When did it become OK to be coarse?
I'm not talking about politicians, drunken sailors, filthy comedians, or 14-year-old boys full of false bravado. Unacceptable and vulgar language is expected from them. I'm referring to complete strangers communicating - or should I say trying to communicate - with others.
Words that would give Emily Post - for those born in a world that has never known sagging pants outside of prison walls she wrote about a quaint concept called manners - a heart attack flow today from keyboards like water down Yosemite Falls.
Gutter vocabulary populates blogs, emails and even texts. Demeaning words strung together are confused for wit. Obscene words are peppered throughout with even those rarely spelled right.
More often than not the vile that passes as communication is done because an opinion someone has expressed has riled or offended the author triggering the e-tirade.
It is sent in anger - that's a given. But often times it is done with a pointed pronouncement or two that the recipient should consider changing their ways or viewpoint. Even thugs wearing brass knuckles to drive home a point have more class.
What ever happened to the idea that milk and honey can get people's attention and possibly win them over? If you think you can persuade someone to embrace your viewpoint by equating them to a piece of dung or vilifying them as a kissing cousin of Adolph Hitler, one wonders what words you would use screaming at someone in an uncontrolled rage.
Even if you communicate in such a manner not because you want to convince someone of the worthiness of your values or lack thereof but because you want to let your feelings out, what does it say about you?
Oh, that's right. You don't have guts enough or the courage of your vulgar convictions to use your own name. Instead you hide like a coward behind a pseudonym.
Perhaps you are among those who claim you write behind anonymity because you fear retaliation for your words. But then again if you poke a sleeping bear with a pool cue what would you expect?
It's cliché to blame the Internet Age but how else do you explain the unrestrained verbal diarrhea that passes these days for political discourse not among pandering politicians but from citizens who share the common beef that America has gone to hell in a handbasket.
I've got news for them. Given how they communicate with others, what do they expect? You can't have "greatness" if you can't embrace basic concepts such as courtesy, restraint, respect for opinions and values different than yours or see tolerance as the glue that binds us together as a nation.
Back when we communicated via letters, by voice on phones or by the antiquated means of face-to-face conversation, the occasional swear word startled and brutal boorish language put you on the wrong side of the fence regardless of the point you were making.
Now swear words appear with a greater frequency than punctuation in a blog posting or text message.
What once was dismissed as being "potty-mouth" is now considered OK in many quarters. We may not like it but we do nothing to fight the tide.
Where does all this coarseness get us?
Or better yet, how does one justify unleashing vulgar rants while dismissing all other viewpoints as being worthy only of vulgarities?
There is nothing manly about either swearing or coarseness in communication.
Doing it hiding behind a fake name pretty much answers the question of whether you are a man.
It's ironic in a way, that the last time men in this country faced death for written words all 34 of them signed their real names. And one of them - John Hancock - signed it larger than his colleagues.
Now cowards - or as Arnold Schwarzenegger might say, "girlie men" - hide behind the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights' First Amendment to attack others anonymously.
By the way, the words of those documents do not trash, demean or vilify the British crown or anyone in particular. Lacking swear words or coarseness those 240-year-old documents forged in the open still endure today as persuasive and powerful. Try to say that about some of the blog rants that are enshrined for eternity in cyberspace.
My grandmother Edna Towle - who had every reason to be bitter - never delved into the darkness.
She was left in the depths of the Great Depression with a ranch to run and eight children to raise when her husband ran off with the bottle. She lost that ranch in what turned out to be a land swindle of sorts to a government worker who knew the military was willing to pay top dollar to make it part of a future base that eventually became Beale Air Force Base.
She was forced to work two jobs until arthritis at age 75 slowed her down to a crawl.
She didn't complain. She was passionate and would get angry but didn't curse or demean. She didn't tolerate fools or those that were vulgar.
She never stooped to that level.
She lived by her advice - be sweet.
We should all remember that when the urge strikes us to pound our fingers in anger.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.