After reading my blog on abortion, my sweet nephew, who has become quite religious, said he must confess to laughing in spots, but advised me to always be kind. There is no question that responding to the thoughts and ideas of others should be with kindness—even when we disagree. And disagreement shouldn’t necessarily end a relationship. We can still achieve camaraderie and sometimes even learn from each other, perhaps especially when we disagree. Our cancel culture seems to have lost site of the saying, ‘Let’s agree to disagree,’ which allows each to move on but stay in good standing with the other. There are exceptions, at least from my point of view. However, even with these exceptions, violence, or threats of violence should never be considered as a solution.
Perhaps we should put people into different categories to analyze the appropriate response to disagreements of intellectual discourse and opinion.1
- Family and friends: Definitely agree to disagree. This should be a no brainer. It’s inevitable that we will sometimes disagree with those who are close to us. If we threw away everyone we disagreed with, we’d most likely be quite lonely and deprived of interesting, stimulating conversations, and a chance to broaden our minds, even when not changing our outlook. Understanding why a person believes as he or she does can also help us see the world through someone else’s eyes and experiences, which in turn may potentially help us rectify various problems in society, and in our own lives. However, this is not meant to excuse abuse.
- Celebrities and the general public: Although this seems difficult at time, this should also be a no brainer. If we admire a celebrity for what he or she brings to our lives, i.e. books, films, music, art, etc. perhaps they should also get a pass when we disagree with their views for one important reason: Celebrities don’t control our lives. No one is forcing us to like everything a celebrity thinks, feels, or says. And no one is forcing us to conform to their point of view. We are all free agents, and that means we can take what we like and leave the rest. The best, or worse a celebrity can do is open a subject for discussion on a national or international scale. That in itself is sometimes invaluable. The public then has the right to share their own POV to create a dialogue. Twitter and other platforms opened the door wide to such discussions. However, again, this is not meant to excuse abuse.
- Politicians: One of my only two exceptions to the “let’s agree to disagree” rule, is with politicians and others who have power over our lives, and who wield that power in an abusive manner. Some of these people have the power to enact laws that can change the way hundreds of thousand, or even millions of us live, what we read, who we can marry, even whether we’ll be cared for when we get sick, or in our old age. They also have the power to wage wars, which not only effects millions of American lives, but the lives of millions of others around the world. The broken countries and millions of refugees—that no nation seems to want—is proof of the great damage politicians are capable of imposing on the world, and on our own citizens who must fight in those wars. The question is: Do politicians who display reprehensible behavior deserve a kind response? Equally important, will a kind response get through? I seriously doubt it, especially when money is involved, and their lucrative careers may be on the line. For some of these politicians, their level of either corruption ie. taking money from lobbying groups to push their agenda—which should be a crime—or their shear stupidity and cruelty, demonstrates that even strong words often have little chance of breaking through. Of course, not all politicians are so vile or without a conscience.
- Ghouls, i.e. conspiracy theorists who spread Disinformation: The other exceptions to the kindness rule are those who deliberately spread lies and disinformation in the guise of offering news and commentary, or as the NY Times called it: “lies for profit.”2 In my opinion, these ghouls who often feed on the tragedies and fears of others by distorting facts for the purpose of lining their own pockets, should be treated with the utmost disrespect, ridicule, and contempt. Alec Jones who “baselessly said in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, in which 26 adults and children were killed, that the incident was staged,” is one such despicable individual. Charlie Scudder of The Guardian wrote that Jones “has done more to further the cause of hate in the US than almost anyone.”3 Recently Jones was ordered to pay nearly $1 billion in damages to Sandy Hook victims families.4 The term ghoul also applies to Jones and others who spread disinformation about the Coronavirus, which endangered millions of lives, and potentially contributing to over one million US deaths.5
When we get to legislators, perhaps there should be a totally different standard when their statements are so far outside any reasonable standard of intelligent dialogue or behavior. That goes for Rep. Warren Davidson R-OH,6 Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill,7 and Sarah Huckabee Sanders,8 all of whom displayed a frightening lack of intelligence on the abortion issue, not because they were against abortion, but because of the way they expressed their views.
Add to the above, another vile politician who joined the fight on abortion rights. GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz recently claimed that “women protesting for reproductive rights are too unattractive to be impregnated…”9 Really? Are these really the best people to address this important subject? Are these the best people anti-abortion advocates can offer? Are these the best people we have to run our country? I seriously doubt that. Yet they are the voices we hear. Then there’s Ohio Republican “Senate candidate JD. Vance [who] thinks women should stay in violent and abusive relationships ‘for the children…’” even though “over half of female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by a current or former male intimate partner.”10 These politicians turn important life and death subjects into a dangerous joke.
To top off the sheer cruelty of some of our elected officials, a number of news outlets reported: “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was captured on video … fist-bumping Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) shortly after Republicans managed to block the PACT Act, which would allow soldiers, sailors and airmen exposed to pits of smoldering waste in combat zones to be covered by the Veterans Affairs health care system for linked illnesses. Many are suffering from cancer.”11
Imagine elected officials fist bumping to congratulate themselves for depriving those American men and women—who politicians stupidly sent to the battle fields of unnecessary invasions—the health care they need to combat injuries contracted from those unnecessary invasions, or from military sites here in the US. Those politicians deserve all the ridicule one can lavish on them, because it’s doubtful that a kind approach for this degree of stupidity, and even cruelty, could get through. No amount of ridicule would be sufficient to compensate Americans for the damage some of these elected officials have inflicted on the Americans they swore an oath to serve. Fortunately, on August 2, 2022, “the bill [known as the Pact Act] passed in the Senate …in an 86-11 vote”.12 Perhaps some of the ridicule heaped on Cruz and Daines helped turn around the vote.
