My brother, who has worked in retail longer than a person should, has a saying about the weird and sometimes cruel things he’s seen people do and say in his store. He passes little judgment. He only shrugs and says: “People are people”.
Indeed they are. But unlike my brother, I can’t shrug everything off, especially when it takes our culture in a bad direction.
Consider what a few people said following the assassination attempt of Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise.
You know the story of Scalise by now.
A fellow by the name of James Thomas Hodgkinson, stalked a GOP congressional softball practice with the intent of killing Republicans. He shot Rep. Scalise and five others before he was shot and killed by Crystal Griner, a Capitol Police Officer assigned to protect Scalise.
Thankfully, no one other than Hodgkinson was killed.
This, of course, was national news. Most of the reaction was sane and compassionate. But some – and we can only hope this cancer is contained within a small minority – thought the whole deal was sort of funny. It was “ironic” some people said, that Griner (a person of color and a lesbian) saved the life of a straight white conservative congressman.
That is an awful takeaway. It degrades Griner in specific and police officers, the black community and the LGBT community in general.
If you think I’m making too much of this, consider Connecticut’s Trinity College professor Johnny Eric Williams who tweeted:
“It is past time for the racially oppressed to do what people who believe themselves to be ‘white’ will not do, put end to the vectors of their destructive mythology of whiteness and their white supremacy system. #LetThemF…ingDie.”
Don’t think he was misunderstood, because he expanded on his nutty hatefulness by sharing an article that recommended that “victims of bigots” do nothing to save the lives of “bigots”.
“If you see them drowning. If you see them in a burning building. If they are bleeding out in an emergency room. If the ground is crumbling beneath them. If they are in a park and they turn their weapons on each other: Do nothing, least of all put your life on the line for theirs … (to) save the life of those that would kill you is the opposite of virtuous.”
This is why the modern conceit of identity politics becomes a dead end when carried to the extreme. It is such a restrictive way to look at people. It enslaves people with skin color, or gender, or sexual orientation. It discounts the human capability of exhibiting the higher values of honor, dignity and selflessness.
It is also antithetical to what America is all about. In fact, lifting up Crystal Griner is an excellent reason to celebrate the birthday of America this weekend. Don’t listen to outliers like professor Williams.
We live in one of the greatest political experiments ever. We hold it to be self-evident that Crystal Griner can be her own person and not have her full self limited by her status of birth, her skin color, her faith or her sexual orientation.
What Griner did this month wasn’t ironic. Do not objectify her by saying she betrayed her identity. It was a testament to her ability to selflessly and righteously do her duty.
For that we should all lift up Crystal Griner.
(Sherman Frederick is the publisher of the Sparks Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com.)