The Terror of Assault & Battery Upon Our Children's Ears
As we fight Terrorism in foreign lands, are we losing the battle here on our own streets?   Are we neglecting the Terror inflicted on a child by negligence and oversight of our tongues?  In England, Prime Minister Tony Blair, is launching a major "anti-social" campaign to clean up the streets of London.  Part of that includes the foul language that Terrorizes our children's ears.   Do we have as much a duty to protect our children from language that assaults and batteries their ears as we do to protect them from Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.  You be the judge!


Sunday--November 24, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 438
Assault & Battery
With A Terrorist Tongue

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, Nov. 24 --Each day, thousands of cases of assault and battery are committed by Verbal Terrorists upon children, yet they go unpunished.  Perhaps it's time to stop them.
        Assault is defined as the unauthorized use of threat of force against another; battery is unauthorized (unlawful) touching of another.   In other words, if one raises his or her fist in a threatening gesture without provocation, that act can be considered assault.   If one touches another without their permission, that can be considered battery.


       When I went to law school a few years ago to reinvent myself after my cancer operation, I was amazed to find that law's purpose was establish "moral barriers" for a peaceful society.   While we often think of law in America as a litigious virus where everyone sues anyone for anything, its real goal is to provide order in society so peaceful coexistence can occur.  

Page from Mark Twain's Calendar

         Long ago the Church provided the moral laws of a society.   Religious leaders were the judges, and often the prosecutors ended up winning the case against the person and inflicting terrible pain and suffering--sometimes burning the victim or torturing him or her to death.
         Law split its relationship with religion and provided a secular state of penalty, where civil and criminal law imposed penalties for anti-social behavior--behavior counter productive to a society's right to peace.  Crimes such as assault, battery, rape, murder, theft, larceny, embezzlement, murder were tried by the state.   Citizens also could take their complaints to civil courts where instead of jail time, monetary fines were imposed to sanction someone for violating the "rights of others."  
         The O.J. Simpson case is the most modern example, where the criminal courts found him not guilty but the civil courts held him liable for the deaths of his former wife and her friend.   Criminal courts require a unanimous verdict to form a guilty plea, while civil courts require only a majority.   In civil law there can be "reasonable doubt" but if the majority believes the individual violated "civil law," the verdict holds up. 
         This brings us to the need to prosecute Verbal Terrorism, especially when it is attacks the innocent--the children.
          I'm talking about foul language in front of children.
          On the streets of New York City, as well as other compressed areas of urban life, people use the foulest language one can imagine as though they were sitting in the privacy of their homes, or in a gym, or a bar, with utter neglect to the vitriolic impact those words have on children walking with parents or grandparents next to them, or babies in strollers.   
          Often the "F" word is used as an adjective to modify every other word, or a verb, or a noun, or any part of speech imaginable.   It is said as though the speaker were bellowing into a loudspeaker with total disregard to the youthful ears that hear everything, whose tympanum membranes sponge up the aurial world faster than a Bounty commercial paper towel.

        Certainly, under the definition of assault, such language forms a threat to the children, and the fact the words "unlawfully touch" the children's ears qualifies them for battery.
         Under the precepts of law, spoken language moves as a result of disturbing molecules.  Words bounce off the molecules separating the speaker from the child and literally crash against the fragile formative eardrum, setting up vibrations that ring the sounds into the child's mind.    Literally, through the physics of speech and hearing, the words "touch" the child's body--his or her ear drums.  They do so in an unauthorized way--intending to create harm to the child.
           The law says there is no excuse for ignorance of the law.   Ignorance is not a defense. The law says the "agent of harm knew or should have known."   The penalty for ignorance is liability, culpability.
           Further evidence of the harmful impact of foul, invective language used in public near or neglectful of a child's earshot is the prosecutorial issue of "intent."   Did the person "intend" to cause harm?  
           Those who use foul or invective language with impunity around the presence of children in public places have little defense against "intent."   If on a witness stand and asked the question:  "Do you believe using foul language in the presence of a young child is harmful to the child," few could argue that such language is "not harmful."   Put another way, if the defendant was asked, "If you were sitting in a room with your three-year-old child present and someone was sitting across from you using foul language in the presence of your child, would you consider that an assault on your child's "right to innocence?"  Or,  "Would you consider that an insult to your child?  To you?  To society?"   Or, "Do you think an adult has the right to speak foul, invective language in the presence of a child?"

         There's not much wiggle room in those questions, and few if any would stand up for the right of an adult to assault a child with foul language, yet it happens every day, thousands upon thousands of times by people speaking with utter neglect to the innocence that may exist around them.
           If Terrorism is defined as the indiscriminate assault on the innocent with intent to commit harm so that a society will suffer Fear, Intimidation and Complacency as a result, then one who flushes out the sewage of foul language in the presence of children, then they become a Verbal Terrorist.
           They are attacking a child's innocence with indiscriminate intent.   Their ignorance of the child's presence is not a defense.   Their selfish use of public molecules to express themselves with foul language does not fall within the First Amendment when the price of that speech infringes on the child's Right of Innocence.
          In my argument for Verbal Terrorism I distinguish the difference between an adult and a child.  If an adult is walking and listening to such language, an adult has the right to ask that person not to use such language, or to move away from the person using it.   The right of Free Speech has not been violated between consenting adults.

