Occasionally, a local story makes national news; some are worthy of the attention while others aren't. The local story I'm about to share certainly does not merit national news. Not because it's not my local story -- after all, I live on Long Island, but because it's a non-issue. Or it was until KLTV received a complaint from a father who was offended that performer Shawn Phillips had some curses as part of his lyrics at a free concert he was giving in an East Texas Park and now people are talking.
Quite likely, I wouldn't even be writing about this, except to say that this summer I met up with my brother, Carl, who lives in Maryland, in the Adirondacks so that we could see Shawn Phillips in concert together. My brother likes to remind me of the time we were both teenagers living on our farm in Upstate New York when I had him come into my room to listen to a new album I'd bought that had me galvanized. It was Shawn Phillips' Second Contribution and the phrasing, word choice and music was something I'd never experienced before. Carl agreed and has been a fan ever since. He's actually the one who told me that Shawn would be performing in the Adirondacks. What a night we had with front row seats in the small venue watching someone whose talent has been greatly ignored by the mainstream; we couldn't help but feel we were in on a very special secret. After all, Ravi Shankar taught Shawn to play the sitar and Shawn then helped teach George Harrison. Yes, that George Harrison, with Shawn doing backup vocals on "Lovely Rita (Meter Maid)" on The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
Fast forward to Tyler Texas when Shawn recently performed at Bergfeld Park amphitheater and angered a father, who had his children with him, by Shawn's use of profanity. I can't be sure, but maybe the father was expecting a rousing chorus of Kumbaya and was disappointed when he heard something else altogether.
So, what's my point? Sure, there are people who are offended by curses and sometimes I am one of them. Sometimes, too, I am the one risking offending others with what comes out of my mouth. It actually depends on the circumstances. However, I do wonder if it's easier to express anger at something so minor than at something much bigger. For instance, I'm still mad as hell that we are at a war we have no business being in. And I'm mad as hell that the fallout is not only soldiers returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder or in a casket, but the Iraq and Afghanistan citizens, including children, many children, who have lost their lives because of the previous administration's missteps. Maybe the angry father has his own big issues that bother him, but he would do better teaching his children about justice and loving one's neighbor instead of making curse words the enemy.
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