I grew up in Butte, Montana. For those who don't know, Butte is probably the greatest mining town in America. It was chock full of immigrants from everywhere. Primarily Irish.
Those men and women could swear. And drink. Smoke and chew. And gamble. And fight. And well...do everything bad. They were my heroes. Not the best role models for a ten year old kid. But, they were mine.
So I've spent a lifetime unwinding every bad habit I learned in Butte. I don't drink or gamble much anymore. I don't smoke or chew having quit that a year ago. I think about kicking someone's ass every now and then, especially the Muslim punks at the gym, but for the most part- my fighting days are behind me. I am just a shell of a man. All that is left for me is profanity and I cling to it like a life raft. I can swear with the best of them. Profanity or swearing is the spice rack of speech. Without it, speech is just some bland thing we do to pass time. It dis-interests me.
To be honest I've even cut down on my use of profanity. But not enough that any outsider would notice. I still weave "fuck" through a lot of my speech. Like a pattern on a quilt. That's just me.
When I was a kid, if you didn't swear- I simply didn't trust you. I figured you for some Mormon type. As an adult, I never really improved on that belief much. In fact, to this day, I associate with people who swear. Unfortunately, I attract those people who have decided that the use of profanity is a terrible thing. You know the type. I call them crusaders or controlling types. These are people bent on changing the exterior world to suit them or for short, assholes. They will "out" you virtually anywhere because they have no internal control mechanism for dealing with speech. I never know for certain when a crusader infiltrates my ranks. I try to use advance intelligence and screening techniques but unfortunately once in awhile a crusader sneaks under my perimeter fence and into the compound.
This year, my entire family descended on Leavenworth, Washington for Christmas. It is a beautiful place. We were staying with my sister's father in law, a man whom we had never met. I will call him Ray because that in fact is his name. Ray is about to meet the family from Butte and one of the most prolific "swearers" there is. I listened to Ray for a few hours, shortly after our arrival on Dec. 23. I heard him utter a standard ration of curse words. I was lulled into thinking he was "normal." So, I liked Ray. However, in hindsight, I never heard him say the word "fuck." That as it turns out, was a mission failure I would pay for on Christmas Eve.
Like swearing, my family drinks. Ray drinks. And on Christmas Eve, everyone was drinking. A lot. Except me. And we were doing what we do best. Laughing and teasing each other. Now my job is not to police the world anymore nor am I a crusader. In fact, back in my drinking days, I drank more than anyone which contributes heavily to my being sober for the last 5 years. So I enjoy my family especially when they have been drinking. They say some funny shit. So there we were, everyone except me- three sheets to the wind. I am telling some story in my usual fashion with the liberal use of the f-bomb when Ray interrupts me. Ray it seems, has chosen this moment to expose his crusader genes. He looks at me and says "why do you have to use that word?" "I think people who use that word are asinine." He was angry and actually quivering a little bit as he spoke. He was not telling me something- he was feeling something. He said some other things which amounted to overkill. I got the point.
So it's a tough situation being in front of your family, getting humiliated and shamed by a crusader who has consumed a gallon of beer. Especially at the ripe young age of 51. You could have heard a pin drop in that room. All conversation ceased while several semi intoxicated minds and one sober one contemplated what would happen next.
In the old days, I would have delivered a brow beating designed to crush crusaders like Ray. However, the old days are gone. It was Christmas Eve. Everyone is looped. My job at that moment, was not to make this scene any worse. I did the only reasonable thing that I could. I apologized. That level of emotional pain is almost unbearable for me. My ego is screaming out, "KILL HIM NOW." But I can't. I have internal controls. I cannot throw everything that has happened in my life out the window because some drunken crusader has decided to launch a public attack on Christmas Eve. Oh and of course, the crusaders always think they are entitled to do that. They will adamantly defend their positions because their mother or their aunt told them swearing is bad. Or any number of other puritanical justifications. I have heard them all. I am a veteran.
To avoid such incidents, all crusaders should hand out a list of things, some rules. Posted in a conspicuous place. Like their forehead. That way we know in advance what is expected of us. Like the terms of service or an agreement you sign on line. If you don't like the terms- you can reject them.
The "Leavenworth Incident" as we are now referring to it- has been placed on a memory stick somewhere near my "oobla doobla" which is that part of my brain reserved for crusaders.
The one thing I have observed about all crusaders is their inability to tolerate the beliefs of anyone else. They are unconscious. In fact, they are the first people to label and condemn others. They have a singleness of purpose which they march forward as though it was divinely imparted. Like they alone know what is right in the world and God himself has spoken to them. Like Moses. I don't get too upset at those types anymore. All that wasted energy. Accomplishing nothing. I am still clinging.