|4/3/2018 1:25:00 PM|
Rising to the level of middle schoolers
When my daughter was in middle school, she would take umbrage when I said that politicians or others engaged in public discourse were "acting like middle schoolers."
"Dad," she would say, "we don't act like that."
Fair enough. So, let's just say that a whole lot of actors on the public stage lack the maturity of middle schoolers.
Last week, Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham was forced to make a public apology after sponsors started fleeing her show because she thought it was appropriate to publically mock 17-year-old David Hogg because he didn't make it into several of the universities to which he had applied. Hogg is one of the more vocal activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, whose fellow students were murdered in a mass shooting in February.
Now, Hogg is not off-limits. His opinions should not be held sacrosanct and treated as unchallengeable simply because he and his fellow students went through a traumatic event. He has entered the public arena and he should be ready for pushback. But pushback should come in the form of challenging his opinions and his policy prescriptions, not in the form of public mockery at the hands of a cable a TV commentator over his college admissions travails. That is just shameful.
Closer to home, a friend was recently accused of employing "subtle racism" in an essay on Oregon Initiative Petition 43 and former Justice John Paul Stevens' call to repeal the Second Amendment. Challenged to substantiate this inflammatory accusation, the accuser simply made things up that were not to be found anywhere in the text. The "racism" was so "subtle" that it wasn't even there. The accuser essentially boiled his assertion down to the logically and ethically bankrupt notion that, since progressives oppose racism, if you oppose their agenda in whole or in part, you must be a racist.
In 2018, an accusation of racism is not merely means of shutting down debate, but an active attempt to do harm. It's hanging a scarlet letter on the accused. Shameful.
We can point a finger at a lot of contributors to this corrosive trend: the freedom from accountability people feel on social media; the embarrassing example of a president who delights in calling people names (and whose opponents often indulge in the same pastime in return); a general breakdown in manners at all levels. Perhaps we could all use a little of the intolerance represented by former Texas Ranger Woodrow Call in Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove": "I hate rude behavior in a man. I won't tolerate it."
Or, in this tamer, more ill-mannered era, we might at least try to reach the maturity level of middle schoolers.
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