I swear, a lot. I have a total potty mouth. When I am driving, I drop a few choice word bombs, somehow I hope they hit my targets. If I am in the house, looking at a bill, I might toss a few expletives here and there. As a potty mouth, I took great satisfaction from some scientific discovery that swearing can reduce pain. Well obviously that is true if you have ever jammed your toe on the way to the bathroom at 2 AM.
I love violent movies as well. One of my favorite scenes of all time is from "The Untouchables." The four "untouchables" gallop down a hillside toward a bridge that ends in a gun battle with gangsters. The music is so stirring. The action is intense. The scene brings me to tears when one character is shot.
I mention these two darling aspects of my personality and character because while I support the freedom of speech, I now shout out "fudge" when I stub my toe and change the television station when there is blood, shouting or shooting. This change in me started about 18 months ago, and is not complete. Thankfully, I have not yet become one of those people who gives the stink eye to anyone who lets loose a few word bombs in the presence of children, nor have I stopped watching television completely. However, I have started to notice these two aspects of violent speech and violent imagery a lot since I have limited my use and access to them.
My change towards violent language and imagery began with the entrance of a new life in my life. That new life has brought out every protective instinct I never knew I had. That new life propelled me out of bed at all hours of the night and early morning, ready to feed and comfort on demand. Many of my old habits have become old habits in the face of the new reality in which I live. I started to notice more and more how I spoke, how I lived, what I ate, what I thought. Little by little, my life adjusted to my new love, my new community.
I live in a new community now. I am not alone. I am responsible for and to someone else. I must feed and cloth another. What I say, how I act, what I permit into my presence affects not just me, but my community. Am I comfortable with those influences in my community? Was I really comfortable with those influences in myself?
Or to put it more bluntly: do I want my child swearing and watching violence? I say no, but I needed to understand why I feel that way, after all, I support people expressing themselves. As repugnant as I find some speech, writing, art, music, movie or television show, I still believe that individual is free to express him or herself (even if I believe he or she is wrong). Speech might be free, but speech is not without consequence, without power.
Speech can be powerful and dangerous. Speech can uplift and devastate. Whether we like it or not, we are influenced by what we watch and what we hear. So the question arises, what will I allow?
I am not comfortable anymore with violent speech and images, especially in front of my child. I understand someone might feel the need to express him or herself. I understand that an artist might be using the violence as a means to some end. I want my brothers and sisters to continue to express themselves, but for right now, I am not speaking violence, nor watching violence.
I am not kidding myself that I will never watch television again nor drop the f-bomb at some point, but I do want to be intentional in what I will allow to influence my family and myself. I am not naive that my child will not see violence or hear violent speech somewhere in her daily life, but I do not want her to believe that her mother condones violence because she does nothing to prevent it from entering her home through casual swearing and violent images on television.
Will limiting my viewing of violence and my speech make the world less violent? Maybe not, but it might change my family and community. I hope through my example that my child will see that there are a world of choices that do not have to include violence. I hope that when she is older, we can sit down and watch mom's Dirty Harry films, and wonder together if violence is necessary.