Laws really are like sausages: you don’t want to see either one being made.
After what happened in Durham City Council chambers recently, you don’t want to hear them, either.
Council member DeDreana Freeman unleashed a fusillade of F-bombs on council member Mark-Anthony Middleton recently after a resolution was introduced to censure fellow council member Monique Holsey-Hyman.
Holsey-Hyman is accused of using city staffers to work on her election campaign and attempting to put the bite for a campaign contribution on a developer with business before the city. She denies the charges, and Freeman objected to the censure resolution — loudly and profanely.
I, for one, am not here to judge Holsey-Hyman’s ethics or the strength of the case against her. That’s what investigations are for, and the council has recommended that the SBI investigate the latter charge.
I am, though, here to judge the strength of Freeman’s #$%@&* performance in assailing Middleton for going along with the censure.
Remember in the movie “Arthur,” when the stuffy manservant Hobson archly tells a woman “Usually one must go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your stature”?
To hear words like the ones Freeman aimed at Middleton, one must usually go behind a bowling alley or a poolroom.
Or hang around me when I was younger.
It'll be hard for some to believe, but I was not always the paragon of virtue you see before today.
As a teenager, I achieved a distinction that no one else in Rockingham, to my knowledge, ever has: I went to jail for cussing somebody out.
I was 16, and used four-letter and 12-letter words the way Van Gogh used paint: I was truly a virtuoso of vulgarity. I had gotten into an argument with a grown man over a basketball - he said it was his, I said it was mine - and I let him have it.
It was later reported that NASA had to delay a flight because the blue streak of profanity I unleashed was still floating around in outer space.
The charge on the warrant sworn out against me was “verbal assault,” and when I told the judge that I didn’t know there was such a charge, he gave me an unsympathetic look that conveyed “You know it now, Slick.”
That night I spent in jail for cussin’ makes me, in my mind, a cum laude graduate of the art form and uniquely qualified to judge the quality of others’ performance in the medium. To wit: Freeman earned high marks for enthusiasm, but lost points because her attack lacked variety or the gradual build up good verbal assaults need. In short, she brought out the @#$#%& heavy artillery too quickly.
To professional cussers, that's an unpardonable breach of epithet etiquette.
I sought comment from Mayor Elaine O’Neal, who can be seen on the video exasperatedly trying to quell the contentious tete-a-tete. Through her assistant, O’Neal said: “Tell him my comment is ‘No comment.’”
Who could blame her? That confrontation redounded to the glory of no one.
I also reached out to former mayor Bill Bell, who has spent decades being an unassailably articulate ambassador for Durham city and county.
“It was unfortunate,” Bell said, “but it happened. I’ve been chair of the county commissioners and the city council, and my priority was always to listen so I could make an informed decision… People are going to have disagreements, but there’s a way to handle them in a professional manner,” he said. “That incident doesn’t define Durham. I hope lessons were learned and that it doesn’t happen again.
“One thing about Durham,” he said, is “we give people platforms to be heard, whether they’re elected officials or citizens.”
Many Durham residents from the 1990s recall - with either fondness or revulsion - when its cantankerous school board meetings were must-see TV, when CNN seemingly opened a Bull City bureau to beam to the world the monthly hostilities between parents, board members and the superintendent.
You'd have to search long and hard to find a Durham resident of that period who didn’t receive phone calls from alarmed friends around the country asking “What’s going on in Durham?”
What was going on was passion, passion expressed loudly by parents who cared about their children's education.
Never was there the kind of vulgarity we heard recently, though.
Good thing, too, because neither children, nor anyone else, needs that kind of education.
Barry Saunders is a member of the Editorial Board and founder of thesaundersreport.com.