Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Potpourri of Petulance

Several stories in the Boston Globe today cause me to reflect on the increasing petulance exhibited by the sanctimonious:

In Danvers, Massachusetts, the local YMCA's annual fundraiser included a "special guest," an impeccable impersonator of Tina Turner named Hollie Vest. By all accounts, she wowed the crowd, and many weren't entirely sure whether they were being honored with the presence of Tina herself. A good time was had by all. Well, almost all. At least one guest, Y board member Paul Sullivan, informed the Salem Evening News that he would be seeking a refund. "I wouldn't expect the Y to stoop to this type of behavior. I'm very surprised, and I'm disappointed."

But Ms. Vest saw things differently:

Vest said she was surprised and saddened to learn that anyone was upset with the YMCA of the North Shore, an organization that does so much to help children. Usually, she said, "common sense" kicks in before long and people realize that she's not the real thing.

Tina Turner, after all, is semi-retired and can fill stadiums, she said.

"Why would Tina Turner come to an event with 600 people? Doesn't she live in France? How could they afford this?" Vest said of the questions that typically run through people's minds. "It's kind of understood in those events that would not be the real Tina."

In 22 years working as an impersonator, Vest said, she had never heard of a single instance where people were upset because her real identity was not revealed.

Paging Paul Sullivan: please go to the Lost and Found to retrieve your perspective.

Meanwhile, on the campus of Boston University, undergraduate members of the school's College Republicans group announced their intention to promote a discussion about race-based scholarships and affirmative action by offering a $250 scholarship to white students. Provocative, to be sure. Here's how the dean of students saw it:

Kenneth Elmore, BU's dean of students, said in a statement that the scholarship goes against the university's goal of increasing diversity on campus. He agreed the issue of race-based programs is worthy of debate, but questioned the group's approach.

"It appears to me that they're trying to push a debate as it relates to affirmative action and American society," Elmore said. "I want students to know that I encourage debate and will help students foster creative debate around the university. I hope the College Republicans and other students will try to do the same."

Fair enough. But you'd think after the drubbing that the Republican Party in this state took last week, its current executive director might be a little more circumspect:

Brian Dodge, executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party, said the state party did not endorse the scholarship. 'Their actions are misguided and offensive,' he said.

Reckless accusation from one who defended the Healey campaign's over-the-line attack on Deval Patrick's advocacy on behalf of Ben Laguer's case.

Finally, there is this gem involving the certain perpetually offendable members of the Massachusetts Bar Association:

She's a sensual brunette showing a flash of cleavage and lots of inner thigh. She's tugging at the necktie of a handsome executive, pulling him aggressively toward her. Eyes closed, mouth slightly open as they prepare to kiss, she's wearing a men's suit jacket and not much else.

It's a glossy, full-color advertising insert for a clothing company with this racy caption: "A custom-tailored suit is a natural aphrodisiac."

And it's triggered a blitz of indignant letters and calls to Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, where it recently appeared for three weeks in a row.

"Highly insulting," wrote one reader. "Puerile, tasteless, and offensive," wrote another. "Wrong on so many levels," added a third. Another was even more blunt: "Stop publishing this ad."

About two dozen readers have contacted the paper to complain that the insert, for a New York company called Jiwani, objectifies females and undermines gender equality. It is especially inappropriate, many of them said, for a publication that targets the legal industry, where women struggle mightily to achieve the same respect and status as men.

Folks. It's a freakin' FASHION AD. Last time I checked, you were in favor of the First Amendment. "Stop publishing this ad"??

Since when did pride become so fragile? Did I miss something? Are we all so focussed on making sure that it is OUR message that gets the attention that we feel the necessity to quarrel with everyone else's methods of doing the same?

Since when did the First Amendment become such a malleable principle that it is used in defense of only some (modestly) offensive speech? Am I a freak to believe that none of these expressions of speech are offensive? Provocative, yes. Controversial, absolutely. But offensive? I sure hope not.

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