I cannot believe that in 2018, in America, I have to do this. But here we are...so let's get it over with.
If you make racist comments, show yourself to be hateful toward people of color, even if you want to blame those comments on popular sleep medications, that is wrong. While the first amendment protects you from legal action, the words you use have consequences, and you will likely find yourself fired.
If you have a television show, and you use vulgarity to disparage another woman, no matter how much you disagree with her, that is wrong. While the first amendment protects you from legal action, the words you use have consequences and you (should) likely find yourself fired.
I'm referring of course to Rosanne Barr and Samantha Bee.
There are two conversations at play here, the one we are having and the one we should be having. The one we are having is about partisan politics (see last post), where one side is trying to figure out whether they are getting fair treatment, whether both "sides" are being punished fairly. To have this conversation assumes that there are two sides to racist and vulgar language, not that we are universally against them as a people. To have this conversation assumes that this is a political issue. It is not. It's just a dumb issue.
(All of that said, while this isn't the conversation I want to have around this week in the news, I do have some thoughts on the way TBS handled this situation. To keep us on track, I'll include them below.)
The second conversation though is the one we ought to be having. The second conversation asks how it is remotely possible that we have come to this point as a nation where we are comfortable talking to each other this way. How is it that we have become ok disparaging other people so quickly and readily? How is it that we have come to be ok cursing our fellow man up and down, even at the grocery store? How did we get to this point?
If you don't believe me that there is a problem, and that it is specifically an American problem, travel internationally. It always shocks me most on the way home. Having spent two weeks in Asia or Africa or Central America, I grow accustomed to their friendliness. I grow accustomed to people asking me how I'm doing, and meaning it. On the way home, I pass through customs and security checks and all other manner of airport fun. "Oh, we're so sorry you're leaving!" they will say. "Come back soon!" they will call after me with a huge smile on their face. I will fly for hours on the plane, thinking that everyone is just like this. But then I will inevitably get to New York or Chicago or some place like that. I will be greeted by some gruff man or woman behind the customs counter, who very clearly does not want to be there, who will simply bark orders at me. "PASSPORT!" "STAND BEHIND THE LINE!" "NEXT!" All the warmth of the past weeks disappears, and I am left with the harsh reminder: I am home.
Now I've never been cursed out by a customs agent. It just to me speaks to the attitude of the nation right now. We seem more than content to be angry at each other. And it appears to me that we have decided that the freedom that we so rightly celebrate here in this nation has led us to a place of selfish-ness, a me-first attitude that has brought us to a place where it doesn't matter what I say to someone else, as long as I get what's coming to me. And if someone has slighted me, or wronged me in some way, if someone has (at least in my perception) infringed upon my freedom in some way, heaven help them.
The internet isn't helping matters either, is it? I can say whatever I want about whomever I want and never have to look them in the eyes, never have to see the pain I inflict, never have to deal with the consequences of a face to face interaction. So does it surprise me that Rosanne's vehicle of choice for such awful talk is Twitter? Nope. Is it shocking any more when the President of the United States bad mouths his enemies through the keyboard on his phone? Nope. Do I have a hard time imagining Samantha Bee cursing a fellow human from the safety of a studio audience? Of course not. But what is becoming shocking to me is the rate at which I will in fact see this play out in front of each other these days. Go spend some time in a fast food establishment sometime this week, and note how hurried customers speak to and treat the people serving them food. It's often times disgusting.
What should be truly shocking is the way this kind of speaking to each other has invaded the church. We who should be guided by the words and warnings in the book of James:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.
Or even remember Jesus words on this subject:
“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.
If calling someone a fool leaves us open to the fires of hell, I think we're in trouble here. So for my part, I'm going to choose to focus on how I speak to people this week. Are my words an encouragement? Will they brighten someone's day, or darken it? Even if I need to offer a word of challenge and disagreement, can I do that in a spirit of charity and love? Can I do that in a way that the other person leaves feeling uplifted and encouraged to be better? I'm willing to call myself out here, because I'm betting we could all do better at this.
So, let's get out there today and speak to each other better. We are much better than what we've become, but I have no doubt that if we would wake up to where we are, we could light the way for the rest of the world.
Marvel Post Credits Style Ending:
So, a few thoughts on the Samantha Bee portion of this debacle, specifically around her network TBS. I am flabbergasted at how poorly they handled this situation, and I'd be shocked if it doesn't cost them advertising dollars and force them to end her show eventually anyway. Compare what ABC did, which was to immediately cancel their highest rated show upon reading the tweet. It really was just a matter of hours, seemingly long enough to call all the board members together and vote. TBS however wasn't reacting to a tweet, they were reacting to something that was said on their air. Something that was recorded in a studio, where I presume network executives were watching. Something that was recorded and broadcast later, where the offensive comments probably could have (I didn't see it, so I don't know how big a task this would have been) edited around. I understand that the segment in question was also highlighted on the official TBS website for a decent portion of the day, meaning that someone somewhere in the office saw it and decided that though vulgar, it was funny enough to post somewhere. That's like 16 steps along the way this situation could have been resolved before it got out of hand, and TBS blew it.
Should Samantha Bee be (haha) fired? There are some out there in the media who are saying that vulgarity and racism aren't moral equivalents, and they're right. But that said, I am quite certain that if I ran TBS she would be disciplined in some way, and likely fired. But then again, there's a good reason I'm not in broadcasting.