Driving this a.m., the radio is filled with discussions about the incident on a JetBlue plane last evening, in which a passenger verbally confronted Ivanka Trump. Both the man who complained to Ivanka Trump that her father was ruining the country, and Ms. Trump herself, were travelling with their children. The radio callers seem to concur that this type of behavior was rude at best, and many seem quite appalled. The majority seem to share the sentiment that it is unfair and inappropriate to harass a mother in front of her child.
There are several issues that are nagging at me as both pundits and the public weigh in. First, I too, am appalled when adults engage in rude, aggressive, or inappropriate behavior in front of children. We are, whether we like it or not, role models, and our children cannot learn respect if we don't exhibit it. They cannot learn restraint if we don't control our impulses. They cannot grow to be responsible and caring beings if we don't show them how, through our actions.
The bad examples of adult behavior and particularly of respectful discourse, did not begin on a plane last evening. This political season provided too many brutish remarks, too much infantile tantrumming, too frequent use of verbal barbs that wounded and demeaned. In the twitter-verse, and on TV and radio, politicians, celebrities and athletes, are providing way too many examples of language that is crass at best, and not at all an exemplar of civil comment or conversation. We need to show our children that disagreement need not be expressed in a disgusting manner, that our democracy, and our humanity, require that every voice be heard. And we need our children to hear that our voices, whether we are speaking to friends, or enemies are reasoned, reasonable, and well-mannered.
Of course, that the most recent example of a breach of civil discourse occurred in front of young witnesses makes it particularly disconcerting. However, I believe it is important for us to acknowledge that bad behavior is bad, regardless of to whom it is directed, or who witnesses its occurrence. I have a similar concern when I read institutional or company policies that express zero tolerance for abuse of others based on gender, religion, race, sexual preference, and other factors. Certainly, it is critically important that those individuals and groups vulnerable to abuse be specifically protected. I hope, however, that we realize that abuse of anyone, whether vulnerable or not, is heinous. So when radio listeners are incensed that a mother was verbally harassed in front of her child, I hope they recognize, that no one deserves being verbally harassed.
Last night's snipes on a plane are, unfortunately, not an isolated incident. Many are struggling with doubt, real and significant pain, anxiety, passion, and have powerful beliefs that they are searching for the vehicle and means to express. In no way am I suggesting that we quiet ourselves, or relinquish our voices. Rather, I choose to believe that we can be grown-ups, and we can stand up for our beliefs, defend those who need it, criticize those who do wrong, all in a way that demonstrates our understanding that words have power, and we will wield that power with care and wisdom.