A god-given right to swear

A god-given right to swear

This shirt is one of my kid’s favourite. If you don’t pull down the pocket it’s a perfectly innocent cat. But of course nobody is innocent, especially not cats. 

Or children. 

All this to say, enough with the hypocrisy already. We all swear, think dirty thoughts (some of which can be great fun with the right partner) and get angry. We can also be funny. Or thoughtful. Or any combination thereof. 

In all those situations, we use language and cultural-linguistic norms to help us do the job of communicating our thoughts and feelings as accurately as possible. That’s because we all value being understood and seen. Especially when our emotions run high. 

I recently rewatched a classic and hilarious Richard Pryor show. The amount of offensive language is off the charts. And it is soooo funny because Pryor, ever the genius, knew how to wield it to his advantage. Swearing, when done right, is a sign of keen intelligence, sophistication and wit.

I’m not against having manners where and when necessary. In most everyday situations they help us get along with one another. When you do your groceries, there is nothing to be gained by being impolite with anyone, even when you can’t possibly understand who on this green earth would deliberately part with some of their hard-earned cash for Frosted-Flakes-flavoured breakfast shakes.

True story about those breakfast shakes. As far as I know they do not exist in Canada because we have enough sense to stop this kind of shit at the border. I was shopping for a few essentials at a Weis in State College PA and I took a picture because when I saw those two boxes I experienced an intense, if discreet, “WTF is that” moment. I didn’t need to yell WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!? in the middle of the grocery store. It would not have made anyone’s day and it may have contributed to the unfortunate premature curdling of the greek yogourt three aisles over. 

Resisting the urge to yell my righteous feelings or, failing that, set the place on fire to destroy this sugar bomb of a monstrosity, is my idea of being a well-mannered human. I choose to smile, and go on living while others ingest whatever random garbage they deliberately elect to acquire. 

Some people think being vulgar on the outside means you’re a despicable person inside. I used to be chastised for saying “crap” by a person like that, the fucking idiot. 

There are people who try to shame others for using swear words, thinking that if you speak clean you’ll think righteous thoughts. Talk about having your head way up your ass. 

Obviously you shouldn’t use racial or sexist slurs, or dehumanizing language. But what reason is there to prevent fuck ass shit? 

Personally I believe the goodness of one’s heart and integrity of one’s character are entirely unrelated to the saltiness of one’s vocabulary. 

My kids’ friends think I’m cool because I don’t prevent them from swearing. It’s cute but inaccurate. I’m cool because I accept them as they are and treat them with enough respect to trust them with their choice of expletives.

I do not for one second believe that manners should prevent anyone from allowing themselves the full range of vocabulary expression when in situations where manners aren’t needed. Like, say, when you’re dealing one-on-one with an obnoxious neighbour. 

In a case that made headlines around the world, a Quebec judge recently ruled that showing someone your middle finger was a “god-given right” in a stupid complaint by the guy’s neighbour over normal life events that don’t even rise to the level of mild peeves. 

The two men live in a posh suburb of Montreal and apparently don’t love one another, in any sense of the word. One (Neall Epstein in the transcript below) is a father of two small daughters under the age of five. Other young children live on the same street, and sometimes enjoy playing outside. Like in every suburb everywhere. 

The complainer (Michael Naccache in the transcript below) objects to signs of life on the street especially when they are caused by small humans who force car drivers to slow down. 

If you’ve ever been near a child, you know that when they’re outside playing in groups they usually can be heard through reinforced concrete. That’s because kids are happy to be alive and not unduly bothered with the need to follow manners, to put it in the nicest way possible. They do not give a shit about your need to drive fast on a quiet leafy residential street. They’re fucking playing, here. 

Anyway, so the irascible moron and his adult family members objected by, among other things, taking endless videos of kids playing and driving dangerously close to them. 

The ruling (go read the whole thing) goes through a mind-bendingly stupid series of events between neighbours that, frankly, would have anyone seeing red. So yes, the father of the young kids who was inexplicably on trial is seen, on video, giving the finger to a guy who, where I’m from, we call a trouduc (no, you will not find its definition in any Emily Post book). 

In conclusion, the judge swiftly acquits Epstein, but not without a splendid bit of editorializing. 

[168]       To be abundantly clear, it is not a crime to give someone the finger. Flipping the proverbial bird is a God-given, Charter enshrined right that belongs to every red-blooded Canadian. It may not be civil, it may not be polite, it may not be gentlemanly.

[169]       Nevertheless, it does not trigger criminal liability. Offending someone is not a crime. It is an integral component of one’s freedom of expression. Citizens are to be thicker-skinned, especially when they behave in ways that are highly likely to trigger such profanity – like driving too fast on a street where innocent kids are playing. Being told to “fuck off” should not prompt a call to 9-1-1.

[170]       On that topic, the evidence in the case at bar established that even after the accused’s arrest, therefore after the period covered by these charges, Michael Naccache called the police again to report that Mr. Epstein’s wife had given them the finger while walking on the street.[55]

[171]       This needs to stop. The complainants are free to clutch their pearls in the face of such an insult. However, the police department and the 9-1-1 dispatching service have more important priorities to address.

[172]       The complainant’s brother is fortunate that he was not charged with assault on March 25th 2021. Similarly, both of his parents are lucky they were not ticketed under the Highway Safety Code for driving recklessly in the presence of children. Finally, based on the evidence in the case at bar, Michael Naccache is fortunate that he was not charged with uttering death threats on May 18th 2021. The complainants should all check those in the victory column.CONCLUSION

[173]       Having considered the evidence as a whole, it is common ground that the Crown has failed to prove the accused’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

[174]       In the modern-day vernacular, people often refer to a criminal case “being thrown out”. Obviously, this is little more than a figurative expression. Cases aren’t actually thrown out, in the literal or physical sense. Nevertheless, in the specific circumstances of this case, the Court is inclined to actually take the file and throw it out the window, which is the only way to adequately express my bewilderment with the fact that Mr. Epstein was subjected to an arrest and a fulsome criminal prosecution. Alas, the courtrooms of the Montreal courthouse do not have windows.

[175]       A mere verdict of acquittal will have to suffice.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this judge is awesome and deserves a prize. I have serious questions about the crown prosecutor who decided to take this matter to court, however. Don’t they have any fucking sense? 

In the meantime, swear freely, my pretties. It’s good for you, especially if you do it well.