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Today’s revelation should surprise exactly no one: There is a difference between what each of us says in public and what we say in private to friends. 

In public, in the workplace helping a customer or via Zoom with a client, we clean things up. We avoid controversy, mind our language and sand the edges off opinions. 

This is not a fictional self; it is an aspect of who we are. I view it as part of the social contract. In public, most of us agree to put forward our best selves. 

Then there’s what happens in private. 

I’ve had beers with conservative politicians who drop f-bombs. Played golf with “woker than thou” progressives who comment on the cart girl’s chest. I’ve been emailed a thousand obscene memes and a thousand jokes about Jews and every other ethnicity on the planet. 

I’ve said countless things in private that, should I express them in this column, would surely get me fired.

Which brings us to suddenly former Las Vegas Raiders football coach Jon Gruden, embattled comedian Dave Chappelle and the confusing state of life in 2021.

Gruden resigned last week after a trove of years-old personal emails between him and some guy friends, including Bruce Allen, then-president of the Washington Football Team, became public as part of an NFL investigation into Washington’s toxic workplace culture.

 Gruden played no part in that culture, having never worked for the team, but he did “casually and frequently (unleash) misogynistic and homophobic language over several years to denigrate people,” according to the New York Times.

Among those people? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, labeled by Gruden as a “clueless anti-football (jerk)” and DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFL players union, a Black man Gruden said “has lips the size of michellin [sic] tires.”

The NFL immediately condemned that email – which Gruden wrote in 2010 – as “appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values.” 

Then the league went right back to gridiron games involving highly compensated domestic abusers, sexual violators and assorted other miscreants. 

Little shocks me about Gruden, a macho (jerk) in private who kept his offensive ideas to himself for his 8-year run on “Monday Night Football.” Had Gruden unleashed a tirade on air, I would have supported firing him. 

What I don’t support is the Opinion Police coming for him based on decade-old private emails. 

There’s a difference between repugnant opinions kept to ourselves or shared with friends, and what we do and say around everyone else. If the new American social contract demands pristine behavior 24/7, who among us can meet that standard?

Then there’s Chappelle. The very definition of a comedian is someone who has no filter, who says in public that which none of us dares speak. 

Comedians’ jokes offend, but they also serve as human WD-40, a lubricant between people and ideas. If Chappelle’s joking about the gay and trans community offends, well, that’s literally in his job description.

The unwritten rule seems to be that it’s fine for Chappelle to joke about Black people, because he’s Black. In the same vein, I can joke about Jews because my name is Leibowitz. 

But stray out of your lane, be offensive about a group to which you don’t belong, and you’ll be canceled, pronto.

I’d advocate for a different standard, a culture where freedom of speech includes leeway for time and place, private versus public. I’d also prefer a culture that can still take a joke.

Under the new rules, it’s only a matter of time before the Opinion Police come for all of us, no matter how polite we think, act or speak.