wag more

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I walk my pit bull ‘Dro (short for Pedro), on or near the beach nearly every morning. We usually access the beach at an inn whose parking lot, full these days, is to me something of an amusement park, what with all the bumper/window stickers and out-of-state license plates to be seen there: New York, Tennessee, Maryland, Ontario, Virginia, Texas, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina.

One Maryland license plate was especially evocative; it said simply RIPTREV. Love to know the story behind that one.

But most of the stickers were ones you’ve seen many times before: Ask Me About My Grandkids; I’d Rather Be Fishing; Hang Up And Drive!

Some were pugnacious: If Yo’ Heart Ain’t in Dixie, Git Your Ass Out; Keep Honking, I’m Reloading; My Kid Can Beat Up Your Honor Student.

Others were downright mean: Who Cares About Your Stick Figure Family?

Some aim for wit: My Other Car Is A Rolls; Jesus Saves — At First Federal; Be Nice To America Or We’ll Bring Democracy To Your Country; Your Village Called – Their Idiot Is Missing; Ask Me About My Grandog. ‘Dro liked that last one.

Still other stickers aim for wit but get only halfway there: Going 60 In The Left Lane With My Left Blinker On: Deal With It!

But I saw one this morning, on a North Carolina car, that was wholly witless. It said: Non-Judgment Day Is Near.

Lord, I hope not! The whole idea of a people who do not exercise judgment is frightening.

I know, I know. The original idea, one of the cardinal tenets of Political Correctness, was to curb or eliminate the judgmental in us. But somewhere between conception and implementation, judgment itself got fixed in the cross-hairs of social disapproval. Happens a lot with Political Correctness.

Anyhow, “judgment,” says the dictionary, is the evaluation of evidence to make a decision. It’s the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions.

“Judgmental” means having or displaying an extremely critical point of view.

Very different, eh?

Same with the uproar from time to time over so-called hateful speech. We might be right to disapprove of it — I say “might be” because the language both pro and con can get pretty hateful, can’t it?

But squelch it?

No.

Punish it?

A thousand times no.

Hateful or not, freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment, and free speech is much more important to a free society than are bruised sensibilities. The French philosopher Voltaire nailed the problem nicely: “I might not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Now if only I can get all that on a bumper sticker.

I asked ‘Dro if he thought it were possible, but he gave me a decidedly judgmental look and pointed, I swear it, to a bumper sticker that said: Wag More, Bark Less.

Never let it be said that I can’t take a hint from a pit bull, judgmental or otherwise.

We hurried on through the parking lot and soon were on the beach.

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Image: the photo was taken by Margaret Lamb.
Robert Lamb

Robert Lamb

I grew up in Augusta, Ga., where I attended Boys' Catholic High. After a stint in the Navy, I attended the University of Georgia, majoring in English (Class of '61). I began my (wholly unexpected) journalism career on the old Augusta Herald, an evening paper, and went to work for The Constitution in, I think, 1976. I left in Sept. '82 to write The Great American Novel. That goal has proved remarkably elusive, but my first attempt (Striking Out, in 1991) was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award and my second (Atlanta Blues, in 2004) contended for an Edgar Award. My latest novel won no honors but might well get me nominated for a hanging. Titled A Majority of One, it is about a clash between religion and the Constitution over book-banning in a small Georgia town. I've also published a collection of short stories and poems: Six of One, Half Dozen of Another. Before retirement, I taught creative writing and American literature at the University of South Carolina and its Honors College, and feature writing in its School of Journalism. I maintain a now-and-then blog at boblamb.wordpress.com and I walk my dog on the beach a lot at Pawleys Island, S.C.