/02: Nice guys finish first: Thoughts on the World Series
10/24/02: A Jew defends evangelical Christians
10/16/02: Bigot laureate well represents New Jersey
10/11/02: Why the Creator must always be higher than the Angels
10/02/02: Loudmouth "stars" are remaining surprisingly quiet about Israel
09/25/02: Bob Greene is a good man
09/11/02: 9-11 made America better
09/04/02: What I learned at the Minneapolis Metrodome about liberals and homosexuality
08/28/02: Teach our college co-eds about Islam --- but teach them the truth
08/22/02: LET THEM EAT PEANUTS!
08/14/02: How the nuclear family became "controversial"
08/07/02: Every generation is tested by great evil
07/31/02: Those who curse the Jews and those who bless them . . .
07/24/02: Children should talk to strangers
07/17/02: Why my son's best friend is black
07/11/02: Why Hesham Hadayet may be scarier than al Qaeda
07/03/02: "Pro-Israel lobby" is not why America supports Israel
06/26/02: Why does the Left support the "Palestinians"?
06/19/02: The commencement address I would give
06/12/02: Why do adult children live with their parents? Because they actually like them
06/05/02: The stripper and the Christian school: Thoughts on what a Christian school should do when a parent is a stripper and on who the biggest sinner here is
05/31/02: Don't worry, New York, you are safe from a terrorist threat
05/15/02: A proud member of the world's two most hated peoples
05/10/02: What Israelis are saying
05/06/02: Thank Heaven for moral violence
04/29/02: Give back the Nobel Peace Prize: A letter to Elie Wiesel
04/22/02: Why so many students cheat
04/12/02: Is it 1938 again for the Jews?
04/05/02: It's the values, stupid
01/31/02: Smoke and lose your son
10/30/01: Why Arab/Muslim anti-Semites are worse than the Nazis

© 2002, Creators Syndicate