Our Fellow Americans,
Your baby is born with flippers. Your brother has Proteus syndrome, like the Elephant Man. Your mother has an unusually scaly epidermis. In the old days, these people would be locked away in some kind of basement or crawlspace, so that their “abnormalities” wouldn’t offend the prudish senses of “polite society.” It’s a narrative trope that is as least as old as Jane Eyre. You don’t like something? Lock it away. Out of sight, out of mind.
Today we have protective services and civil liberties unions to make sure that no one is wrongfully sequestering a person simply because “normal” people might find their presence untoward. Yet despite all these measures keeping people from being unduly marginalized, you can’t always curb the instinct humans have to censor or shut out things that make them personally uncomfortable. No matter how limply the banner of Common Decency might hang in the proverbial wind, there will always be busybodies attempting to uphold it and force the rest of us to pledge our allegiance to it.
We’ve attempted to corral the Westboro Baptist Church’s protests, because we find their message offensive. We still attach stigmas to body modification, despite how middle-class tattoos have become in recent years. We cluck our tongues, shake our heads and decry midget wrestling as exploitive – even if the little people themselves are the ones running it.
However, no matter how hard you try, the freaks and scalawags are no longer confined to the sideshow or the basement. They’re free to roam where they please. We live in America, damn it. And despite all of the problems with our nation, the one thing we can all still rely on is a ratified First Amendment.
Take note: The Constitution doesn’t state that whatever anyone says, writes, produces or publishes is mandatory for your perusal. It merely keeps our voices – all of our voices – from being silenced. Remember, that if one thing can be censored, all things can be censored. Those who would stifle someone else in the too-often invoked name of Common Decency should bear that in mind.
If you don’t like it, ignore it and move on. That’s what a grown-up would do.
God Bless America,
John-Ross Boyce and Nadia Ashtawy
Editors of The V