By now, most of us are all aware of Rep. Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” outburst at President Obama during the president’s speech about health care reform to Congress. Wilson’s comment came at the moment when Obama promised that illegal immigrants would not be covered by his health care bill.
Among many who have attacked Wilson for his rude outburst, most notable is the criticism from former President Jimmy Carter, who remarked, “I think it’s based on racism. There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African American should not be president.”
We point out Carter’s comments because he is a white man who is making claims of racism. When a person of color makes this claim, it’s much easier to write him or her off as being overly sensitive and seeing racism where there is none. Carter’s comments shook up the nation, becoming a catalyst for debate that is still ongoing.
Though opinions are very polarized — either people strongly agree with Carter or vehemently disagree — there is also some intelligent discussion on this topic, which is good.
Though Wilson has since apologized to the president, saying his comments were “inappropriate and regrettable,” this kind of behavior has consequence and can be very damaging to his political career.
As shown in the past, voters typically don’t look kindly upon rude behavior. As cited in the Washington Post, Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia lost his seat in 2006 when he used an ethnic slur against one of his political opponents.
What is notable in Wilson’s case is that his actions may have even endeared him to some. There have been reports that Wilson has received $2 million in donations since the incident.
Whether Wilson’s outburst was based on racism or not — we cannot definitely know. However, whether one man was being racist or not does not really matter. What is more important is the American people’s reaction to his outburst. It’s troubling that so many people are lauding him for his ‘honesty.’
He was honest like a child is honest, and we teach children not to go around telling people they are ugly or stupid. However, above any perceived ‘honesty’ is consideration and respect toward another human being, especially in discourse.
In Wilson’s case, he was completely disrespectful to the president. He said something wildly inappropriate in the incorrect setting. He is facing consequences for his remark. His career may be over.
We should take a lesson from him and make it clear to everyone — especially our kids — that it’s perfectly fine to disagree with somebody, but do so in a way that is respectful and kind. That is the best way to learn from one another. ♦