My Mama spent lots of time drilling into me the notion that “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.” For sure, calling someone a jerk is not nice, but you all are not privy to prior versions of the headline for this post. “Jerk” is way kinder than where I started.
George Will and I go back many years, albeit in a totally one-sided way. He doesn’t know me from Adam’s off ox. (That’s a more detailed way of saying “he doesn’t know me from Adam,” and was brought into modern parlance by President Bill Clinton in June 1993.) I was a fan for many, many years. The man can turn a phrase, even now, and he’s been writing columns for more than 40 years. He’s a baseball aficionado, and has written two great baseball books. (No, I am not sharing the links. The man is a jerk!) He was a Sunday fixture on ABC for decades.
Certainly, Mr. Will was conservative. And he certainly wrote a bad column or three in his day. (Every writer has, and if you disagree, check out Big Numbers or Interstate Economics, pieces I’m proud of not so much!) Still, he always had me thinking, questioning my Lefty outlook, asking myself the hard questions need to be asked.
Unfortunately, we live in nasty times! Boundaries must be honored—you are Left or Right, and the middle is where armadillos get run over—and writers with audiences cannot pass on a subject. So it is with Mr. Will, who had to spout off about Town of Greece v. Galloway and the kidnappings in Nigeria. (I’m blessed—feels like a curse, mostly, but it’s a blessing here—by the fact that I mostly write for friends (and not so many at that), can say what I want to say, and get my eating money solving people’s problems.)
Thin Skins and Legislative Prayer, from the May 7 Washington Post, whines about “prickly plaintiffs” and “flimsy people” who take umbrage at governmental meetings that begin with Christian prayers. I’m Jewish. I grew up in a secular community, interfacing with Jews, with others for whom my faith and affiliation mattered not at all, and with people who saw me as the “other” because I was Jewish. I still recall helping one of my partner’s clients—years ago—and listening to her talk about how no one was going to Jew her down on the price of a property. And attending events at a club that, in my lifetime, openly refused to consider Jews for membership. Etc.
I’ve learned how to deal with these things. (Another of my mom’s pet phrases? “Tune it out. Just tune it out.”) And so I soldier on, attending plenty of sectarian events—I was and still am, albeit to a lesser degree, an attendee at lots of events that begin with an invocation—in which people ask for blessings in the name of G-d, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. And I tune it out! What I can’t abide, and what no one should have to abide, is those words at an official meeting of a governmental body. Shame on the Supreme Court for telling us there’s nothing to be concerned with! And shame on Mr. Will for ridiculing those who honor the principle of separating church and state.
Now you’ve read the piece I intended to write several days ago. Alas, doing nothing can pay off, for Mr. Will provided more reasons for his sobriquet with his statements this past Sunday about #bring back our girls, the effort to bring public concern to bear on the kidnappings in Nigeria. Mr. Will labeled the expressions “an exercise in self-esteem.” Mocking the First Lady, he questioned why “the barbarians in the wild of Nigeria” will care.
For sure, tweets may not stop the bad guys. They might, however, motivate policy makers—legislators, especially, who seem to tailor positions to match voter sentiments—to call for action. And it’s clear that Twitter played some role in what may be a level of moderation in Iran, and in other freedom movements.
The column and the comments on Sunday demonstrate for me very clearly, yet again, that no one should do one job for too long. Mr. Will’s days have come and gone. Now, sadly, he seems to be an angry jerk, content to attack others, in lieu of making his case on the merits, without nastiness or shame.