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Kirby: Getting in tune with the morality police

Published August 19, 2014 1:31 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

What if the next time you were rude to a government worker, you got your hams flogged in the middle of Rice-Eccles Stadium? And by this I mean both literally and legally.

I'm talking about government-administered corporal punishment, public spankings or whippings intended to improve human behavior, or at least make people think twice about what comes out of their mouths.

Yeah, there you are in line at the Division of Motor Vehicles. It takes longer than you think it should, and when you finally get to the window the worker is surly. So you cuss him out a bit.

Suddenly, you're dragged off to jail. When you appear before the judge, he sentences you for violating the law governing respect for authority. A thousand people show up to watch your butt get tuned.

This stuff actually happens. According to a Reuters story, a Saudi Arabian woman has been sentenced to a month in jail and 50 lashes for — and here's the part where it gets complicated/stupid — cursing and calling the local morality police "liars."

In Saudi Arabia the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice safeguards the public's morality and manners. CPVPV patrols snatch up anyone acting contrary to a strict Islamic code.

America might be a better behaved place if such a condition existed here. We'd certainly be more polite about how we talked to each other.

When I was a kid, my father was a one-man CPVPV patrol. Any profane or disrespectful language to authority figures resulted in me getting my backside warmed in public or wherever I happened to be in that exact moment.

But my old man wasn't abusive about it. This sounds draconian, but it worked. As a result, I learned to measure my words more carefully.

Note: If you're one of those people who think I could and would have learned this without the threat of corporal punishment, you either have no children, had more agreeable children or you're a child yourself.

In any case, it might be fun to turn back the clock, make you my parent, and see how long it would take me to drive you to the point of a face-twitching nervous breakdown. In public.

I wouldn't say that corporal punishment made me the person I am today, but it certainly kept me from living up to my worst potential. Hey, if you think I'm bad now …

Flogging doesn't always have that effect. Too much whacking can drive people the other way. Also, some people actually like it.

The best part of court-ordered flogging would be the public part. Think of the revenue. We could sell tickets or put it on pay-per-view.

This sounds heinous, I know. But before a government official convicted of corruption was shipped off to prison, tell me you wouldn't show up to watch him get shellacked until he had a butt that belonged on a baboon.

But none of this would work in America. We're too used to our freedom of expression. Worse, I suspect there are far too many of us who would rush down and apply for a job with the morality and manners police.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley