Dear Readers, Due to the horrific, unconscionable statements, implications and outright lies made by a number of GOP figures in the past few weeks and days, I feel compelled to reprint my column from its first run in the National Edition of Examiner.com in April 2011.
The Inner Bottom Line ®
A Column on Personal Choices & Ethical Dilemmas by Olive Gallagher
Growing up in the 50s and 60s, I was aware of a number of unwritten rules. Rules like, no matter how angry you were or how badly you’d been treated, there was a place and time to express that frustration: not in mixed company, and certainly, not ever in a public place.
There was also a tacit understanding that no matter how deeply you felt you had a right to rail against a political or public figure, those opinions were shared only within very select and intimate company. People were very careful with whom they discussed personal political opinions or religious beliefs.
There was no tabloid press to whom you could easily sell your story, and no Fox News to pounce on the slightest hint or innuendo and report it as hard-core fact.
Discretion, taste, courtesy and manners infused public as well as private behavior.
Most of all, when it came to the President of the United States, no matter how disgruntled you might feel about that election year’s choice or the decisions that were made, there was a solid tone of respect for the man and the office at all times. It was unthinkable that anyone would publicly insult or smear the man. Period.
Even the President’s personal life was off-limits. There were hushed whispers about what might go on behind closed doors from time to time, but it was an area no one would think of treading. It was personal and private and with the President, inviolate. After all, how could anyone throw stones when they lived in glass houses, too?
Not so, today. And for anyone who will argue that this new environment is better for the country, our place in the world or our democracy, I will stand resolutely and say, “you’re out of your f– mind, and no, it’s not.”
We’ve gone from a determined, optimistic, innovative and smart population to one that has now become downright mean. Not just clever, shrewd, calculating. Mean. There is no other word for it. And it now often makes me feel ashamed to be an American.
I can hear the shouts and taunts. “If you don’t like it here, leave.” Or “Get over it. Grow up.”
No, thank you, but that’s not the point. What I do is irrelevant. What I say and how I behave is the heart of the matter.
I wrote a number of national syndicated columns during the Bush years, and I had a lot to say about a lot of vital things I thought were going or had already gone wrong. I objected to Cheney and Rove’s motives and conflicts of interest and still, to this day, believe they ran this country into the ground. They certainly helped Bush take a whopping surplus left by Clinton and run up the worst deficit in history.
But they didn’t do it alone. They’ve had help ushering in a mean and pseudo-righteous movement that now threatens to take this country down with it.
And that should be of concern to us all. I understand dissent. And objection, disagreement and protest. But I will never accept disrespect of and lies about the most important leader in my country.
Maybe we’re just not smart enough to appreciate when we get the real deal. We’ve been gifted with one of the most brilliant and measured leaders that has ever filled the office. Someone capable of seeing beyond the petty and trite and bringing a global voice and perspective to our dialogue. But do we listen? Or try to hear?
Maybe too many Americans are still so colorblind they can’t see beyond their deeply buried prejudices. Or maybe we’ve become so greedy and hedonistic that we just don’t give a damn about the future; only today and what we can line our pockets with right now counts.
No matter how off-track we are, no matter how myopic we’ve become to the needs of others less fortunate than ourselves, nothing excuses this basic lack of respect along with the general acceptance of the heavy, demeaning tone of meanness that has taken over much of our airwaves, publications and public discussion.
I’ve always been one of the most optimistic and hopeful people I know. But when I observe a public that had seemed committed to rolling up their sleeves and digging into the mess the previous administration left us lose patience with affecting change after only a few months, I find myself losing that hope I’ve always been able to call on in the worst of times.
How easily my fellow Americans seem to have forgotten that our new president inherited one of the most problem-ridden situations our country has ever faced from those who came before him.
But worse than that, there has been a concentrated effort to smear our President and to speak of him in the most despicable of terms. And that behavior crosses a line that is sacred on The Inner Bottom Line. It utterly lacks respect, fairness, dignity and integrity. And that’s cowardly and cheap.
They say we will get the country we deserve. Sadly, I’m beginning to believe that may be true. All of the things we need to do are waiting for us to wake up and get moving. Alternative fuels and breaking our dependence on oil. Cutting back and learning to save instead of spend. Investing in our educational system and crumbling infrastructure.
It’s all there — in front of our faces. Are we so stupid that we will continue to choose to use negative and mean-spirited measures to wrestle back control so the rich can have more and the poor and sick can go to hell, all in the name of outrageous righteousness and false piety?
Aaron Sorkin wrote a line in one of my favorite films, The American President, that went something like this. Speaking of the smear campaign by his Republican opposition, the President says, “They don’t care about your problems. They only care about doing two things: making you afraid of it or telling you who’s to blame for it.”
Is that really what America is now all about? I worry it might be so.
No matter how much you may disagree with any particular decision he makes, it would be helpful to remember that every decision is a lot more complicated than any of us can possibly imagine or will ever really know. And at the very least, this man who occupies the highest office in the land deserves our ultimate respect for taking on the hardest job in the world and carrying it out with dignity and respect for everyone else.
You can submit your questions or book private phone sessions with Olive at theinnerbottomline.com, explore her new blog at whatskeepingyouawakeatnight.com, or call into her blogtalkradio.com show, “The Inner Bottom Line,” with your questions. All letters and calls can be anonymous and confidential.
Kindle and audio versions along with the hard cover of Olive’s book, The Nude Ethicist: A Simple Path to The Good Life, are now available on amazon.com.