BOSTON (CBS) – It’s a fact of life – times change, and so do social standards. What was tolerable becomes intolerable. Behavior that was once ignored becomes career-ending. Just ask Harvey Weinstein.

(WBZ-TV)

For years as I’ve gone up to the State House to cover stories, I’ve winced at the sight of this sign over an entrance to the building referencing the nearby statue of General Joseph Hooker, a Massachusetts born general in the Union Army during the Civil War. I’ve heard wiseacres joking about it. And I’ve wondered if it made women uncomfortable.

The statue of General Joseph Hooker at the State House. (WBZ-TV)

No need to wonder any longer. State Rep. Michelle DuBois of Brockton says the sign is “tone deaf” and “patriarchal,” and wants it changed to include the general’s first name or taken down.

State Rep. Michelle DuBois. (WBZ-TV)

I respect her concern, but respectfully disagree with her promised remedies. Adding the general’s first name isn’t going to stop kids from snickering. And taking down the sign won’t address the problem she’s identified.

Shall we also change the name of a certain planet that has amused kids for years because it sounds like an intimate body part? Shall we no longer invite an audience to clap because that’s also slang for a venereal disease?

There are all sorts of benign words in our language that sound like words unfit for polite company. And they offer us an opportunity to teach snickering kids about Civil War history or outer space – and about showing respect for others while avoiding making fools of ourselves.

We will never erase casual immaturity from our culture, but we can make it a trigger for knowledge and understanding, if we put down the erasers and take up the challenge.

Share your point of view with me via email at keller@wbztv.com, or use Twitter, @kelleratlarge.

Comments (10)
  1. There are far more important things for this elected representative to consider than the sign honoring this distinguished Civil War general, even though, like Hillary, he managed to lose an engagement that was his to lose.

    Gen. Hooker went on to have a distinguished career in the US Army, and was instrumental in the success of Union forces at Chattanooga, leading the assault on the flank and rear of Lookout Moutnain later in the war.

  2. There are allegedly four comments on this essay…

    Only one is showing. Why?

  3. Now there are seven comments…and only my first two are showing.

    Has BZ again chosen a commenting system that self-destructs over time?

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