I also posted this on Daily Kos. His passing today has brought out a lot of strong, emotion-filled reactions, pleas for class, dismissals of the pleas for classiness, and on and on and on.
I’ve seen a few themes today to which I feel I must respond.
I know full well that people will feel what they feel and say what they want to say. I can’t control that. My plea with all of you is that you be willing to see this from another angle.
I’m fully aware of Breitbart’s disgusting, vile comments in the wake of Ted Kennedy’s passing. His activities are well-documented. I also know how ugly people were after George Tiller was murdered. I realize that people on the right base their hatred on delusions and fact-free stories. That said, I would guess that most, if not all of them sincerely believe their stances are based on a righteous cause. That they’re on the side of truth and justice. When the shoe is on the other foot and the same scenarios play out on Free Republic, Red State or another right wing internet watering hole, many probably dismiss admonitions to remain civil and classy as silly just the same as many here did today. Heck, peak at those old comment threads (at your own risk) and you may find pejoratives towards “civility hall monitors” – or whatever terms they may choose, and gripes against “false piety”. They may even had commented that such admonitions amounted to “whitewashing” Kennedy’s or Tiller’s legacies. Remember, many on the right consider Kennedy as the embodiment of evil on the left.
Now many of us were appalled at what Breitbart said after Ted Kennedy died, and equally so at how that was celebrated. Rightfully so. Ask yourselves this, and look at it honestly. How many of us who were appalled at that are now dismissing calls for class and civility on the heels of Breitbart’s death as a kind of phony morality? If you looked at those comments on right-wing blogs and said or thought “stay classy” – why is it now OK for us to behave in the same manner?
Some of you have suggested that Shirley Sherrod and even Jesse LaGreca would of course show magnanimity today because they are public figures and what they say will be put under extra scrutiny. But the rest of us, the rank and file members of an online community who hide behind the anonymity of a screen name, can’t be expected to do the same and are thus justified in making hateful remarks. Let’s not worry our pretty little heads about them. What are the chances of many people reading them anyway?
Remember how disgusting the comments were on the Fox News website in reaction to Whitney Houston’s passing? We were rightly disgusted by them. Many of those comments were also from anonymous posters hiding behind a screen name.
Since when do we advance our cause or exercise self-improvement by holding ourselves to a lower standard? I thought being progressive meant belief in progress, in both the human race and in our own personal lives.
Let me expand on the self-improvement and standards of behavior a little bit. Some of you commended Shirley Sherrod for being a graceful, classy person, and were right to do so. What you then did after was lament how you couldn’t be as classy and graceful as her. Maybe you’re right and I also don’t hold a candle to her when it comes to that. but could it possibly be that we find conducting ourselves in that manner difficult and thus, leave it untried? Are we sure we aren’t selling ourselves short here. Would it kill us to at least aspire to that?
Another disturbing thing about today is how a few have now “lost a little respect for” Jesse LaGreca or hold him in lower esteem now due to his reactions to what transpired today. Some were so cynical about his diary they insinuated less than noble motives for him posting it, as “trying to impress somebody” – as if he were selling out. A couple of commenters used the occasion to dig up a few comments and diaries he previously wrote to accuse him of rank hypocrisy, as if things said in the heat of a tense debate are the same as doing the equivalent of an endzone dance after an adversary dies.
Come again? Jesse LaGreca will continue to be a feisty, unapologetic advocate for truth, for justice, equality, and for those who don’t have access to wealth and power. He’s about to get his own show, and I say that his comments today reflect someone who will be highly respected by many for his efforts. He may not win over the establishment, but that’s not his goal.
I myself am far from perfect in these things. I have used incendiary rhetoric in the past. Sometimes I still do. Sometimes it was uncalled for. Not every incidence of it warrants us getting the vapors. Still, we would do well to look to the example of Jesse, Shirley Sherrod, and Media Matters on how to comport ourselves.
Acknowledging the humanity of a political foe who is no longer with us, even a foe who often engaged in the politics of personal destruction and who failed or refused to see the humanity of us, is not “whitewashing” that person’s history. It’s not papering over anything. It’s simply being a decent human being.