        But foul language issued in and around a child who does not have the right to move out of the way or to confront the speaker as to the offensive nature of the language has his or her Rights of Innocence violated.   There should be a price paid for those who violate that right.
         And what about the parents, the guardians of the children?   Are they liable for putting a child at risk by taking a child out into the streets?  
        Walking a child along the streets does not guarantee to any parent that someone may or may not use foul language.   While a parent can speed up or slow down to avoid such language permeating the child's ears, the damage has been done.   Only when a parent intentionally puts a child at risk to Verbal Terrorism is that parent subject to liability.

         If I sound a bit puritanical, I am.   But I also know the language of Terrorism well.  I'm a former Marine with a vocabulary that can match any foul gutter talk pro.   But that doesn't mean I can't control my language just as I control my rage and anger.   I realize my language can be spears, piercing the ears of the innocent.   I control myself and clip my tongue, and if I use foul language by accident in the presence of a child, then I am guilty of Verbal Terrorism and should be held liable.  I have no right to impose the ugliness of foul language into the innocence of a child's mind.

Notice posted at a soccer game in England in 1993

        I often talk about the Beast of Terror within us, and how we must use Courage, Conviction and Right Actions to leash the Beast's Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.   We, as a society of Vigilance, must seek out Terrorism of all shapes and sizes and neutralize their impact on our society if we are to stand up as Sentinels of Vigilance and serve as role models of Vigilance for the world.
       America's posture as the Global Police of Terrorism demands we evolve our society above the level of the gutter where Terrorism breeds, and it is often expressed by the tip of our tongue in the form of foul language--the language of Complacency, the language of the Beast.
       Free Speech is not a defense.   Speech which injures the innocent is not free.  We have no right to Terrorize the young, malleable minds of children to serve our selfish needs.   If we do, we should be held accountable and pay the price.
       I was stirred to write about this subject after reading what was happening in England.   Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of England, has launched a campaign to clean up London.   His goal is to crack down on "loutish behavior," which includes garbage and trash, vandalism, anti-social neighbors, graffiti and truancy and "low-level aggression."   British Home Secretary David Blunkett calls the Vigilance effort an assault on "low-level thuggery that makes people's lives a misery."

      Trafalgar Square trash

       Paula Field, a local Antisocial Behavior Officer in the Tameside area near Manchester said:  "Every public meeting I go to, every residence association I go to, every problem-solving group that I set up, the main issues is people causing annoyance and antisocial behavior."
       The issue of Terrorism, I believe, far exceeds the headlines of War With Iraq, or the Hunt For Bin Laden.   Terrorism is something that creeps into a society and slowly knocks away the foundation of its children's moral constitution until any high ground is so far out of reach that one stops trying to find it.   Language is one of the crumbling foundations.
        I'm not for new laws.  I'm not for Verbal Police ticketing people who use foul language around children.  I'm not for society forcing itself to stand on firm moral grounds under threat of civil or criminal penalty if they don't, for I most concerned about who makes up the laws, and who administers them.  
        But at the same time, I have three grandchildren, ages six, four and five months.  When I take them outside, I have no defense against the sniper shots of foul words that strike their ears.  I can push their stroller faster, or challenge whomever is speaking, risking a violent confrontation because they "have a right to be foul mouthed."

        I'd like to see the right to be foul-mouthed in public, in the presence of children, criminalized.   It is already.  It is a crime to use the suicide bomb of foul language in a crowd where one has no idea what children are present.   I've found that women as well as men are equally responsible for such issuances.  They remind me of suicide bombers strapping to their chests "word bombs" that explode upon a child's ears and sink deep into their innocence, soiling it just a little here, and a little there.
       No Mother or Father of Vigilance would promote the use of such language as a "right of an adult" in the presence of a child.   But the Beast of Terror would.

       In England, maybe the first priority to cleaning up the rubbish of the streets should be begin with the rubbish of the mouth.   It has been said that "So as one speaks, so does one think."  If one speaks in rubbish, foul-mouthed garbage, then one's mind must be cluttered with the same waste.   If one thinks about what he or she says before saying it, perhaps the moral garbage disposal can chew up the foul language and only that which is fit for a child will exit.

      Vigilance with the tongue is just as important as Vigilance with a Sword.


      Cleaning up the pollution of foul language can drive the Beast of Terror one step back to his cave, and help our children, and their children's children's children be a little more innocent for a little longer.  It is a right we owe them.




Nov. 23--Wrapping Up Terrorism With A Pretty Bow

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