Sam Burnham, Curator
Let's take a good look at the now deleted Most Offensive Tweet of the Day:
“I went to high school with GOP guv candidate @BrianKempGA. We played YMCA ball from childhood. Politics be damned. He is a nice guy, always was. Kind to a fault, He’s a friend, always has been, and will be when we’re old(er) and grey(er). That’s how all this should work, people.”
That nasty and hateful tweet, given by the Dean of UGA's Grady College of Journalism ignited a firestorm of protest. Can you imagine the gall and the complete lack of respect for human life that it must require to call someone a "nice guy" or "kind to a fault?"
So the dean issued the apology at right.
This situation makes me sick to my stomach. I just heard about it tonight. This kind of thing is getting far too common in our deteriorating society. In reality, Charles Davis was assaulted for congratulating a lifelong friend on a major life accomplishment.
His encouragement that "politics be damned" and "that's how all this should work, people" is a commentary on our current political tone. He is saying he may not agree with his friend's politics but he's still his friend and he's congratulating him.
But there is a growing segment of the Left in America that is bent on dehumanizing their opposition. They throw out labels like "racist," misogynist," "homophobic," or "xenophobic" to assault policies they disagree with, not because the labels fit but because the labels help to strip away the humanity of their opponents. If their opponents aren't human, but rather "fascist" or "Nazi", they are easier to combat. "You don't want to vote for a 'bigot' do you? Then vote for my candidate or just stay home."
The irony in their argument is that very definition of bigot is "a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions." The very people slinging the bigot label are themselves bigots. Because the only thing they are really slinging the label for is because Brian Kemp is their opponent. Oh, they'll point to some "dog whistle" or some policy that they will twist or contort to make it look racist whatever-ist. But the truth is, they are just bigoted against opposing ideas. The best way to censor those ideas is by stamping them with an "-ist."
And it isn't just elections. It's about culture. It goes back to statues, to flags, to holidays, to ceremonies, to historic sites. They have to control the narrative to sell their philosophy. They need to assault the art, the politics, and the structure of the society to control the narrative. That is what this is all about.
Charles Davis didn't owe anyone an apology. He didn't do anything wrong. In fact, he took a positive step, he led by example. He softened the tone of politics for a minute. He let politics get in the back seat and put humanity in the driver seat. But the vitriolic response he got is a clue to why the state of our rhetoric is so poisonous.
So now we need to add some skepticism to certain terminology. When you hear one of those "-ist" words pop up, be skeptical. Don't just assume it is true. Look for evidence. Investigate to see if it is just a nasty personal attack used when a proper rebuttal could not be made.
But also don't return their bigotry in kind. There are plenty of people on both sides of the aisle who want to have a healthy and serious conversation about ways to build a better society. There are also people on both sides who want to silence and cease dissent. Look across the aisle and see a person. Look over there and see someone who has humanity and dignity. Expect to see someone who is nice and kind, and let politics be damned. That doesn't mean agreeing with them, it means letting them be human in your eyes. Because if they aren't human in your eyes, then you can't possibly expect to be human in theirs.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire