*Warning: Please do not read if you are offended by crude language. Can't get quality authors...
I love slurs. A good slur is a poetic combination of the right consonants, choice syllables and a strong dose of bad-intentioned meaning. Is there a better way to succinctly sum up your derisive opinion of another person than to call her or, especially him, a “cunt?”
Look, I’m not trying to coarsen up society; I’m not making the case that we should bandy “cunts” about needlessly. (Although it is a sad thing that only the Brits can get away with using “cunt.” Which reminds me of the Ricky Gervais quote, which is something like, “There are only two times you can use ‘cunt.’ When you totally mean it and when you totally don’t.”) Slurs aren’t for everyday conversation in polite society. But they should be the weapons of choice when a social interaction turns savagely impolite. (And, as weapons go, verbal ones are usually far preferable to physical ones, no?) Let’s be clear, the power of a good slur is the rarity and precision of its use. In those relatively rare moments when we want to offend, the slur is our rhetorical right cross, our semantic stun grenade, our verbal nuke.
Sadly – and even dangerously -- the slur is in danger of being drummed out of society.
As a nightclub bouncer in Los Angeles, I was subjected to – and, therefore, developed a connoisseur’s appreciation for – more slurs than, I think, the average citizen. “Cunt.” “Faggot.” “Spic.” “Kike.” “Nigger.” I heard them every night. (Yes, it’s a lot like starring in a Mamet play.)
When I was called a “cocksucker,” I didn’t take it to mean that the speaker hated gay people; I took it to mean that he (or she) found my erudition in the face of violent confrontation un-manly and/or unworthy of respect. When I was called a “faggot,” I didn’t feel an urgent need to lecture the speaker on the etymology of the word. The slurs I faced had one target – me. Was I offended? Of course – that’s the point of the slur!
As best as I can tell, the slur has become endangered by our HR-culture where the dispassionate third-party, the disinterested observer, the looky-loo unaffected by the heated emotions that trigger the tactical deployment of a slur rushes to politicize the slur and search for the potentially more profound offense behind it. I find that to be a pre-programmed, mechanically academic, knee-jerk impulse that will only lead to reduce our speech to the nuanced maze of circular logic normally reserved for disgraced politicians and PR spokespeople:
Driver #1: “I’m going to kick your ass, you big-nosed motherfucker!”
Driver #2 (turning on his iPhone camera): “What? Say that again!”
Driver #1 (an anxious gulp): “Well, let me just stipulate that I misspoke. I have a long-standing record of tolerance for big-nosed people. I was one of the first to buy Barbra Streisand’s Emotion in 1984 and I still cry every time I watch Roxanne. I’d also like to clarify that by the unfortunate use of “motherfucker,” I meant no offense to fathers who clearly should be fucking mothers on a routine basis. My staff will provide my DVD collection of Eight is Enough as proof that I have an abiding respect for the procreative power of fathers…”
Are we allowed to offend anymore? Or are we comfortable policing our speech, defanging our words in a quixotic quest for a neurotic utopia? If we are, that starts us down a very dangerous path.
Let me explain by way of a hypothetical.
You find yourself staring at the unfunny end of an unfunny .40 handgun. “Your fucking wallet, homie!” A 5’5, 140 lb. vato holds out his hand toward you.
Unfortunately for him, you’ve spent your lazy Saturday watching old Charles Bronson movies and you’re feeling a little feisty. As you hand your wallet over, you affect a snarl and cling to the last shred of dignity that you have. “Enjoy it, you little fucking spic.”
Admit it. Reading this, you just cringed. Hell, I did too. From the comfort of my chair, my blood pressure just north of bradycardia, I am dispassionate and polite. I have the luxury of disinterest – after all, it’s not my money the vato is taking and it’s not my cheek kissing the mouth of a gun.
Now let’s say you get even feistier (maybe you watched a Chuck Norris marathon as well). You grab the vato’s gun and, pulling it away from him, beat him down. But you go too far. You stomp him, far exceeding your need for self-defense. You don’t kill him necessarily, but you’ve committed a crime, no question. Because of our hate-crime laws, calling the guy a “spic” may tack on few extra years to your sentence. Again – not because you beat the guy up, excessively. But because you called him a name. Sticks and stones may break his bones, but your words will keep you in prison. Censorship is even worse in the UK.
The crime shouldn’t be the slur. The crime should be the cause of the slur. If a guy rear ends me and calls me a “faggot,” I’m not going to take offense because of the slur, I’m taking offense because of the rear ending (come on, that’s funny!). Let us judge people by the content of their actions, not the phrasing of their anger. Let’s save our outrage for something more than semantics.
In other words, don’t be a pussy. You donkeyfucker.
The True Story of a Nightclub Bouncer Who Wanted to Be a F#@king Movie Star But Settled for Being a F#@king Man
The true story of a failed actor, who - still tantalized by the promise of LA - reinvents himself as a nightclub bouncer.
Working both downtown and on the Sunset Strip, he is thrust into the bloodstream of LA. Amidst the unending parade of strung-out transients, shimmering miniskirts, enraged gangbangers and unhinged party people, he avenges his history of cowardice, atones for his past infidelities and tries to become something better than another Hollywood casualty.
Christopher Paul Meyer writes noir and nonfiction. He is a former bouncer, comic, soldier, firefighter, actor and prison chaplain. In addition to Icarus Falling, he has written five screenplays, three of which were optioned and/or commissioned. When not writing, he enjoys Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, improv comedy and political rants delivered in an angry mumble at his reflection in the bathroom mirror.
Excerpt Two (500-800 or so Words):I followed George up an escalator to a plush mezzanine area with subdued lighting. George took a long minute, studying my resume. I acted like I didn't care. I gazed vacantly at the escalator, watching the parade of bodies step off the moving stairway and veer towards what was labeled the "Rooftop Elevator." There were nine-to-fivers in khakis and Polo shirts. There were packs of Armenians, their gold chains, 8 o'clock shadow and swagger outpacing their blazers and t-shirts. There were Silverlake-type hipsters, with po' boy caps, vintage shirts and tight jeans. There were black dudes in FuBu and meatheads in TapOut. In a city as self-segregated as LA, this seemed to be one of the few spots where you could find all 31 flavors of the city.George finally looked up from my resume. "Why do you think we're called Guest Relations?"Because when people come to diddle themselves in a place with overstuffed couches, subdued lighting and models walking the lobby, they don't want to be told what to do. "Because great security starts with caring about your guests."George nodded. "That's exactly right." He seemed impressed. Hey, I could spit flowery bullshit for hours. Especially if it was going to keep me around this place. "Sorry for keeping you waiting.""Not a problem." Fake tan, perky tits and nice legs could take the edge off any wait."You're very patient." Seemed like George was reading a lot into it. It made me wonder if he'd kept me waiting on purpose. "Is that from being a prison chaplain?" I wasn't surprised he went there. It's the kind of thing that tends to stand out on a resume. "That must have been a hard job."Yeah, right. I wasn't telling the inmates where to sit, sleep, shower or eat. I wasn't breaking up fights. Now that's a hard job. I only had to talk to men who wanted to talk to me. "It's easy to talk to people at the bottom. It's the ones in the Hamptons that don't wanna listen."George nodded. I got the feeling this wasn't the typical interview for him. He seemed intrigued. Well, I hoped he seemed intrigued. "You know you may need to get physical here though.""I got no problem with that."George was a great listener. He gauged my reactions, read my mannerisms. He kept the questions sparse, letting me fill in the blanks.Fortunately for George, I love to talk.Yes, I was looking for as many hours as possible. No, I had no other work commitments. Yeah, I'd played a lot of judo and rugby. No, I wasn’t gonna be some MMA thug. Yes, I was religious. No, I wasn't a Puritan. I had no problem working with people that were high, drunk or naked. I didn’t tell him how much I was actually looking forward to it.By the end of the interview, George and I had clicked. We had a few things in common. We were both college grads. We were both walk-ons at NCAA Division I teams -- him for Clemson's basketball team, me for William and Mary's football team. I mean, we weren't BFF's spray-painting hearts and our initials on freeway underpasses or anything. But we seemed to understand each other.George put down his list of questions. "You ever been called a fucking whiteboy?"Say what?“Or cracker?” George’s voice was low and calm. “What if I called your mom a whore?” His eyes drilled into me. “What if I told you to suck my dick?”I could see the hypothetical looming behind his poker face, so I didn’t bite.George smiled. "Be ready. You’re gonna hear all of that. And more. There's a lot of nights you're gonna go home angry." I didn't doubt it. "You're gonna wanna take it out on your girl."That was an easy fix. "I don't have one."A bemused smile wafted across his face. "You're gonna wanna keep it that way. Relationships are…" He searched for the right words. "...difficult here." One of the models strutted past us. "You know what I mean?" He smiled knowingly at me.Being told to stay single? "I'm OK with that."George extended his hand. "I think you will be." I hoped he was right."So, you wanna take a look at the place?"I wasn't sure if that meant I had the gig or not. But either way, the answer was yes.