When I first saw the controversial pictures of What’s-her-name holding up a mock up of the severed head of our president, my mind immediately jumped to a similar controversy during Obama’s administration where images of the president with cross hairs over his face circulated in social media along with the same outrage we’re seeing today. The only difference, it would seem, was the ruling party, and the political affiliations of those who were upset.
The backlash over what was, let’s not beat around the bush, a concerted and deliberate PR strategy employed by a failed comic hoping to stoke the flames of the Right to gain prominence among the Left leaning media machine, was swift and justified. Americans were disgusted, or at least, lots of them were. Plenty of folks, however, remain dead set on picking a team and defending their teammates regardless of actions – even when they’re the actions of a desperate woman clinging to the last bits of fame she can reach.
Facebook, as it so often is, serves as a political echo chamber for whatever beliefs you choose to fill your feed with, allowing even the most ludicrous of defenses to circulate as though they’re logical. In this case, it’s things like that famous picture of Obama in cross hairs that leave some on the Left claiming these recent pictures are not only fair game, but appropriate based on the precedent set while their candidate was in office.
I’m not kidding, the legitimate defense people are using for a woman posing with the fake severed head of a sitting US president is nothing more than pointing at Republicans and shouting, “they started it!” And some people seem to think that makes sense.
As I’ve taken some fire for before, I try really hard not to pick a side when it comes to things like this, because I think side-picking may be human nature, but it’s not always productive. Because of that attempt at objectivity, I’m not calling on the justice system to arrest this crazy lady any more than I wanted them to arrest Ted Nugent while Obama was in office. Sometimes people say or do tasteless things that appall or offend us, but the response isn’t always to call the government in to regulate how we convey our feelings. If she threatened the president, she should face the consequences, but claiming she was calling for others to harm the president is no different than those on the Left claiming Trump is responsible for racists committing hate crimes since he took office. That kind of twice-removed blame placing isn’t productive or fair. Sometimes people are just idiots, monsters, or racists. We should hold people accountable for their own actions, not for what we extrapolate others may be motivated to do through their interpretation of them.
To be honest, I have less of a problem with the pictures themselves than I do with the people choosing to defend them. One person doing a stupid or offensive thing isn’t really news to me – it’s a person I don’t like – but thousands of people supporting that stupid or offensive thing? That’s a problem.
The thing is, this outrage is cyclical. When Republicans get angry over this sort of behavior, Democrats just point to the few oddball Republicans that participated in it themselves in the past. The next time a Democrat holds office, some lone idiot will likely take pictures or make a meme with similarly inappropriate material, and when Democrats say it’s inappropriate, the social media echo chamber will once again leave Republicans defending that fool by claiming, “you guys did it to Trump!”
We both take turns being the angry party, calling each other hypocrites and remaining blissfully tone deaf to the accusations of hypocrisy levied back at us. In this way, if in nothing else, we should start to notice how similar we truly are. We’re both angry about the same things at different intervals. Maybe that’s a sign that we should change how we approach them. Maybe it’s a sign that we’re not holding ourselves to the same rules we hold the opposition to.
It’s in that vein that I propose a solution. Those of us who think that lady (I’m intentionally not using her name and blurred her face because she doesn’t deserve the publicity) is a twisted idiot that favors her own dying stardom over the highest elected office in our nation, the man’s children who saw the pictures, or the kids all over America that are now forced to see them again and again in newsstands everywhere, should all agree that if and when our team is forced back into the dugout for a Democrat that’s elected, we won’t stoop to those same levels. This cycle of nonsense and reciprocating outrage can only end when someone chooses to take the high road… because it would seem that for many on the Left hand side of the political spectrum, that high road isn’t in the picture this term. That leaves it up to us to set the example.
How can we stop one lone idiot from doing what she did when it’s their turn in office? We can’t, but we can avoid publicly supporting that idiot like we’re seeing so many Lefties doing today. When some crazed Republican comedian (as if there are a lot of those left…) goes on TV and says we should turn President WhoEversNext’s skin into a fur coat or something similarly idiotic, we can break the cycle by rolling our eyes and focusing on the things that matter to us, rather than yet another debate about who started what.
Free speech is messy, and I know some really smart and well reasoned folks will disagree with me and call for that lady to serve jail time. I’m not calling you anything, and I’m certainly not posing in pictures with your head, all I’m saying is that it’s up to us as a society to root this kind of thing out – not law enforcement. Throwing people in jail for political statements, no matter how gratuitous, isn’t a slippery slope I want to try to walk down in any measured way. Sometimes, it’s just best to take the stairs.
Remember, we’re all upset about one thing or another. Maybe you’re mad about these stupid pictures, maybe you’re mad about Trump pulling out of the Paris Accord, maybe you’re mad because your politician lost, or maybe you’re angry about the media bias against your candidate. Anger is okay, it makes sense, and it can lead to important things – just remember that rules don’t have to be laws, and we have it in ourselves to make cultural rules about decency.
There’s no law that says you should avoid making fun of your coworker’s recent weight gain, or that you should stop making “your mom” jokes after your friend’s mom passes away… we do it because we’re decent human beings that are capable of empathy. Unfortunately, comics like so-and-so lack that ability on a national level.
Let’s be an example of what to do, rather than adding to the list of examples of what not to do. As far as I’m concerned, the best outcome of this situation is a mutual agreement to end this sort of crap – and to forget all about you-know-who so she can go back to investing what money she has left in plastic surgery, as though looking like a younger Skeletor would somehow make her more appealing. And yeah, I know that resorting to name calling doesn’t help, but I need to take baby steps along with the rest of us.
If we want to claim the moral high ground, we’ve got to take it first. Let’s attack that hill together.
Images courtesy of CBS, Facebook