I write crime novels for a living. They are full of men–and other disreputable types–who talk like men talk and think in the words men think in. As a result of this, I frequently get letters from my fellow conservatives and fellow Christians that begin, “You call yourself a conservative,” or “You call yourself a Christian,” and then ask: “How can you write such filth?”
Now, not long ago, I was playing tennis–badly, as I sometimes do to counteract the rumors that I’m perfect in every way–and also because I suck–and with each new unforced error I would send up a furious shout of “Doggone it!” or “Rats!” My partner finally interrupted his serve and came to the net. “What is this?” he said, disgruntled. “I’ve read your novels. There’s no ‘Doggone it,’ in your novels. There’s no ‘Rats.'”
Sheepishly, I was forced to explain to him that I rarely use foul language in real life, and almost never in front of ladies, such as the ladies playing on the next court over. He seemed very disappointed.
This little incident came to mind the other day after the oddly lovable Andrew Breitbart posted here what he jokingly called Big Hollywood’s theme song, being Christian Bale’s despicable, bullying and obscenity-laced tirade against a Director of Photography–set brilliantly to a techno beat by some genius who calls himself RevoLucian.
Now this thing was hilarious and it made Bale look like the thug he is and I was blown away by the techno-craziness of it and I loved it. But some BH readers protested against the obscenity in particular and against the degradation of our arts and discourse by bad language and childish behavior in general. Others forcefully protested against the protesters, essentially denouncing them as priggish and old-fashioned. The discussion highlighted a legitimate division in our ranks between the High-Minded and the Laid-back, the Mature and the Hip. The first group believe that, as conservatives, we must defend our better culture. The others feel that, in the very interests of promoting conservatism, we have to be part of our culture as it is.
At the risk of wishy-washitude, I side with them both. Listen, I try to live by a code of manners and decorum that sets my little chunk of the world somewhere on the gentility scale between, say, a Henry James novel and a Judd Apatow movie. But I also try to create art–which has nothing to do with decorum or manners, everything to do with brutal truth telling in whatever language you need. Art has to map out the entire city of life, not just its palaces and cathedrals, but its gutters, alleys, carnivals and cheapjack malls as well.
This is a website about our culture, right? At moments–like when Iowahawk tears up the joint or this RevoLucian guy practices a non-governmental Bale-out–it actually commits acts of culture itself. To which I say: Huzzah–or some word to that effect. Those of us who believe in the arts–whether in the form of South Park or the cantatas of Bach–believe that it’s the truth that ultimately sets us free.
What you do with your freedom–how you choose to behave and speak and treat your neighbor: dude, that is entirely up to you.