Speech is free, not subwoofers

Richard Andresen is a Sacramento-based freelance foreign and domestic teacher.

What would you do if a colleague came to work having not bathed for a week or so? Or if you were driving along and saw a giant billboard depicting less-than-high-quality erotica, or maybe roadside knolls of fresh slaughterhouse carcasses, would your flinch your eyes away?

Say you were at a fine restaurant and the food tasted strange because the chef didn’t know how to cook, or there were no laws against ptomaine conditions: Would you eat there any more? Or imagine that the air was drenched in noxious fumes that swathed the skin with a slimy film of purplish ooze nearly impossible to wash away: Would you take to wearing bubble suits and face masks?

Somehow or other over the years, a certain polite etiquette of personal and legal civility has arisen that keeps the basic “social contract” in plausibly good working order.

Hearing, however, seems to be a sense suffering from gratuitous assault by those who might not realize that certain sounds have invisible “affects,” which are equivalent to the adverse conditions mentioned for the other senses. Certainly, there are noisy occasions: sirens for danger or emergencies, moving planes and trains, and construction devices such as pile drives and tree-limb shredders. Is there any purposeful reason, though, for extra-loud, sub-tonal, deep-base throbbing vibrations to reign free across the road and into one’s neighbor’s aural-mental physiological existence? Indeed, not just coming across the road, but right through the house walls and into the ears—to effectively “take over” the natural ontological rhythms of brain and mind.

Do the players of these vibrations have no respect for anyone else? What cultural tidbit gives them any particular right to be so unconscionable about their favorite music? Does one frequently hear blaring country-western music, opera, classical, rock ’n’ roll, yodeling or other styles being freely dispersed throughout the air? Where is the necessary civility and respect that keeps each person’s music choices well within his or her existential territorial limitations?

While not suggesting any new laws, it would be best if these thump-thump-thumping vibes were kept at a lower volume when in any public space. At least it would go toward sustaining the already-withered preamble to the U.S. Constitution, helping in some measure to “insure domestic tranquility.”