A few weeks ago, during a Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” segment, comedian Pete Davidson made a joke about former Navy SEAL and current congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw’s eye patch, saying that he looked like “a hit man from a porno movie.” It may have made for a cheap laugh, but Davidson really got himself in trouble with his attempt to qualify his remarks after the joke.
“I’m sorry, I know he lost his eye in war, or whatever,” Davidson quipped. As Davidson himself would point out the following week, his joke at Crenshaw’s expense did have one positive outcome.
“If anything good came from this, maybe it was that for one day, the Left and the Right finally came together to agree on something — that I’m a dick.” He joked with the newly minted congressman-elect at his side; on-hand to accept Davidson’s apology and to deliver an important message of his own. Crenshaw, who admitted he was initially reluctant to go on SNL over Veteran’s Day weekend, took the opportunity to do something that has become rather uncommon in today’s political world; he delivered an important message on a national stage without resorting to the sort of political trench warfare we’ve become so accustomed to.
There’s a lot of lessons to learn here,” Crenshaw said after throwing Davidson a few well-written jabs. “It’s not just that the Left and the Right can still agree on some things, but also this: Americans can forgive one another. We can remember what brings us together as a country and still see the good in each other.”
Maybe it was Crenshaw’s delivery, or maybe it was an awareness that the man calling on Americans to respect one another had paid for his love of country in blood, but Crenshaw’s appearance on Saturday Night Live offered a glimpse of optimism amidst a fiercely divided time in our nation’s history. The most prominent politicians of our day are not unifiers, compromisers, or even negotiators when it comes to the opposing political party. For all that Republicans and Democrats may lack in common, the one thing they both have in equal measure is outrage. Crenshaw knows this and — as he pointed out in a recent OpEd published in the Washington Post — he doesn’t want any part of it.
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.
Instead, Crenshaw chose not to demand an apology. He didn’t attack Saturday Night Live or Pete Davidson for the joke. He didn’t call for a boycott, demand a resignation, or lament his unfair treatment. Instead, he took to Twitter with a simple message:
Good rule in life: I try hard not to offend; I try harder not to be offended. That being said, I hope @nbcsnl recognizes that vets don’t deserve to see their wounds used as punchlines for bad jokes.
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) November 4, 2018
That tweet would lead to Crenshaw’s appearance on the show a week later, and a great deal of publicity for the newly elected lawmaker. Almost immediately, Americans on social media began to wonder if perhaps there may be a higher office Crenshaw is destined for, with remarks about possible presidential runs in Crenshaw’s future pouring into social media platforms in the days that followed. That fervor has died down a bit as Crenshaw prepares himself for his most immediate challenge (in Congress), but that reaction speaks volumes about what the American people are longing for in their elected leaders: a civil and rational approach to domestic politics.
President Trump’s administration has, thus far, been marred with controversy, and Crenshaw himself admits that he isn’t a fan of everything the president does. The thing is, Crenshaw points out, that’s not the point.
His style is not my style. I’ll just say that. It’s never how I would conduct myself, Crenshaw said of the president in a recent interview, before adding that what Americans “need to understand is that conservatives can hold multiple ideas in their head at the same time. We can be like, ‘Wow he shouldn’t have tweeted that’ and still support him . . . You can disapprove of what the president says every day, or that day, and still support his broader agenda.”
Dan Crenshaw may have a long and illustrious career ahead of him in politics, but as an American, I can’t help but hope that this brand of civil rhetoric doesn’t become the hallmark of the former SEAL’s career. For civility to remain a candidate’s calling card, it has to be lacking in his opposition. For rational discourse to be what makes any one candidate special, it means you won’t find it in the others. What we need is more politicians with Crenshaw’s principled approach… And I think America’s ready for a government that doesn’t want to tear itself apart.
You can watch Crenshaw and Davidson on Saturday Night Live in the video below:
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