Language, as author Dwight Bolinger once pointed out, is a loaded weapon. Sometimes – as Assemblyman Charles Mainor found out this week when (according to him) someone allegedly posted questionable material on his Facebook page – language can back fire.
Mainor’s unwelcome Facebook graffiti artist left a message disparaging the talents of football teams contending with The New York Giants, referring to the Philadelphia Eagles as “gaybirds” and the Dallas Cowboys as “cowgirls.”
Part of the problem comes from the changing nature of language, and what are acceptable and unacceptable terms to use.
Many people who grew up prior to the great changes of the Civil Rights movement of the early to mid-1960s used terms for race and sexuality that are unacceptable today.
This is mild stuff compared to what is largely said in most local watering holes about those teams, or in animal rights chat rooms over the return of Michael Vick, the quarterback, to Philadelphia.
References to people’s sexuality or color are taboo in a modern society, especially when it is perceived coming from an elected official in Hudson County – perhaps the most liberal county in the nation.
Yet in truth, it becomes more and more difficult to find adequate insults that do not also offend an innocent population or fall into language so base they cannot be used in polite society.
You can’t call someone an idiot without offending people who suffer from undesired ailment or question someone’s manhood by calling them gay, since many gays are manlier than many men are in the first place.
Mainor said someone hijacked his site to put up the insults. The problem is that these insults fall back on worn out barroom rhetoric when there is a rich history of language that a person can draw on that will not raise the hackles of the politically correct.
Calling the Cowboys “cowgirls” is hardly an insult, except perhaps to cowgirls, but it is unoriginal, considering that 600 years ago, William Shakespeare said it better, “you should be women and yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so.”
Although some of Shakespeare’s best insults question the boundaries of manhood as compared to beasts, and he did not need to insult human ailments to question a man’s intelligence: “You are as a candle, the better part burnt out,” or “I have more brain in my elbow than thee in thy head.”
Some of Shakespeare’s quotes fit better the uproarious politics of Hudson County, where our leaders “wear rich garments, but wear them not handsomely” and voters often feel “there’s small choice in rotten apples” when in the voting booth.
Mainor wisely removed the posting from his Facebook page and apologized, since whoever committed this sin in his name made it mostly out of exuberance for his team rather than malice. So more’s the wonder why the outcry over this was so loud, when worse things have been done or said in campaigns here, where a man’s manhood is questioned or his stature abused. Tony Soares, running for City Council in Hoboken, was a victim of such attacks a few years ago, when confronted with midget jokes and mean-spirited internet postings – and yet there was little or no outcry from the public that seemed so offended by Mainor this week, when in others “their sin is not accidental, but a tirade.”
When is St. Patrick’s Day not Saint Patrick’s Day?
No matter what happens in Hoboken these days, Mayor Dawn Zimmer will be blamed. But when it comes to the canceling of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, there is more than enough blame to go around – if blame is even the right word.
Zimmer, who has a controlling majority vote on the City Council, has refused to issue a permit to a parade to be held on a Saturday. The parade committee has called off the parade, saying they don’t want to march on a Wednesday night. Bar owners are upset because a Saturday parade would mean an all-day party in Hoboken, including expensive cover charges as well as lines out the doors of every bar.
For city officials it historically has meant roving bands of drunken partiers looking to make mischief and not bothering with things as civilized as toilets.
Many who will shortly blame Zimmer for the loss of the parade are quietly cheering her move in a war with tavern owners that has gone on for decades.
While tavern owners claim the weekend event brings in business to the city, most agree that it is the tavern owners who benefit, since these roving groups of drunken revelers do little business in the other shops – if anything, they scare off people who might want to come to Hoboken to shop.
Things might be different if the city was to require taverns to each hire an off-duty cop to keep order, or to impose a special tax on taverns to pay for the cleanup on the streets. But these measures might be deemed unconstitutional and would certainly cause needless legal expenses.
Tavern owners, to be fair, argue that the real problem people do not come from the bars, but from private house parties held in the town and that the city should concentrate on those, rather than picking the pockets of legitimate business owners, who are simply taking advantage of an annual event.
Even for some on the City Council who support Zimmer’s call for a Wednesday parade have raised concerns over the killing of the parade entirely, and though the council seems to be united in its opposition to rowdy bans of drunks roving the streets and causing riots or worse upon unsuspecting residents, some council members believe the parade should go on.
Cunningham explores mayoral option
In what may prove to be just another political bargaining chip, state Sen. Sandra Cunningham is reportedly setting up a committee to explore the possibility of a run for mayor of Jersey City in 2013. The co-directors will be state Sen. Ray Lesniak and attorney Elnardo Webster – a strong ally of Newark Mayor Cory Booker.