Can We Have a National Conversation about Decency?

Can We Have a National Conversation about Decency? February 3, 2017

Today seems about as good as any to raise the question of national standards of decency because early this morning WIP, a sports-talk radio station in Philadelphia, held its 25th Wing Bowl. It is an eating contest — chicken wings in particular — but a whole lot more. Here is how I described it seven years ago:

a lot of overweight men are gathering, accompanied by scantily clad women, to participate in Wing Bowl, a warm up party and eating contest for Super Bowl weekend. The local sports-talk station, 610 WIP, sponsors the event, which has grown to ridiculous proportions. Rumor has it that the fans who attend – and it packs out the arena where the Sixers and Flyers play – consume more beer than any other event held at the Wachovia Center (and this happens between the hours of 7 and 10 in the AM).

Here‘s what it looks like:

Now we have a dilemma. The United States have a president who seems to come more from the sector of society that produces Wing Bowl participants than from the one that cultivates good taste or discernment.

I have wondered before about the fluidity between the vulgarity of American popular culture and national politics. I continue to wonder why the opponents of President Trump, reasonably upset by his crudity and lack of qualifications, are not so upset when vulgarity seeps into other portions of American life. Can you have Wing Bowl without Trump as POTUS, for instance? I have even thought that a Trump presidency might be a positive development for the country if it leads to a national conversation about decency. I could see that conversation going several ways:

1) we can not enforce morality and so indecency must be tolerated in every sector of American society


2) we need national standards of decency at only some levels, and so will tolerate certain levels of obscenity or coarseness in television, music, and movies, but will expect and maintain more elevated forms of expression in universities and government


3) politics is such a serious enterprise that we may not tolerate vulgarity among public servants; but in the rest of American life, no such rules apply

But then I remember that we had no such conversation about indecency in politics even when POTUS got caught with his pants down.


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