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A Plea for Good Manners: A Rapbuttal

This week, the post “A Plea for Good Manners” by Robert Mass (possibly seen here) was brought to my attention. Its contents took me quite by surprise – and so, with apologies for this response’s delay, I offer a rebuttal in an appropriate format [flow’s a bit rocky here and there, but begging your patience]:

On Public Seminar you’ll find a post by Robert Mass
And reading it has really lit a flame under my ass–
He’ll find crass my scatological anatomical reference,
But I’d contend the turn of phrase intended as irreverent.
Yes, it’s me, The Lady, Reverend Corporal Austin D. Burke
I started using my words knowing how much sticks and stones hurt,
Here’s how this works – no concern for niceties or grammar
I’d like to point out my concerns with Mr. Mass’s manners.

I don’t intend to endlessly rant, not trying to quarrel;
We agree immoral acts done with courtesy stay immoral.
We both see habituated behavior requires practice,
But I don’t see this mystical ‘virtue’ truer than action;
I’m not caught up regarding whether my actions offend,
To act, I do the thing – I could only pretend to pretend.
So if my actions adhere to my standards of right and honor,
I don’t give a fuck if they bother a finger-wagging father.
Such a framework seems less innocently regulatory,
More as justifying imposing on kids mandatory conformity
To a schema of ethical values closely resembling your own,
Hoping alienation feels more ‘natural’ by the time they’re grown.

Let’s move on: you mention courage – staying brave when shit gets scary,
But – note – that this virtue emerged in reference to the military.
You think that armed conflict leaves any room for pleasantries,
Pinned, with several down, suppressing determined enemies?
Admittedly, the lines of communication there are long broken down,
But bygones bygones, who do you really want to have around —
Who you want beside you when the grenades start to explode?
A vulgar trusted companion or someone with light polite ‘cognitive load’?

Speaking of combat, you think it’s wrong to want to fight,
Driven by envy after noting asymmetry of human rights?
Goldman to Czolgosz: ‘what do you do, when at last seeing
Suffering coming not from cruel fate but unjust fellow human beings’?
Such anger might be righteous, not ‘passion’ out to hurt you,
And frankly I don’t see where lust should fall outside of virtue.
So, you’re bolstering the status quo; I’m gathering up weaponry,
I fail to see your view more effectively resist inequity.
It seems to me you’ve failed to address the complexity successfully
Also – is your view of pleasantry global, ‘virtue’ manifest destiny?
Maybe you just mean America, and, now, don’t catch me slippin’
But which virtuous period is it that you’d rather go back and live in?
When was ‘polite’ that we should ‘make polite again’? (think for a second)
You don’t have to valorize the past just to condemn the present.
At any rate, it strikes me as unmistakable improvement,
A proliferation of unsilencable solidarity movements.
Again, you seem persuaded of ‘growing cracks in the social fabric’—
Ok…name the date when such disparity was less dramatic.

Your example of judges sentencing criminals has got me nervous—
Let’s take for granted for the moment that those sentenced do deserve this –
Your paradigm for polite exchange just leaves a taste that’s sour
As taking place between parties with impossibly asymmetrical power:
A defendant and a judge – hmm, let’s stop and think,
Which position more likely held by Douglass, Du Bois, or Dr. King?
And which by the oppressor? We can hold recess while you reflect,
Politeness starting to echo Joyner Lucas, ‘with all due respect…’

Meanwhile, another question – why you have such a problem with rap?
Are other genres paradigms of your politeness crap?
You have to admit, it comes across as clumsily selective
Appraising revolutionary visionaries and rappers with one standard, with one objective?
In general, you mock rappers not having walked a meter in their shoes…
What’s the matter, Bob? You been watching too much Fox News?
Suggesting courtesy as most effective starts to sound defensive-
Oh, I’m sorry – was my objection to oppression too offensive?
Wait, the lyrics are vulgar? Maybe you should check that etymology
Remember, vulgar describes the common folk who aren’t like you, ‘a prodigy.’
Honestly, what you suggest needs more than an apology.
Don’t want to acknowledge a plantation owner in decorous tonal monotony
Objecting to the boorish behavior of his discourteous resistant property.
You take that shit and leave (and as an aside, I just can’t quite hear it –
The claimed proliferation of top-100 anti-Semitic lyrics?).

No time for hesitation, I have to keep roasting:
You think that Boomers & friends destroyed the limits on boasting?
I don’t know what history you believe, but that seems a little much;
Overall, your apocalyptic readings sound a bit out of touch.  
I write these words without shame, not aimlessly trying to hurt you;
I remind you that humility isn’t unequivocally a virtue.

Last, we arrive at this curiously formulated ‘distance between sexes’ –
Who could’ve guessed that this post could get any more hectic.
Number one – you say this distance of sexes tried to check libido?
[Read: normative sexual object, #NoHomo]
Number two – I don’t imagine coming right out to say it is something you’d do,
But distance between the sexes? To me that sounds a lot like ‘Just Two.’
And that little genealogy linking sex liberation and #MeToo?
How’s this for a well-mannered response: Fuck You.
You mean that normalizing casual sex somehow erases
Some boundary hitherto restricting all the rapists?
You call compulsory puritanism sexual decorum –
Take your reactionary views and get the fuck off this forum.
‘Oh my God! Somebody help! We need modesty for the body,
Our world is so naughty! Did my kids throw a rainbow party?’  
Your reading of shifting views of sex was already slut shaming,
Tack on your views of sexual harassment and assault and add victim blaming.
Don’t want to always keep it real because doing so would be uncouth?
Sounds like you’d rather things be pleasant for you than be concerned with the truth.
I’m afraid view like yours I’m all too happy just to reject,
But I agree with your conclusion, as I don’t offer you my respect.

By The Lady, Reverend Corporal Austin D. Burke (aka Lil Tit) 

[This rapbuttal was first submitted to Public Seminar (making a bit more sense of the line ‘get the fuck off this forum’), but appears here as “this isn’t a genre they publish.” While this platform cannot currently offer the immediate convenience of their comment section, it is imperative to me that opportunity for dialogue remain; accordingly – please email any comments to, and I will continue to update this post below as comments are received.]

Anonymous, 3.30.2021: ‘Not strong (only aggressive), not free (only licensed), not compassionate, only polite (who’s the nicest)’ [Black Star, “Thieves in the Night”]


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