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Punch cards

I was people-watching on the Bryan Center Walkway the other day, and I saw a couple speaking to a friend of theirs at one of the tables. The guy made a snarky comment about the girl, and the girl responded by whacking him one in the side of the head. After a chuckle, the guy admitted: “Yeah, I had that coming.” Somebody makes a stupid comment and they receive swift and fitting retribution? I am intrigued.

So here’s my bright idea: Once a month, in the mail, you receive a coupon. Said coupon allows you one free hit on anybody you want, for any reason, so long as you can prove they said something stupid just prior to the shot.

We’re talking a good solid punch to the gut, or a backhand slap to the face, or something of that ilk. You’d keep a receipt, of course, so they couldn’t press charges, so long as you didn’t do any permanent damage. Let’s call it “punchomatic immunity.”

There would be bugs to work out: You’d have to give an exemption to people running for office because otherwise the Secret Service would have nightmares, and maybe impose a limit on how many times you could get slugged in a day (because I know a few people who’d be in serious trouble Feb. 14), but really, this would be Social Darwinism at its finest. Say something stupid? Whap! That’s justice, folks!

The point here is not that we should have a nation governed by fisticuffs. (Though it would be very fulfilling the next time I get cut off on the highway.) Censorship isn’t the idea, either. Rather, I think the reason is to create an incentive for people to actually THINK before they speak. Take a second now: Put down the newspaper for a second, pick up your pen and write down the last five things you said out loud. I’ll wait.

Back already? If you managed to pass the test, good for you. But don’t worry if you didn’t; when I was writing this, I couldn’t remember either. You’re not the only one suffering from verbal diarrhea.

You’ll have good company down the road with Rashad McCants, who compared his college experience to “prison” the other day. Or with our fair president, who has invented more words than Dr. Seuss.

With the pace of communication these days—AIM, e-mail, omnipresent cell phones—people just aren’t taking the extra second to figure out what they want to say before it’s hurled from their mouth.

Jon Stewart shredded the hosts of Crossfire the other night for “hurting America,” blaming the show for mindlessly flinging insults and accusations instead of fostering real debate.

(I suggest searching for the video online and witness the trainwreck of two commentators who think somebody’s on their show to tell jokes—and the rude awakening they get.)

And we caught a perfect example of it on campus the other day when some students decided that showing a bombed-out bus was the best way to spark intelligent debate, and another decided the best response to that was to post inflammatory signs on it.

Thankfully, we then had a few students show up and actually put on a legitimate, intelligent debate on the subject, and instead of walking away angry, a few people actually walked away more enlightened. You want to piss people off? Stir up controversy?

Then appeal to people’s emotions. If you want to get something accomplished? Go for their brains.

(Thank you, G and Y*: you’ll be receiving an extra coupon in the mail this month.)

Given the events of the last few weeks, it’s probably better that my punch-card idea isn’t in place—we’d have a lot of people out of coupons and the hospital would be out of icepacks. Intelligent debate is fine.

Controversy for controversy’s sake is just stupid. And maybe, the next time you’re going to say something that’s just out there to tick somebody off, you’ll take a second to think about it first... or at least ask the person you’re talking to if they’ve already used their coupon this month.

 

Matt DeTura is a Trinity senior.

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