Learn to Take a Joke America

Written by Bill Cleveland


“Real Talk”
By : Bill “the Thrill” Cleveland (aka Gus D.B. Chiggens)

Bill "The Thrill" ClevelandHere is an introductory lesson in use of the English language: hyperbole is the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but hyperbole is not meant to be taken literally. Communication can be, and should be, entertaining. Why just talk, throw some glitter on that muss. Uh-buttttttttttt, in our current iteration of America, one’s own ability to speak with colorful language, as the kids say, is being threatened. Let’s get serious for a moment and examine how the Bill of Rights, arguably the spine of the American government, is being disregarded in, what I have dubbed, this modern era of fear.

First, let’s catch you up to speed on the haps. This past February, an eighteen year old boy in the Austin, Texas metroplex was jailed for the use of hyperbole. Yes, jail, for speaking with flourish. “What happened?” one may ask. Well, here’s a little story all about how Justin Carter’s life got flipped, turned upside down. After a particularly heated game of ‘League of Legends’ [if you don’t know, google it… the skinny is that it is an online game with a fan base that takes their leisurely pursuit VERY seriously, often leading to epic cases of ‘butthurt’], the volleys of in-game aggression transitioned to Facebook, wherein a heated debate took place. In the words of the boy’s father, Jack Carter, it was a debate that ended with someone saying something to the effect of  “Oh, you're insane, you're crazy, you're messed up in the head.”, to which [Justin] replied “Oh yeah, I'm real messed up in the head.  I'm going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still-beating hearts“.  And the next two lines were lol and jk [all sic].

Poor taste aside, this is a prime example of today’s English lesson about hyperbole. The blatantly qualifying lines “lol” and “jk” notwithstanding, anyone taking that statement literally never learned a single thing about creative writing or is, themselves, a psychopath thinking about harming children [as for not taking “lol” or jk” into consideration when interpreting tone: if you don’t know what those staples of innerweb jargon mean then you should just quit everything]. Either way you slice it, that’s not a good look and I like to think that the vast majority of my human brothers and sisters immediately recognize what Justin Carter said as exaggeration. Unfortunately, we live in an era where we, the American populace, have sacrificed freedom for protection from a nonexistent boogieman. Because of this, a boy from Texas spent his nineteenth birthday in jail; for a f*cking joke. I think it’s time we open up and briefly explore the topic of “abdicated rights” [don’t worry, ill get back to our boy’s predicament].

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is often credited with saying “the only thing to fear is fear itself.” While this is not a bad mantra upon which to meditate, what was actually said in his inaugural address on March 4, 1933 is: “let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” I feel this puts a more focused perspective on his words; really puts a shape to what he means by “fear.” Truth be told, the saying is actually much, much older and can be traced back to English philosopher, statesman, and essayist Sir Francis Bacon in 1623. But I digress. The fear about which FDR spoke, “unreasoning, unjustified terror,” is choking the very life from our nation with it’s aetheric death grip. Where once we elected officials to illuminate our paths to the future, fear mongering within our own government is at fever pitch and has been ever since the day we will ‘never forget.’

As the towers crumbled, so began the same decay for our Bill of Rights [and, it should be noted, zero decay of our business relationship with the Saudis, who physically hijacked the planes that would forever change our country. But that is a tirade on hypocrisy for another day]. The passing of the Patriot Act allowed the rights of any and every American citizens to be cast aside for the sake of fear. Some 78 years prior to the passing of that legislation, one of the most memorable leaders of our country reminded a struggling nation that the only thing to fear is that “which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Yet, more and more, our elected officials actively urge the populace, already grasping for what freedoms and liberties remain, to retreat into fear. We, as a nation and –most importantly- as a species, need to convert retreat into advance. In other words, the words of poet laureate Saul Williams, “run towards the light, casting love on the wind.” It is a necessity for the further evolution of human society. However, rather than advancing toward a brighter, better tomorrow for all humanity, the potential that something awful could happen has become the political sales pitch for the destruction of our most fundamental, some might say ‘self evident,’ rights as humans. The more we allow imagined danger to dictate our days, the more we acquiesce control of our lives. Guess what, chicken butt? Guess what else?  You can’t stop someone hell bent on doing something [I am, of course, using the royal ‘you’]. Whether that be forcing one’s negative emotions upon others by violent means or learning to walk again after a paralyzing accident, we as humans are capable of changing the world on myriad levels. And we do, all the time. Most of the time the change is for the better, despite the general tone of national media outlets. Never forget that.

In summation, America was designed to be and, I still firmly believe, IS the land of the free, home of the brave. Being terrified of a joke made in the heated context of a f*cking video game argument is not brave, and now this young man is no longer free [told you I would get back to initial topic]. So what can be done, what should be done?  First and foremost, sign the petition to release Justin Carter [].  Once you have done your civic duty to help one of your countrymen in need, keep doing it. You don’t have to volunteer at a soup kitchen every week.  Civic duty can be as simple as staying informed of global affairs and how your elected leaders are shaping the future of our country and our children.

With great power comes great responsibility, America. Don’t f*ck it up.

Bill "The Thrill" Cleveland   Bill "The Thrill" Cleveland

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