by Matthew Hoffman
I'm watching some God-awful television coverage of the quotidian celebrated Americannibal. Somebody's processed another's flesh into something the mincemedia wants us to swallow. A microphone wielding field reporter will locate an eyewitness. Perhaps there's some videotape, the same 6.5 seconds of which we'll see numerous times over the next 24 hours. Law enforcement personnel will then analyze the situation in its aftermath for the cameras.Ê Whoever perpetrated the latest evil will be referred to as (if it's a male and it generally is) "the gentleman." That's when I lose it.
"The gentleman evidently eviscerated" or "the gentleman began shooting into the preschool" or "the gentleman [your atrocity here]"--by what definition may these persons be named "gentlemen"? Merriam-Webster gives us the following: "Gentleman: a man whose conduct conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behavior." Ah, I see it now. By giving the media a top story to glom onto, the perpetrators of these deeds have indeed behaved in a gentlemanly fashion. After all, the latest weather pattern or celebrity marriage/breakup can only occupy a percentage of the newscast. It has to look like news, right? Best put something really hideous at the top of the show to give the whole thing the patina of journalistic integrity. They are champions of our nightly entertainment.
Consider the late Dale Earnhardt. Last lap of the race and he improbably skids into the wall and dies. Saw that footage a zillion times. All the NASCAR fans wept. A great loss to the sport? No! They were in shock. The accident didn't really look all that bad. They were stunned. Their hero should have gone out in a real explosive blaze of glory. Flaming tires searing the air as the chassis disintegrated into a thousand pieces. Alas, it was just a fender-bender-looking-type of collision. The gentleman was dead.
Ultimately we're told these are tragedies (typically describing the downfall of a great man) and I wonder, who are the great men? The murderous throng, the quondam terrorists, the racecar drivers? I don't know, but the next time I hear the word gentleman used so cavalierly I'll hunt that speaker down and beat him senseless with my unabridged OED. That'll be my bid for greatness.
copyright (c)2001 Matthew Hoffman