I am witnessing the reactions to the death of conservative political commentator, Rush Limbaugh, both kind and unkind, and I can’t help thinking about the old proverb, “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” For those not familiar with the phrase, it pertains to hypocrisy and it means judge not, lest you be judged.
I will be honest, being a fairly recent convert to conservatism, I never listened to Rush. I know he was both revered and reviled. Not having followed him allows me to be impartial and remove any past words or actions from the equation, focusing on the real topic here, which is civility and objectivity.
Social media platforms are swimming with posts of respectful condolences, but it looks like there are equal amounts that are literally celebrating Limbaugh’s death. The hashtag #RestInPiss is trending.
I tried to think of recent examples to compare this with and did some searching to validate my memory.
People were celebrating when the announcement was made that Donald Trump had Covid and they actually wished death upon him.
When Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, some Republicans were criticized for quickly posting about her Supreme Court seat vacancy. Insensitive no doubt, but there were no celebratory posts that I found, or can remember.
Trump was criticized for disrespectful comments after John McCain’s death, but again, there didn’t appear to be any mass celebration of it.
I am in no way trying to explain away the actions or comments made by anyone on one side or the other. Wishing death upon people in public life, or celebrating their passing, should be unacceptable to everyone no matter which side of the fence you are on.
In my quest to research this I found an interesting article in the Chicago Tribune from 2014, “Obama faces vile insults like no other president has.” In it, it states; “But no president in our nation’s history has ever been castigated, condemned, mocked, insulted, derided and degraded on a scale even close to the constantly ugly attacks on Obama. From the day he assumed office — indeed, even before he assumed office — he was subjected to unprecedented insults in often the most hateful terms.”
The article lists some interesting facts and observations of presidents taking abuse over the years as far back as James Madison. Madison was called “Little Jemmy” because he was short.
“John Tyler, who assumed the presidency after the death of William Henry Harrison, was ridiculed as “His Accidency.” Congressman Abraham Lincoln castigated President James Polk as a “completely bewildered man.” Opponents of Woodrow Wilson’s reinstitution of the draft in World War I accused him of “committing a sin against humanity.” Critics of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal attacked him as an “un-American radical.””
Looking at the progression, it strikes me that this problem always existed to some degree and it’s an obvious conclusion that the internet and social media have accelerated the pace. If we don’t put the brakes on somehow, it will continue to worsen, if that’s possible.
Social media has become so volatile that people are deactivating their accounts. Everyone is an expert and they seem to think you need to know what their views are, even though you didn’t ask.
Whether you agree or disagree with any of the policies or ideologies of anyone discussed here is not the point. The point is that over time we have become less civil and less objective. Anyone from the “other side” is wrong. When you comment on social media the internet piranhas come out within seconds, harass you for days for voicing your opinion, and you get called some “interesting” names.
I have a unique perspective of having been on both sides of the fence, and you tend to notice the stones more when they’re coming your way from the other side. Neither side is completely blameless nor am I making any judgments, only observations and a wish for respect and civility to make a comeback.
We are never all going to agree on everything, but we need to stop throwing stones at each other.
Originally published on Citizen Stringer February 19, 2021