The Adults Are Not Alright
If kids behaved the way our public figures do, they’d be kicked out of school and sent to a therapist.
I don’t believe in cynicism. I believe it is courageous to be optimistic but some days it is truly a challenge. I woke up this morning to a clip of Dr. Anthony Fauci reacting to a Fox News personality saying Dr. Fauci should be given a “kill shot.” I don’t understand how this is allowed. How is it permissible for someone to use that language on national television and not get fired? I don’t know which part of me finds this most egregious, the part that is a former public health professional myself, or the part of me that is a writer, a citizen, or a mother. But I do know. I am most aggrieved as a mother by the deeply disturbing behavior I see adults display day after day after day.
As a mom of three, I don’t have the luxury of raising my arms and shrugging as a man calls for a “kill shot” of another person, an appointed public health professional, no less. I cannot turn the other way when congresspeople post pictures of their children holding guns on social media — in the aftermath of a horrific shooting where teenagers, the same age as my teenager, were brutally gunned down. I can’t pretend I didn’t grow up in Parkland or that someone from my high school class didn’t lose her daughter in the MSD shooting. I can’t avert my eyes as congresspeople bully others in the hallways or in elevators, or as the former President of the United States tells the people storming the Capitol that they are good people and he loves them — while his supporters defend him, deny the truth, lie, refuse to cooperate with investigations, or simply applaud.
As tired and dispirited as I get, I cannot afford outrage-fatigue. I have three kids about to launch into adulthood. I can’t turn off the news or start streaming the latest movie on Netflix. I force myself to pay attention even when I desperately want to tune out.
I often wonder how many public figures, adult men and women, seem not to know basic rules of appropriate behavior that most children know? Most kids know that posting images of themselves holding guns on social media can get them suspended. They know that posting an animated video hitting or killing another student or a teacher can get them expelled. Most kids know they cannot refuse to report to the principal’s office to answer questions about their behavior because they don’t want to or because they don’t think the principal has the right to ask. Kids know that bullying and name calling is not okay and that, if they do it, there will be disciplinary consequences. They know that bigotry is not tolerated, like, for example, calling other kids a “Jihad Squad.” If kids behaved the way adult public figures do, they’d be kicked out of school and sent to a therapist.
So why is it that when adults display crude behavior they often do not get fired, kicked out of office or censured? In fact, many get elected, re-elected, given a pay raise, and named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year. It’s outrageous.
I am not sure when adults forgot that lying, name calling, and exhorting others to violence must not be tolerated. Or that there is no place for racist, sexist, antisemitic, anti-gay hate speech. Or that there is a difference between having differences and displaying a complete lack of decorum. Hasn’t history taught us that dangerous language has dangerous consequences? I guess not everyone got the memo.
I keep making coffee and the kids keep going to school and my husband keeps going to work and the dog keeps barking. But I force myself to muster the optimism to continue to be outraged. Regardless of how anybody feels about Dr. Fauci, we can’t function in a society where it’s permissible to exhort people to kill shots or ambushes, literally or not. I am not saying this because I am a Dr. Fauci fan, although I am. I am saying this because I am a mother. We cannot afford to shrug and say, “The world has gone mad.” Our kids are inheriting this world. They deserve our support. They deserve our optimism. They deserve our outrage.