Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The “U” Word

According to a story I heard on NPR this week, the Republicans in the Florida State Legislature are now worried about language being used on the House floor. They are shouting “earmuffs” to all the pages, messengers and other impressionable young people that may be within earshot of this “Too hot for CSPAN” language.

In a speech on March 25th, Democratic Representative Scott Randolph uttered the words, “We constantly talk about not putting more regulations out there... But it comes to my wife’s uterus, more regulations; it comes to my friend’s bedroom, more regulations; it comes to union dues, more regulations.” The regulations to which he was referring were not the subject of the GOP's concern. No, it was the fact that he used the word “uterus” while trying to make his point.

According to some reports, House Speaker Dean Cannon (a Republican from Florida's District 35) or some other unnamed GOP leader(s) went to the Democratic leaders and rules chair to relay a message to Representative Randolph That message was to the effect of “please refrain from referring to any body parts while speaking on the floor.” The reports have been unsurprisingly vague and lacked the details the public wants to hear. Was Rep. Randolph chastised and told to keep his “potty mouth” to himself? Or did it go no further than the GOP leaders tattling on him to the Democratic leaders?

The funniest part comes from the public forum. Apparently, Rep. Cannon has been greeted with calls of “uterus” on the streets of Tallahassee, and his official Facebook page has seen numerous uterine references and jokes posted on it. The Democrats in the Florida Legislature have followed suit, and it has become an awkward, yet strangely satisfying rallying cry for them. Shouts of “uterus” have come as a reply to issues such as education cuts, union treatment and anything else that Florida Governor Rick Scott is considering for his budget cutbacks.

I enjoy a good sophomoric political discussion as much as the next person, but this one just doesn't make sense to me. It seems like both sides have missed the point again. The word “uterus” is not a bad word. If George Carlin were still alive, “uterus” would not have made it onto his “Top 50 words you can't say on TV.” This isn't TV we are talking about here, this is the floor of a State Legislature. There can not be limitations put on a Representative's freedom of speech. It's not like he said the “S” word or the “F” word, or God-forbid the almighty “C” word. No, he said “uterus.” The Alpha to death's Omega. That place where life begins. “Uterus” is not a bad word, it is a good word. Rep. Randolph should not be reprimanded, he should be commended for using words in his speech that cut to the core of the issue. That make people stop, listen and think. Those speeches take up hours each year, and only the occasional snippet ever garner the public's attention. It seems like he was successful in making his voice heard, and the GOP scuttlebutt is only furthering its effectiveness.

Let's talk about the issues Rep. Randolph was trying bring back into the forefront of our Floridian minds. I have read many stories recently about school teachers' health insurance budget deficits, hospitals losing state funding and a few others that hit closer to home. These “real” stories are being drowned out by people who want to know who said “uterus” on the floor of the legislature and who (if anyone) rushed to slap the wrist of the man who said it.

I haven't seen such an unnecessary uproar since the heated debate in April of 2006 over which pie would be the official pie of the State of Florida. It pitted key lime pie against pecan pie. These lengthy discussions ate up countless taxpayer dollars, and garnered the most attention this state had seen since the Bush/Gore election in the year 2000. One side argued that key limes are no longer commercially grown in Florida after years of Hurricanes and citrus canker disease decimated the crops, so why should they focus on a commodity that makes no local monetary contributions. The other side would concede the point that key lime pie is synonymous with Florida, but pecans are a 1.5 million dollar a year industry for Florida. Eventually key lime pie would emerge victorious. What a relief that was.

Unfortunately, while all that was taking place, our legislature could have been focusing on the more important issues at hand. Maybe they could have seen the housing bubble about to burst, or planned our class sizes better for the schools that were growing in population or even found a way to genetically engineer the world first key-pecan (which would have made everyone happy). They didn't, and we are now facing a major budget shortage just like many other states in this country right now. However, those other states aren't seeing their elected leaders on MSNBC yelling “uterus” at Rachel Maddow like a Monty Python Knight or a person inflicted with turrets syndrome. Florida has been the laughing stock of this country now for over ten years, and this is not helping.

I just hope that our Governor Richard Scott and House Speaker Dean Cannon don't end up running for president and vice president anytime soon. I can only imagine the parody bumper stickers that their Democratic counterparts could come up with for that ticket. I already thought of one, and were it a real weapon, it would spell doom for our nation's metaphorical uterus.

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