I wrote a column for this, the April issue of The Working Waterfront, a column about the absence of meaningful political discourse, particularly among elected representatives, the people we expect will indulge in such deliberation on our behalf.
The column contained this:
“I was expected to cultivate and sustain a deep respect for my fellow human beings, for women in particular, and to avoid crude behavior or language. It seems kind of corny today, given the fashionable deployment of such behavior and language and, in some ever-widening circles, equally old-fashioned to show any deference to women.
“It’s hard to believe none of that matters much anymore and I’m glad my parents and grandparents are no longer with us, that they died before political discourse and constructive dialogue faded in favor of obscenities, ridicule, or mindless obstructionism.”
I’d have liked to have it published because, beyond being timely—a true representation of what we witness day after day, in Congress particularly—it’s an accurate portrayal of behavior that troubles me.
I’m not going to defend myself. That would be irrelevant because the truth is that some readers found it offensive and sexist…
Instead, and quite ironically, I find myself prompted to apologize for having offended some readers with my earlier (February/March) column wherein I described a situation that appeared to them to entirely contradict much of what I claim above to find offensive and, similarly, my claim to harbor a deep respect for women.
I’m not going to defend myself. That would be irrelevant because the truth is that some readers found it offensive and sexist, and perception is all that’s required. I apologize. I will, however, explain myself.
When my family and I were vacationing in Florida 30 or so years ago, I found myself watching a nearby middle-aged man pretty clearly trying to insinuate himself into a group of young women. I decided it could be a funny account of man’s (some men’s) ego deflating in the face of reality but then thought it would be even funnier if I exercised my literary license to tell the story in the first person, ascribing his behavior to myself instead of simply writing a column that made fun of someone else, which I find a little off-putting.
When it was published, long ago, readers wrote to say they thought it was hilarious.
So here we are today, the column having been published for the second time and ironically, several have criticized the column contradicting, this time, my claim above that crude behavior or language no longer matters to anyone. Clearly, it matters to some, and we heard from them this week.
I cringe when bad language is used, particularly in mixed company. I cringe, too, when conversational fun is had at the expense of others, particularly women, or when any kind of unpleasantness is enjoyed at the expense of that half of us that I’ve come to admire.
l nearly always rejoice whenever another leadership position is taken by a woman, knowing we are that much closer to equity and equanimity.
Harboring that mentality and claiming to stand for civil behavior and respect for one another, I still wrote a column that others found offensive. I’ll take my increased sensitivity and awareness with me as I continue to write and apologize to those I’ve offended.
Phil Crossman lives on Vinalhaven, where he serves on the town select board.