Two lame arguments spread very much like measles whenever somebody gets in trouble for saying what Riley Cooper said at the Kenny Chesney concert. The first argument is lame and the second maybe even lamer, because its lameness includes a phoniness that complements the lameness.
The first goes something like this: Whatever happened to freedom of speech?
The answer, of course, is nothing. Nothing happened to freedom of speech. Freedom of speech remained the same. Politically correct forces have not put even a hint of a dent in freedom of speech.
The police have not come to Cooper's home. They have neither placed Cooper under house arrest nor stashed him in a jail where he could join the Florida Gators Fellowship of the Arrested. He remains free -- free to speak, free to work for whomever will employ him, free to go around as he pleases, free to lose his mind again if he chooses. His freedoms remain intact.
Neither the Philadelphia city government nor the Pennsylvania state government nor the United States federal government has stepped in to limit Riley Cooper's freedom of speech. Nor do sane government officials at any level ever advocate the charging or sentencing or imprisoning of someone like Cooper for saying something such as Cooper said. Cooper's freedoms remain so full that he might even be free to go over the middle to catch passes this season, and that might be something curious. We shall not see Cooper in court anytime soon, lest he appear for something unrelated.
Yet somehow, many people wail about the so-called curtailment of "freedom of speech" while holding down their own jobs. In holding down their own jobs, they go to offices. In going to these offices, they know every hour of every day of every month of every year that they should not make comments damaging to others in the offices. And then as they leave the offices, they know to refrain from public comments that would damage their companies.
In some cases, the people using this argument are the same people who decry the use of profanity in certain settings. In all cases, they seem almost bizarre.
Warning: offensive language
The second lame argument, nipping the first in the contest for overall lameness, goes something like this: Well, black people use the word with each other...
This lame-o-rama seems to be metastasizing toward becoming even downright half-fashionable until eventually, someday, croaking under its own phoniness. Even the people who deploy it might know it's weak.
They -- or many of them -- must know there are hundreds of words in hundreds of languages that have gained wide acceptance as having two or more meanings. In English, some involve various parts of the human anatomy. Some, such as, oh, say, "monster," can mean a ghastly thing in one conversation and a cuddly thing in another. People can use certain words fondly or jokingly in some settings and hostilely in others. Even amid the parameter of "jokingly," people can use words jokingly with affection in some cases and jokingly with hostility in others. It's an easy, everyday concept, for which Cooper's contrition -- mentioning even his parents -- shows ample comprehension.
That's obvious enough, but what makes this argument a special brand of horsepucky is its ignorance toward the historical timeline. The fonder use of the word Riley Cooper used started up as a reaction -- and a shrewd one -- to the ugliness the word carried through an ugly history. It took an evil word and softened it, similar to the way gay people took hold of the word "queer" and softened that. I'd rather not hear the N-word, ever, but I understand the difference in where and from whom I hear it, every bit as much as I understand the difference between a "bat" as a baseball implement and a "bat" as a nocturnal mammal capable of sustained flight. So, probably, do most people using Lame Argument No. 2. In venomous usage, the word simply isn't abetting progress.
Cooper clearly knew the difference as he disgorged his venom at a concert, but what tacks on the shock in this case, and what figures to sustain it through the months ahead, is his longtime work among African-American teammates -- brethren, they always tell us -- plus his continuing need to play a brutal game against African-American opponents. That differentiates this strange case even in a nation that, like other nations, long tries to molt from its particular ugly history and, as it molts, incurs its share of horsepucky.