United States for creating a hostile work environment. JusticernClarence Thomas did not offer a dissenting opinion, evenrnthough he, too, had been dragged through the mud for tenyear-rnold allegations concerning pornographic movies and arnpubic hair on his Coke can.rnCrime and violence are rife in the streets, but if there is anythingrnaskew in the workplace, an inappropriate pattern of jokes,rnbelligerent sexist comments, too many requests for dates, therngovernment wants to take action and levy the appropriaternfines. Senator Kennedy has promised to have the caps removedrnfrom these fines, which now range to $300,000 per incident, tornprovide even bigger jackpots for women who show that theyrnhave worked in an abusive environment.rnIn a recent New Republic article, “Defining Deviancy Up,”rnChades Krauthammer tells of a visit he had from the F.B.I.rnDuring a routine background check on a former coworker,rnKrauthammer was asked if the man whom he had workedrnbeside for two years had ever told any sexist or racist jokes orrnotherwise shown signs of hidden prejudice. It was then thatrnKrauthammer realized that “insensitive speech had achievedrnofficial status as a thought crime.”rnThought crimes have become all too prevalent at universities,rntoo. A University of Michigan student who was outlandishrnenough to state in class that he thought homosexualityrnis an illness was forced to attend a formal university hearingrnin a room where free thought and free speech were once heldrnin high regard and was charged with harassment based on sexualrnorientation. In the not-too-distant past it was assumed thatrnthe answer to erroneous or offensive speech was more speech,rnespecially in our institutions of higher learning. If a fundamentalistrnChristian student believes that homosexuality is anrnillness, should his opinion not be freely stated and freely refuted?rnWhen did we suspend the rights of presumed racists,rnsexists, and homophobes? To suppress speech insures thatrnchange at the attitudinal level will not occur, that prejudicesrnwill go underground, hidden and unchallenged.rnThough profound censorship issues underlie hate speechrnand hostile environment laws, the recent Supreme Court harassmentrnruling came down fast and unanimous and withoutrnapparent controversy. “It is as simple as requiring everyone onrnthe job to treat everyone with decency and respect,” editorializedrnthe Was/zingfon Posf. How incredibly simple. Why didn’trnwe think of this before? If such a law is good for the workplace,rnwhy could it not be passed for the whole nation, requiring everyonernto treat each other with decency and respect at allrntimes of the day or night? We all could have the fundamentalrnright, as Carol Moseley-Braun argued in the Senate, to anrnenvironment free from insult. If such a law were passed, werncould eliminate divorce and crime in the streets. We couldrnhave peace at home and abroad. In reality, Congress couldrnnever enact a freedom-from-a-hostile-environment law for thernnation at large because the enforcement of such a law wouldrnentail the establishment of a police state. Distaste for anythingrnresembling a police state partially explains the impotence of therncriminal justice system in the face of the near-anarchy that isrnoccurring on our nation’s streets. If hostile environment lawsrnare so abhorrent for the nation at large, why do we readily embracernthem for the workplace?rnUntil recently, workplace cultures evolved freely from within.rnThe type of business and the values and personalities of thernowners, managers, and employees determined the social relationsrnthat occurred. Some businesses permitted interoffice dating,rnsome did not. Bars and restaurants did not require thernsame level of decorum as, say, a law office or a medical facility.rnTemperamental immigrant chefs could bellow and swear,rnand whoever could tolerate them would stay.rnNow it is different. Social interactions, once the province ofrnMoe Howard Considers the Death ofrnHis Brother, Curlyrnby Jim HenleyrnIn the last scene we used you in—a sight gag,rnyou had lost speech—we posed you in a train,rnin the smoking car, snoring like a kidrnwill get a mind to snort, until his parentsrnget a mind to smack him. A hat pulled lowrnframed your famous face. Then my characterrnyanked it away in annoyance, and revealedrnthe straight brown hair you were now free to grow.rnWith all the pokes, pops, kicks, cream pies, and barksrnin front of stage lights and kleig lights, the coffee jagsrnon dark roads between towns, flop sweat in green rooms,rnand stray fans’ nyuck nyuck nyucks and wild eye gougesrnin banks and restaurants, no wonder the stupidrnbody decided to get in on the act.rnNo wonder, untrained in slapstick, it went too far.rnThose six years in the Actors’ Home your starernwas like a bad audience in Iowa, brokenrnby the random pratfalls of successive strokes.rnI’d often want to grab your nose on visits,rnbeep like a car, and bring my other fistrndown in the arc we’d worked out in rehearsals,rnto yank the sad-sack anger of yours free.rnHad you been all there, you would have punkslappedrnDeathrnsilly. But long before that smoker scenernwe’d become props. As sure as some damn mimerncreates a space, our very bodies broadcast,rn”Not to be taken seriously.” Sornyou drank more than you should have, until yourrnbloodstreamrnforgot its lines one night of its long tour.rnMom always lectured us on the distinctionrnbetween laughing with and at, a difference we split.rnI’d like to be God. I’d set you at the gaternand judge the rubes by whether they could seernthe show was over. If they couldn’t—well,rn1 know where all the player pianos went.rnLet’s just say nobody has tuned them lately.rnJULY 1994/25rnrnrn