This week I confessed my depression over the decline of civility in our culture. I had just posted that grumpy old man rant and hopped in the car to run some errands. The radio tuner was on the Mavericks radio station (ESPN 103.3 FM) because I had listened to game 6 on my home the previous evening. I started to change the channel but I realized that they were discussing the Mark Cuban blog controversy. I decided to see if they agreed with me that Cuban’s blog comments were over the top given that it is linked from the Mav’s site. Co-host Steve Dennis seemed to feel that Cuban’s language and demeanor were a bit of an embarrassment. Co-host Jennifer Floyd Engel plunged me back into depression. I will paraphrase her comments. She informed Dennis (and me by agreement with him) that such sensitivity was a “generational” thing. A caller noted that the “f-bomb” was merely a synonym for love making. He did a lengthy bit that concluded with the comment if you don’t like it…”love-make you”. Engel enthusiastically supported this “clever” dialogue and made it very clear that only my uptight generation had a problem with such language. (I never dreamed that a child of the Woodstock era would be called uptight)
One caller complained that his child could go to Cuban’s blog and read “f-bombs” and other language. I don’t know if Engel is a parent or not but her answer stunned me. “Everybody knows that parents need to supervise when their kids are on the internet. Anyone who has watched Primetime stories about the danger of the internet should know that.”
I completely disagree with Engel’s assessment. Most parents try to monitor internet usage. Here is what I did as a father of three sons.
1) I installed a filter. This prevented easy access to sites I did not want them visiting.
2) I checked the browser history daily to see where they had been.
3) I searched the hard disk for video/image downloads to make sure they were not viewing inappropriate things through other sources like email, etc.
4) Now I would monitor sites like myspace.com and others like that. That was not an issue when my guys were surfing under my roof.
Here is my point. None of my precautions would have worked in keeping my kids from reading the crude comments that Cuban wrote to sportswriters. Why should I have to “monitor” my sons visiting the Dallas Mavericks site? Shouldn’t that be a safe place for youngsters to visit? It is ridiculous for me to have to stand over my child as they visit an NBA website. You can easily link to the blog right from the Mav’s home page. In his latest blog Mr.Cuban says he has been called more names in the last week than even he thought possible. And that makes my point about the lack of civility in the public forum. I don’t dislike Mark Cuban because he uses what I consider vulgar language in his very public and accessible blog. I have not called him any names. I simply disagree with him. I wish he would reconsider and realize the broad reach he has. That is it.
I don’t consider myself to be a “generational” prude. I am just asking for civility in the public arena. As for me, what is happening in the culture does not change my responsibility. As a follower of Jesus I have pretty clear marching orders. Jesus was addressing the “religious” guys when he said this.
“If you grow a healthy tree, you’ll pick healthy fruit. If you grow a diseased tree, you’ll pick worm-eaten fruit. The fruit tells you about the tree. You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.”
I cannot influence Mark Cuban to change his language. I can control where I spend my time and treasure and what I listen to and view. The question of civility in language is an individual question. Mark Cuban just happens to be a flashpoint for you and me to consider our roles in this debate. The bottom line is that I can only be responsible for me. I want to produce good words and deeds. Part of that is being graceful in communication. Even if it sometimes feels like a losing battle.