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American needs to rediscover tact

PETER O’CONNOR
Staff Columnist
oconnor@lbknews.com

DECLARATIONS, By Peggy Noonan  in The all Street Journal (Saturday/Sunday July 20-21,  2019)

“I want to kick away from the daily and get to something larger.

We are a nation of just under 330 million.  We have a lot of disputes, always have, argument is one of our traditions.  To make it all work, to keep this thing going, we have to give each other a little room, a little space.  We have so many different thoughts and ways.

We have to be easy with each other, not pick on each other all the time.

This requires tact, which sounds sissy and small-time but is not.  Tact takes brains and discipline.  It’s a form of empathy: You see the other guy is embarrassed or unhappy, and you decide to make it worse.  You hold back from causing unnecessary pain.  It is connected to graciousness: You let your foe up  easy.

In a great roiling democracy tact isn’t only desirable , it is necessary.  We don’t hold together as a nation  without it.

And we don’t value it at all.  We let  it slide down the hole of old habits.  Who teaches civic tact now?

What has taken its place in our political culture is a spirit of maximalism   –let’s rub their faces in it.  In New York six months ago it wasn’t enough to pass one of the most radical pro-abortion laws in land; you had to light up the World Trade Center and the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge in pink lights to celebrate.  So that even the skyline approves of what you did , You say that you do this because you are happy.  You do it to rub the opposition ‘s faces in it.

Before all that and most famously there was  ‘bake my cake.’  You’re not allowed simply to absorb the nation’s  changing ways; you have to become part of my wedding even if your faith prohibits this, and if you don’t , I’ll gather my friends  and kill your business.  Progressives cannot understand what a wound this is to conservative Christians, who were obeying the law but hoped not to be pushed around .

Nike makes a new sneaker they’re unveiling on July 4, and its got a Betsy Ross flag on it , but Colin Kaepernick, a bright and eccentric young man, declares that flag a racist symbol because we used to have slavery and now have unresolved racial problems. And Nike says:  What Colin says goes,  no flag sneaker for you, America!    Who’s worse, Mr. Kapernick or the corporate executives who give worldly success a bad name?  What does it matter?  They’re rubbing your face in it.

A respected journalist  now an editor but previously a Southern reporter, said to me(Ms. Noonan) that you couldn’t stand on a hill and look down on the kids and the police dogs and the fire hoses and not know whose side you were on.  Then this highly-secular man said, with real feeling: “You couldn’t see it and not know whose side Jesus was on.”

Why, more than 50 years later, are  Americans feeling blue on this issue?

For many reasons, but one has to do with a growing  attitude and assumption.  This was all said clearly in a small essay by an author unknown to me.  In the past , whether you were racist could be judged by your actions. You held ugly biases, you said or did things that were defiinitionally  discriminatory.  The bad news is that you were this way, but the good news is that you could change.  You could widen your lens, let some love in, say, think or do better things.  You could improve.  As you did, so would the nation.  So there was hope.  Which was pretty wonderful.  You could think, I will help establish full civil rights for all. You could commit yourself  and succeed.  You had agency.

Now the idea has taken hold that the charge of racism doesn’t derive from thoughts and actions , from what people say and do, but from who they are.  If you are white that accident of birth left you racist, and there is nothing you can do about it.  You’ve got white privilege.  You are unconsciously favored , and unconsciously assign disfavor.  Either way you’re guilty.  No action or word can turn this around.

So change is not possible; improvement will not happen.  There’s no way out.    This is demoralizing.  America can never become a better place if it isn’t allowed to think it can.  Who would encourage such thinking?  I’d say anyone who doesn’t really want racial progress.  And surely what they have in common  is an ignorance of the human heart. a

Tactlessness, and a refusal to look out for the whole.”

(I’ll take this as an ending for this week.  MS. Noonan called for the need for  an’ affirming flame’.  Indeed.  Perhaps  we’ll take that up for next week.  Thanks for your continuing attention.  P.O’C.)

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1 Response for “American needs to rediscover tact”

  1. L. Narvaez says:

    The FIRST step is to accept you are wrong in many of your views, unconsciously biased (white privilege, homophobia etc) IF you can accept this there is HOPE for the second step which is OPENING your heart to others who are different from you. The THIRD step is seeing yourself in their shoes.The FOURTH step is walking with them just like Jesus walked with every kind of sinner. You are as guilty of a lack of TACT as anyone else but you also have hope because you can always search your heart, ask for forgiveness and start again with Step one. Each and every day. Peace.

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