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New Rep.’s take offers better way

New Rep.’s take offers better way

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By Mike Wilcox

Publisher

Scott Sullivan, editor of the award-winning Commercial Record, wrote the following piece on soon-to-be U.S. Rep Dan Crenshaw’s appearance on Saturday Night Live.

Navy SEAL Crenshaw was mocked by SNL comedian Pete Davidson for wearing an eye patch. Rather than demand an apology or boycott the popular show, Crenshaw accepted an invitation to appear with Davidson.

The acceptance and Davidson’s amends are a perfect example of how we can restore civility to public debate.

Rather than rehash what Sullivan wrote, I figured, because he is a much better wordsmith than I am, that we would devote this space to his essay.

 

A Better Way

Soon-to-be U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) has my vote. I have no idea what his politics are. But his Washington Post essay, discussing why he appeared on “Saturday Night Live” after one of its actors made fun of the eye patch he wears, was enough to sway me. We need more folks like him in office.

Basically, SNL’s Pete Davidson Nov. 3 mocked Crenshaw’s appearance. “He lost his eye in war … or whatever,” Davidson said.

Crenshaw found the would-be comedian’s follow-up, that he looked like a “hit man in a porno movie,” “significantly less infuriating, albeit a little strange.”

Crenshaw lost his right eye serving as a Navy SEAL in Afghanistan. He has seen worse things than lame, failed attempts at humor.

Still, when the show reached out with an apology and offer to appear on its Veterans Day weekend program, Crenshaw had to weigh it. Here’s his account:

“I woke up on the Sunday morning after the show to hundreds of texts about what Davidson had said. A lot of America wasn’t happy. People thought some lines still shouldn’t be crossed.

“I agreed,” Crenshaw went on. “But I also could not help but note that this was another chapter in a phenomenon that has taken complete control of the national discourse: outrage culture.

“It seems like every not-so-carefully-worded public misstep must be punished to the fullest extent, replete with soapbox lectures and demands for apologies. Anyone who doesn’t show the expected level of outrage will be labeled a coward or an apologist for bad behavior. I get the feeling that regular, hardworking, generally unoffended Americans sigh with exhaustion — daily.

“Was I really outraged by SNL?” he continued. “Really offended? Or did I just think the comment about losing my eye was offensive? There is a difference, after all. I have been literally shot at before, and I wasn’t outraged. Why start now?”

Crenshaw agreed to appear on the show. SNL assured him Veterans Day was the right time to send the right message — one of unity, forgiveness and appreciation for veterans. And to make fun of Davidson, of course.

“And that’s what we did,” wrote Crenshaw. “I was happy with how it worked out. But now what?

“Does it suddenly mean that the left and right will get along and live in utopian harmony? Maybe Saturday’s show made a tiny step in that direction, but I’m not naive. As a country, we still have a lot of work to do. We need to agree on some basic rules for civil discourse.

“There are many ideas that we will never agree on,” he went on. “The left and the right have different ways of approaching governance, based on contrasting philosophies.

“But many of the ultimate goals — economic prosperity, better health care and education, etc. — are the same. We just don’t share the same vision of how to achieve them.

“How, then, do we live together? For starters, let’s agree that the ideas are fair game. If you think my idea is awful, you should say as much.

“But there is a difference between attacking an idea and attacking the person behind that idea. Labeling someone as an ‘-ist’ who believes in an “-ism” because of the person’s policy preference is just a shortcut to playground-style name-calling, cloaked in political terminology.

“It’s also generally a good indication that the attacker doesn’t have a solid counterargument and needs a way to end debate before it has even begun.

“Similarly, people too often attack not just an idea but also the supposed intent behind an idea. That raises the emotional level of the debate and might seem like it strengthens the attacker’s side, but it’s a terrible way to make a point.

“Assuming the worst about your opponents’ intentions has the effect of demonizing their ideas, removing the need for sound counter-reasoning and fact-based argument. That’s not a good environment for the exchange of ideas.

“When all else fails, try asking for forgiveness, or granting it. On Saturday, Davidson and SNL made amends. I had some fun. Everyone generally agreed that a veteran’s wounds aren’t fair game for comedy.

“Maybe now we should all try to work toward restoring civility to public debate,” Crenshaw said.

Anything I could add would subtract from that. As Erasmus said, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”