published Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Cook: The foul and the fury

They called her a sweathog pig.

A miserable low life.

Brain-dead white trash.

"I hate you," one man wrote.

"Whiny pain in the @$$," said another.

But the word they used the most, from local talk radio to the comments on Facebook and Yahoo News?

"B$tch."

"Bch."

"A real B."

"What a b*h."

It is the classic slur, the go-to insult for sexists wanting to swipe the legs out from under some independent woman. In this case, the woman is a mom who's found herself caught in the middle of an absurd controversy involving a dancing park ranger.

During a trip to Coolidge Park earlier this summer, she and other parents and kids encounter a park ranger who starts dancing nearby, making them his audience.

The Charleston, it ain't.

The ranger two-step sways to the left and right for a while then drops down to his knees, arches backward like his stomach's trying to be the St. Louis Arch then -- is it bouncing? thrusting? -- moves his midsection up and down on the ground while giving a come-here wave.

(He's a grown man.)

So our Good Mom takes out her phone, films the ranger, and then contacts his supervisor.

The ranger gets fired.

The story hits TV news.

Eruption.

In 21st century America, where modesty's on life support, the public's overwhelming response was to vilify Good Mom and defend the dancing ranger.

People have lionized him, saying his dancing was mild-mannered and fun. Social media wrapped its big arms around him, with people from here to Australia demanding the city rehire him.

"Our sadness, fury and heartfelt disgust are palpable and valid," reads an online petition with more than 1,200 signatures.

Sadness? Fury? The guy was bouncing his crotch in the air near kids. Umm, shouldn't our disgust be directed elsewhere? Like at him?

Anyway, he should have been fired long ago. Despite one valiant day on which he helped save a woman's life, his personnel file is 32 pages of misbehavior. Four separate suspensions. Six months of probation. Eleven different incidents. Like the time he demanded free food from the pizza joint. Or when he was found with a lost cellphone that wasn't his. Or the month he rang up $82 in charges on his city-issued phone.

Or the night he didn't lock the park facilities.

Or the time he was overheard cursing by park visitors.

Or the afternoon he approached teenage girls and began talking about Viagra and his girlfriends.

But in the bizarro world of online America, this guy's become the next Mandela -- Free the Dancing Park Ranger! -- and poor Good Mom is the latest Jane Fonda.

They mock her teeth. Her weight. Her clothes, including the sweatband she's wearing.

"Why don't you lower it around your neck and choke yourself with it," one man suggests.

She is attacked for being a woman and overweight, neither of which is relevant. Think the dad who complained about the Viagra comments to his teenage daughter would have been criticized for being overweight? Think talk radio would have called him a b*h?

"Everyone wants to punch [her] in the face," one woman from Nevada wrote.

A few days ago, that same Nevada woman sent the following message to Mayor Andy Berke.

"You're gross, your city is gross, your politics are gross. [Expletive] your gross way of putting an already underpaid human being out of work. SHAME ON YOU," she writes, before ending with this:

"Also [expletive] you."

Can you imagine writing this to anyone, much less a mayor? Why on earth would you use such language?

I wrote her, asking that very thing.

She responded with a few curses, half-threats of tourist boycotts and sarcasm.

"You're getting down to the nitty gritty man, all the problems of the world stem from foul language," she said.

Not all.

But some.

This dancing park ranger scandal put on wide display the cruel and sexist ferocity that strangers may feel toward one another. Anger? We passed angry miles ago. This is rage. A national emergency of ugly, unfiltered hate.

For the language we use is an extension of our inner selves, our words either like bridges or bombs. And thousands of people are blitzkrieging a mother they've never met.

Also [expletive] you.

Hey, Good Mom. One more message.

Also thank you.

Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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TirnaNOG said...

People are cruel, Mr. Cook. We talk about childhood bullies, but we ignore the adult ones. In fact, I've never encountered a case of children bullying children where some adult or adult authority figure wasn't directly or indirectly involved. You should've read the nasty messages that's been dropped my way over the years, and the other ugly things and lies that's been thrown my way over the years as well. Words and threats that didnt come from just some nut blowing off steam. But nuts in positions to, well....make 'things' happen. What you mention here is certainly horrible, cruel and disturbing, but actually pales in comparison to what I've personally witnessed and encountered at the hands of adults.

June 29, 2014 at 12:05 p.m.
TirnaNOG said...

It makes you wonder where are we really headed as a nation.

June 29, 2014 at 12:08 p.m.
Newsman said...

OK. Not having been aware of the previous incidents I was shocked that he would have been fired for one incident. That being said, I still disagree that he did anything wrong by dancing. Hell, if that lady was so upset, she better make damn sure her kids don't watch anything besides the Disney channel, because they'll see a hell of a lot worse. Now, having said that, I will say that it appears that his termination may have been justified, based on the previous incidents, however, I still think this lady overreacted.

June 29, 2014 at 9:06 p.m.
timbo said...

Now..think of the vile things you called Fred Skillern and Rhonda Thurman. You are a BULLY because you can pick on whoever you want everyday in your column. You have done it many times. Forgive me if you have absolutely no credibility on this subject at all.

Cook, you are awful and a like most liberals, a big hypocrite.

June 30, 2014 at 11:51 a.m.
ORRMEANSLIGHT said...

+++WE PREACH JESUS CHRIST CRUCIFIED+++

Much of this is very difficult to deny.

Malleus Deum

June 30, 2014 at 10:56 p.m.
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