Although this blog is primarily dedicated to my “foodie side”, everyone once in a while I feel compelled to contribute something to the “General Rants” category (usually when something has ticked me off or relates to a subject I am passionate about). Today is one of those days.
I just finished watching CNN and they were reporting on the so-called apology Ted Nugent gave today for calling Barack Obama a subhuman mongrel. I recognize we live in a country that staunchly supports freedom of speech (and so do I) but I get annoyed when people hide behind the first amendment to say anything they damn well please and to hell with the other guy.
Our forefathers, and rightly so, established freedom of speech to allow for democracy. Only when everyone has the ability to be heard can a nation claim to be the land of the free. What I don’t believe they intended was to use that right to debase and degrade people in the debate process. To me that only serves to weaken the argument of the person resorting to despicable behavior but my fear is it’s become a pastime in this country to call names and say hurtful things just because you can.
I recently participated in an online discussion (and I almost never do) regarding the documentary Blackfish. The documentary centers around the orcas at Sea World and in particular Tillikum the orca that killed Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau a few years ago. It goes to great lengths to show how they were mistreated in the past and decries keeping these majestic creatures in captivity. I don’t disagree with that. Personally there were many things in the documentary I agreed with, but I struggled with a couple of the concepts, namely the failure in my eyes to recognize the conservation efforts of Sea World and the fact that we’ve kept these creatures in captivity all their lives and now it appears we’re saying – release them, let them be free. To me the argument has many more layers than that and, up to this point, I have not seen anyone adequately address how you habituate an orca to be free when it’s spent its entire life in captivity. So I made that point in the online discussion.
I got hammered, and not with thoughtful arguments but with personal attacks. I was called stupid, a bitch, and an idiot for expressing my opinions. Never within the course of the conversation did I resort to name calling and hurtful language, and when I finally called it out the conversation came to an abrupt halt.
I see this happening all the time. Maybe it’s a result of reality TV or how people are raised. I welcome a thoughtful exchange of differing opinions. I abhor it when it sinks to personal attacks. Unfortunately our culture here in America seems to support and encourage this type of behavior. No wonder bullying in schools has become an epidemic. When a public figure (and I really don’t care that he is a rock n’ roller – that does not excuse him and he is still a public figure) can call the President of the United States a subhuman mongrel, what does that say about us as Americans. What kind of example are we setting? What type of image are we projecting to the rest of the world when we can’t disagree (even vehemently) respectfully? We as a country are calling for the humane treatment of others all across the world. What kind of hypocrites are we when we can’t even be respectful in how we treat one another?
One of my favorite classic movies is The American President. The final speech Michael Douglas gives in that movie is awe inspiring. He talks about the land of the free being a place where someone can argue at the top of their lungs for something that you would spend your lifetime arguing at the top of your lungs against. He goes on to say “Celebrate that. Teach that in your classrooms. Then you can talk about the land of the free.” Nowhere did he say that arguing at the top of your lungs means name calling and personal attacks. We have lost sight of the fact that we can be passionate about what we believe while respecting other points of view. We have become a nation of my way or the highway.
So today I am ashamed to admit I am an American if America is judged by the behaviors of people like Ted Nugent. Who cares if he apologized. Care more about what comes out of your mouth in the first place. Then maybe I can learn to respect what you have to say.