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Admittedly it was a bad choice of words for a sensitive story

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POSTED May 14, 2009 1:39 a.m.
It wasn’t one of my finest moments.

A reader questioned why we ran a story on the front page of Wednesday’s Manteca Bulletin on the beating incident triggered by drinking and a gay-related remark the victim made to the alleged attacker. I have no problem justifying why we ran the story. More about that in a moment.

The thing that bothered me was what I saw after I picked up the Bulletin in the morning after editing the reporter’s story. I let a word get by me that I shouldn’t have let appear in print. Reporter Brandon Peterson caught it as well the day after. Unfortunately no one else did.

The copy that was turned in referred to the attacker who was “admittedly” gay. The word “admittedly” is loaded. It essentially means one “confesses” and implies they either did something wrong or are ashamed of what they admitted to being.

The word “openly” would have been better but not much. “Openly” is meant to mean “upfront” although that has gotten stretched to  the point when used with the word “gay” it infers they are a bit overboard about their sexuality.

It was a critical part of the story that he was gay but it could simply have been referenced as “the alleged suspect, who said he was gay.”

This is not saying we need to walk on egg shells. We just need to acknowledge the true power of words that through the ages have defeated virtually every weapon that man has ever devised.

Now back to the story itself.

Free speech isn’t truly free if you toss words about to deliberately hurt. By degrading the value of speech you are degrading yourself as well as putting in motion efforts by those who pursue a politically correct world where free speech will go the way of the platypus. The bottom line is to assure free speech we all need to use it responsibly. That said we still need to defend those who utter words we disagree with while keeping in mind there is a big difference between hate speech and speech we disagree with completely.

Whatever the words that were uttered by the 16-year-old, one must assume they weren’t exactly polite. That, however, does not excuse the alleged attack by the 18-year-old even one iota.

The story illustrates two issues that we all seem too willing most of the time to sweep under the rug.

First, under-age drinking. It is a problem. A big problem. Many of us seem to think it is OK because they could be doing drugs. Here’s a news flash. The reason why the age to drink legally is set at 21 has a lot to do with judgment. Yes, there are people who are 45 who lack judgment when it comes to drinking but younger people tend to have a lot less impluse control as a whole. Personally I don’t favor lowering the drinking age but even if you do the law is the law.

It also doesn’t help that teens seem to feel no fear of drinking in Manteca’s neighborhood parks.

Now to the other issue – live and let live. Unless someone is interfering with your pursuit of happiness and as long as they are not breaking the laws of this land simply let it be. Tolerance and acceptance go hand in hand. You don’t have to embrace something to accept it. People who are gay fall into that category. They have the right to exist.

The attack Wednesday was vicious. Someone who is 18 has to understand they are an adult and suffer the full consequences for their actions. And whether we are older than 18 or under 18, we should not be careless with our words or actions whether it is making an inappropriate remark about someone being gay or drinking.
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