After searching the internet for ‘Congress of whores,’ I found a book entitled Parliament of Whores,13 and an LA Times article entitled: “Anthony Weiner’s sins pale beside prostitution of Congress.”14 No. The article is not about soliciting sex, or Republican Representative from Florida, Matt Goetz’s alleged sex trafficking, for which he sought “a preemptive pardon to head off a Justice Department probe into his involvement.”15 It’s about: “our senators and representatives expending a significant amount of time and effort every week of the year soliciting campaign donations from lobbyists for corporations and other special interest groups and from fat cat donors who have interests of their own.”16
Ronald Reagan once noted: “It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.”17
So yes. Kindness is almost always preferable to ridicule. However, as noted, there are exceptions for those who rule our lives with policies and statements that should be beneath the dignity of the office they hold. These are the people we elected and pay good money to, to uphold the constitution, to keep us safe, and to secure our rights as Americans. There will always be different viewpoints in congress, just as there are in the general public. That’s to be expected. However, voting on important issues simply because one is a Democrat or a Republican is not what these people were hired to do. Nor were they hired to gerrymander districts to secure votes for their own party. Nor were they hired to support the criminal behavior of a person who has no regard for the constitution or his oath of office. And taking money from corporations and special interest groups to secure the agendas of those corporations and special interest groups, rather than the interests of the people they were hired to serve, should be considered a bribe, with criminal charges attached. That goes for conspiracy theorists also who endanger lives and confuse the public simply to line their pockets.
So, I agree with my sweet nephew when it comes to family, friends, and celebrities, and the general public. Kindness is the best approach when we disagree. And when there is a stalemate, we can agree to disagree, because they often share the same limitations as the rest of us. And celebrities can often open the door to important discussions.
They may also have experiences we know little or nothing about that colors their POV. It’s the old ‘walking in someone else’s shoes” metaphor. But most of all—unlike our elected officials—when it comes to family, friends, celebrities, and the general public, in most instances, their opinions hold no power over our lives.
- This does not include Extremists, or those whose ideologies result in criminal behavior or incitement to criminal behavior. Nor does it refer to verbal or physical abuse.
- Elizabeth Williamson, Lies for Profit: Can Sandy Hook Parents Shut Alex Jones Down? The New York Times. July 31, 2022. Updated Aug. 5, 2022.
- Charlie Scudder, ‘He has done more to further the cause of hate in the US than almost anyone’: the rise and fall of Alex Jones. The Guardian. August 8, 2022. Jim Vertuno, Alex Jones, his company worth up to $270 million. Associated Press. ABC News. August 05, 2022.
- The New York Times, October 12, 2022.
- Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count, dated August 5, 2022. 91,786,294 were reported with 1,029,108 deaths, more than in any other country. New York Times. For world figures see: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
- CNN Politics: https://apple.news/AJX1N09RhQR2qoHJakrugbg
- Becky Sullivan, A GOP congresswoman said the end of Roe is a ‘historic victory for white life’. NPR. June 26, 2022.
- Giulia Carbonaro, Sarah Huckabee Sanders Says Kids in Womb Will Be As Safe as Those in School. Newsweek. 6/27/22.
- Jake Thomas, Gaetz Defiant After Saying ‘Ugly’ Women Protest for Abortion: ‘Be Offended’. Newsweek. July 25, 2022.
- Aila Slisco. J.D. Vance Slammed for Suggesting Women Stay in Violent Marriages. Newsweek. July 25, 2022.
- Mary Papenfuss, Callous GOP Fist-Bump After Holding Up Aid For Burn-Pit Veterans Sparks Fury. Huffpost. July 30, 2022.
- Lauren Aratani, Jon Stewart celebrates after Senate passes bill to assist veterans exposed to toxins. The Guardian. August 3, 2022.
- P. J. O’Rourke, Andrew Ferguson (Forward), Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government. Grove Press (December 1, 2007).
- David Horsey. Anthony Weiner’s sins pale beside prostitution of Congress. Los Angeles Times. August 1, 2013.
- Jon Levine, Rep. Matt Gaetz sought pardon in sex trafficking probe: Report. New York Post. September 17, 2022.
- Kent Taylor, Prostitutes In Congress, Yes They’re Elected. Red State. December 27, 2009.
Thea Halo is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, Not Even My Name, a former news correspondent for WBAI in NYC, and a former producer for public radio in upstate NY. Not Even My Name was instrumental in garnering the first state-level resolutions in the U.S. that recognized the genocide of the Pontian and other Asia Minor Greeks and Assyrians. She was a co-sponsor and driving force, along with Prof. Adam Jones, of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) resolution that affirmed the Ottoman Genocides of Pontian and other Asia Minor Greeks and Assyrians as comparable to the genocide of the Armenians. She has also published a collection of poetry, and a number of Thea’s historical papers on the Genocides of Greeks and Assyrians have been published in books on the Ottoman Genocides. In 2009, Thea, along with her mother, Sano Halo, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 105, were awarded honorary Greek citizenship by the Greek government. In 2002, Thea was awarded the AHEPA Homer Award and, in 2012, the Association of Greek American Professional Women honored Thea and Sano for their “Profound contribution to Literature and to Hellenic Cultural Heritage and History.” Thea has also won numerous awards for her poetry and literary essays.