Gary Horton | It’s Time to Try a Little Tenderness

Gary Horton

A few datapoints:

Christy Smith posted online a copy of an insulting, crass, vile and expletive-laden rant, which an opposite candidate-supporter had stuck on Christy’s Facebook campaign page. Not directed at any of Christy’s positions, this juvenile, hateful comment attacked with inciteful, profane name calling. 

Now, anyone who knows Christy Smith knows she’s a very nice, well-experienced, solid representative and all-around good member of our community. If you met her in the grocery store you’d be happy to meet her. That she deserved any of the attack is ridiculous on its face. 

And yet, as so often in social media, discussion and debate are excluded in favor of lewd hit-jobs and personal attacks. This is not the way to run a democracy… It’s the way to ruin one.

Meanwhile, we read of increasingly common abuse of our “essential workers” – who, often while working for minimum wages or close to – have been abused by customers and clients not wanting to abide by face mask rules and social distancing requirements. One local provider explained that, by health code requirements backed by increased county inspections, he must enforce these rules in his establishment or face a real prospect of high fines and closure. A customer had abused a young clerk in his establishment, and it took him personally to calm the situation and cause the customer to leave.

Hey, no one likes this whole COVID thing. No one likes the masks or all the inconveniences we’re currently experiencing. And we all have our own opinions about the speed at which our community and state should “reopen.” Still, as community members, (that is, people supporting other people around us) – respect for service providers should rightfully be higher than ever – not less. Everyone is stressed. Can we recognize this with increased civility? Or has the practice of social media hit jobs spilled over into the real world, further decaying our bonds and connections?

Last week, arch-conservative and frequent Signal contributor Betty Arenson wrote a mostly excellent column explaining that our COVID response and now, reopening, is no one-size-fits-all situation. Her thoughtful example of “the woman who discovered a lump in her breast two months ago and cannot see her doctor or get a biopsy – or the man who was told to make an appointment for chemotherapy but learned he could not, and the decrepit person in constant pain who cannot get the scheduled hip replacement” – all prove the point that we’re overlooking great need in our society while focusing on just one thing and one thing alone.

While I didn’t agree with her inferred “call to rebellion” conclusion, Betty did rightfully expose that, unless our leaders recognize the need to much more fairly balance “essential businesses” and available medical services, and the need for folks to keep jobs and keep working, indeed, large portions of society will reject obedience and turn their own way… either with groups stoked up and social media rah-rah, or individually act as they see fit.

Betty is right: We need to get to a balance, and fast. And here’s an area where left meets right and where Betty and I agree. We need to spread our compassion for human needs much more widely – and quickly.

All of these three “data points” point to a similar conclusion. We’ve got to “try a little tenderness.” Especially when we disagree…

We need to replace knee-jerk social media posts with thoughtful and respectful dialogue. 

Our respect for workers and providers around us should be far elevated rather than compromised under these trying times

And we should pause to consider the plight of so many of us (and many have it far worse than us) – with greater empathy. We all are in this together, but at different levels of sacrifice and suffering. Understanding that, and responding appropriately to those difference, will make for happier outcomes for us all.

We’re tired of all this COVID-19 stuff. We’re weary of the running-toll case and death count. We’re frustrated. Some have “had it just about up to here…” Some are running out of money. Some already did. We’re becoming a tinderbox and we could explode – as some parts of the country already have.

Please, instead, let’s de-escalate. Let’s try a little tenderness. Let’s communicate. Let’s work together to bring the SCV out of our COVID-19 crisis back to a happier, fully functioning community. 

And who knows? Maybe when the dust settles, we’ll be better friends, better neighbors, and more respectful citizens? Wouldn’t that be a nice side effect of COVID-19?

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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