There are days I wake up and wonder how did we (as a nation and a culture) end up where we are? We seem to have lost any respect or tolerance for those who do not share our beliefs. Worse, we have developed a hypersensitivity to viewpoints we find politically incorrect. It seems this Land of Liberty has given birth to a license for incivility.
Case in point, free speech is under attack, no matter the topic, no matter the issue, no matter the age. If you cross the line, prepare to be mocked, ostracized, and shunned.
If there is one bright spot amongst this hysteria, it is a greater willingness to confront the truly offensive behavior of bullying. A recent CNN news report highlighted the experience of a young elementary student near Orlando, Florida. Fortunately, this particular episode had a happy ending.
His school decided to have a “Spirit Day” and encouraged students to wear the colors of their favorite sports/college team. In the land of Gators (Florida), Seminoles (Florida State) and Hurricanes (Miami), you might expect a sea of blue, garnet and green. However, this youngster happened to be a fan of the University of Tennessee. Unable to afford to buy a Volunteer logo’d shirt, he handmade a “U of T” paper logo and penned it to his only orange shirt.
Sadly, even elementary schools can be a harsh, intolerant environment. Excited to wear his orange shirt and handmade U of T logo, the young Vol fan’s enthusiasm proved fleeting. His teacher noted that after lunch on Spirit Day, the student returned to class, laid his head on his desk, and cried. Girls at a nearby lunch table had made fun of his shirt and his homespun attempt at designing a logo. The boy was devastated. The teacher, via Facebook, sought out any connections to the University of Tennessee because she, though an avid Seminole fan, still wanted to set things right.
Word got back to the Knoxville university, and the response was overwhelming. Several campus departments coordinated efforts and sent the boy and his class a “Volunteer Proud Pack” filled with posters, hats, shirts, water bottles and a plethora of Volunteer fan gear that would make any Rocky Top patron jealous.
The teacher reported that her students were ecstatic over the surprise package. Even better, the University of Tennessee decided to adopt the student’s handmade design and make it an official school shirt with a portion of the proceeds being donated to an anti-bullying non-profit organization. (See the picture at the TheBuddyBlog.com website.)
Now that’s class Vol Nation. Thanks for showing that one way to stare back at the evil of bullying is to overwhelm it with love and kindness, even if it comes with an orange hue. Makes this Georgia Tech grad want to hum Rocky Top. Well, not out loud of course, just in my mind.
Speaking of bullying, this story reminds me of a recent blatant example of the “I don’t agree with you, so let’s destroy your life” attitude so prevalent in today’s intolerant political atmosphere. Saying, “the public has a right to know,” Debra Messing, star of the 1990s sitcom, “Will and Grace,” recently demanded that a list be published of those attending a Beverly Hills Republican fundraiser later this month. Her former co-star, Eric McCormack, agreed and made his intentions clear once he had those names, … “so the rest of us can be clear about who we don’t wanna work with.”
In the world of social media, this kind of internet vigilantism is called “doxxing”, that is, the practice of broadcasting private information about people for the purpose of exposing them to harassment. This fear tactic has been used by folks on both sides of the political aisle. But it’s not really a new phenomenon.
There’s another word for this kind of vociferous intimidation. McCarthyism.
None other than liberal actress Whoopi Goldberg, one of the current panelists on ABC’s The View, said as much when she compared Messing’s comments to McCarthy’s Hollywood blacklist of the late 1940s and early 1950s. For once, I agree with Whoopi. Goldberg explained her position. “We had something called a blacklist and a lot of really good people were accused of stuff,”… “Nobody cared whether it was true or not. They were accused. And they lost their right to work. You don’t have the right! In this country, people can vote for who they want to. That is one of the great rights of this country.”
Kind of like wearing a Tennessee orange shirt in Florida, it may not be popular, but you should respect the right of a person to wear it.
Bullying, by whatever name you call it, was wrong in 1947 and it’s wrong in 2019. One should be free to vote, without fear, for whomever they choose, and for that matter, they should be free to wear whatever color shirt or hat they desire.
I hope Georgia Bulldog fans remember that the next time I wear my white hat and gold shirt to Athens, the land of the Red and Black.