The historian Thucydides warned about the escalating violent language and behavior that we are witnessing. More on that later.
For now, tes, I thought Rep. Joe Wilson was a boor to scream out at the President during a Joint Session. If everyone were to do that, we’d descend into some sort of Third World Parliament in short order, or end up caning each other, as on the eve of the Civil War. He apologized to the President, and should have.
But sadly, I put no credence in liberal outrage. Dozens of Democrats booed Bush during his State of the Union address in 2005; an unhinged Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) called him a liar from the House floor. The currently outraged, like Maureen Down and E.J. Dionne, said little about the 2005 interruption of the President of the United States with catcalls. Congressional efforts at censure failed. Stark, for all I know, remains not an albatross, but an icon of the Left.
Do As I Say, Not As I Do
President Obama called for more civility on 60 Minutes the other night. A noble effort, all would agree. But he has himself been serially accusing his opponents of disinformation and lying about his health care plan—even as his own accounts of how many are currently uninsured, the status of illegal aliens under his plan, or the nature of his end of life counseling programs seem to change weekly.
The President in his calls for moderation, of course, said nothing about Van Jones’s profanity and racism—or his czar’s charging Bush with planning the deaths of 3,000, charging whites with being mass killers in the schools, and polluters, and on and on.
Wasn’t There Someone Once Upon a Time Called Van Jones?
Any President devoted to the notion of restoring civility would have never nominated such a boor. Imagine instead a contrite Obama saying: “We have got to do better in the way we talk to each other. My own White House green jobs advisor should never have said the things he did, and that’s why he had to go.” Instead, Jones got out of town, screaming about smears at midnight. Obama voted present as the Left charged racism at Jones’s departure—although the President warned school children not to post things on the Internet, the implication being you too can be a poor Jones done in by Google.
The Wages of the Sixties
The truth is that a new generation of boors has come of age without sober wise people to teach them how to act. A Rep. Stark or Rep. Wilson, whether left or right, were Sixties people, a generation known for its hip crassness and uncouthness. The baby boomers themselves abdicated the role of elder statesmen, and instead need in their dotage to be taught before they can teach anyone. The proper censors are in the graveyards, a better mannered generation used to hardship and war, whose legacy of standards we have squandered.
The result? Turn to tennis and we see this week a pathetic Serena Williams in a profanity-ridden rant, because she is being beaten badly on the court and apparently cannot handle the self-induced humiliation, and so goes ballistic over an apparently bad call. I am sure she would have preferred, as in the past, the racist- to the profanity-card, had not the targeted umpire herself been a person of color. Of course, John McEnroe, Ilie Natase and Jimmy Connors set the present low standards in tennis. Ms. Williams is only following in their ends-justify-the-means footsteps. In about a week, her father will weigh in with his customary slurs on spec. Who knows, maybe even McEnroe will claim, “Even I would never do that!”
Steal the Show
Then a buffoonish rapper Kanye hijacks a music awards show, to scream out that he prefers the loser to the poor embarrassed winner, standing mute before him with the trophy. But how can the audience that honors the violence and degradation of hip-hop / rap, then be outraged that they get a live version of such crude behavior before them of what they buy on CDs? Had Kanye only put in a plug for green jobs, he might have escaped without the boos. So we need a Juvenal (‘Who will police the police”) to note the irony of a crass music industry being out-crassed on its formal night out.
Not So Long Ago
The Left is now furious that, as the new establishment, the rules of discourse are not more polite. But from 2002-8, they (Who are “they”? Try everyone from Al Gore to John Glen to Robert Byrd to Sen. Durbin), employed every Nazi/brown shirt slur they could conjure up. NPR’s folksy old Garrison Keiler was indistinguishable from mean-spirited Michael Moore in that regard.
The New York Times gave a discount for a disgusting “General Betray Us” ad. The Democratic Party head Howard Dean flatly said he “hated” Republicans. Hilary Clinton all but called Gen. Petraeus a liar in a congressional hearing. The New Republic ran an essay on hating George Bush (not opposing, not disliking, but “hating” the President). Alfred Knopf published a novel about killing Bush. A Guardian op-ed dreamed of Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth coming back to kill Bush. And on and on.