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September 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Entertainment, News, Weekly Columns

( When I first heard about rapper Kanye West’s latest episode of public bad behavior–insulting pop star Taylor Swift on the stage of a televised awards show as she attempted her thank you speech–I was immediately filled with wild, vindictive glee.

He’d really done it this time, finally illustrated in Technicolor just what an ass he can be. Even though the public has complained before, West’s nasty, impish attitude during awards shows and interviews is usually excused by his fans as the rebellious quirk of a brilliant artiste.

I’ve never understood this view, since for me the only thing more offensive than West’s arrogance is the novel concept that what he does, whatever it is, is considered a formidable talent.

But this time he directed his imbecilic shtick at someone whose age (19) and likable girl-next-door persona made West’s contrasting obnoxious conduct vivid in its mean-spiritedness.

I was elated that the world was coming down on him like a ton of bricks. Now that he’d embarrassed himself (if this is possible) by picking on a little girl with more genuine, discernible musical skill in her little toe than his whole body, maybe the idiot monster would go somewhere and sit down.

However, after a morning of gloating and discussing West’s apparent lunacy with friends and associates, by late afternoon I’d begun to feel something other than satisfaction from it. My about-face was brought on by a friend who, in the middle of our lambaste of West, asked, “Can this guy be THAT insecure?”

Then it occurred to me: Perhaps West is not putting on. Yes, he CAN be that insecure, that narcissistic. Maybe the guy just can’t help himself. Maybe there’s a real, deeper problem. At the very least, West is like the ultimate grade school pest who never developed an intuition for what is and isn’t cool. At its worst, West could be a man whose staggering ego and inner child routinely does a desperate, private tug of war with what is right and wrong. But no matter how incredibly full to the brim of himself West usually appears to be, I can’t imagine anyone deliberately being as uncool as West has been on occasion.

It’s not just West, though. Civility has taken a real hit of late. You know the names currently being bandied about–among them, Joe Wilson, Serena Williams, Michael Jordan and most of the Republican Party have all, as my grandmother would say, effectively showed out in public.

It’s not just celebrities and politicians. These days, people in general seem Rude. Uncouth. The nastiness is reflected in the snarky tone of today’s music, TV commercials, newspaper Op Ed pieces and the films that somehow get made. And while it may seem like it, this is not a new thing. As a culture we have simply grown bolder in our intolerance and disrespect.

Yes, apologies are made, but people don’t genuinely seem repentant. While an increasingly desensitized public says it’s okay to be that way, thank God there are also people who refuse to let basic respect for self and others go to hell in a handbasket. Those people find the unsavory behavior of West and others unacceptable. They are speaking up.

West, briefly interviewed by Jay Leno the night after his deed, seemed unfamiliar with the technique of apology. Waffling between contrition and attempts to qualify what he did, the rapper intimated that assorted pressures of fame and not fully dealing with his mother’s recent death might be reasons for his buffoonery. Perhaps, but acting an ass was one of West’s trademarks long before his mother’s passing.

He told Leno he would like to apologize to Swift in person. That he didn’t do this before going on national television suggests that when he does apologize to Swift, he could very well seek to exploit the moment for the jollies of his ego, just as he attempted to clown the girl on that awards show.

Or maybe this could be the turning point for West. Sometimes people in trouble have to collide with their own wall of doo-doo before they can be shaken into reality. Perhaps his lousy actions on an awards show is just the Swift kick Kanye needed in order to make some serious changes in his life.

Written By Steven Ivory

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