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Christine Flowers: When we officially abandon civil discourse

October 9, 2018

Hoping that a child will be raped is the vilest thought that can be formed in the civilized brain. There is no “larger picture,” no justification, no explanatory context. Unfortunately, it’s no longer out of bounds in social discourse.

Recently, I came across a public posting on Facebook, which means the author wanted the world to have access to her thoughts. It was a jeremiad against Donald Trump, which is unexceptional these days, since he seems to turn certain people into human volcanoes that spew rivers of hateful prose. I avoid them when I see them scroll through my Facebook news feed.

But this one caught my attention because I love children, spend a lot of time with them, and used to teach them. I also represent them in immigration court, like the little girl whose hand I held as she told the judge the other day that she was from Honduras, and that she was 5, and that pink was her favorite color.

So when I saw these words, I froze:

“Time to burn everything to the [expletive] ground, when it comes to this vile, non-human garbage who by stealing and cheating ended up in the White House. Are we going to take as any kind of truth an ‘investigation’ that isn’t one? Are we going to take his a–hole supporters who say ‘lock her up’ to Dr. Ford? I’m a good and nice person, a peace-loving person but let every one of them and their sons and daughters get raped, accosted by one of those ‘boys will be boys.’ “

It went on. I reported the post to Facebook, and as of this writing, it’s still there. That’s Mark Zuckerberg’s problem now, because I’ve blocked the poster. But it was important for me to not simply shake my head as I used to do and move on, narrowing my group of friends to those with whom I could share photos of my sweet black Labs and funny anecdotes from my family along with political essays and ruminations. I’ve resigned myself, ruefully, to the realization that this political and social climate is choosing for me, without my permission, the comfortable echo chamber, where even though I hear kindred thoughts, I miss some of the kindred spirits who didn’t share them. In other words, I am becoming increasingly isolated from liberal ideas because it is much harder these days to have a civil conversation.

And yet I have very good, very decent, liberal friends, like Robin and Donna, Jennie and David, John and Victor, who would never in a million years write about the rape of children in the same breath as they wish death on a president they can’t stand. They make me realize that this is not a partisan disease, even though many of my conservative friends urge me to see “the other side” as the enemy.

I have to admit that these past two weeks, the “other side” has been Dixie to my Union, the Axis powers to my Allies, guillotine-wielding Jacobins to my aristocracy. The Democrats, for whom I have vowed to never again cast a vote, have morphed into a caricature of their former selves in their duplicitous crusade to destroy a man and his reputation. I see nothing there that reminds me of the party I belonged to for 37 years. But that is political, and I understand that there are just as many Democrats and liberals who read my words defending Brett Kavanaugh last week and felt the same revulsion for me that I feel for the despicable assault on the judge.

I would sincerely hope that even they, disgusted with our president and with the people he has chosen to represent him in the cabinet and now on the court, would recoil from the suggestion that my hypothetical children and the children of Kavanaugh supporters should be raped.

You might say that this is anger speaking, and of course it is. But the appropriate place for that anger to burn is in the deep and quiet recesses of the mind, hidden from view. That we have now reached the point that assaulted children are considered appropriate conversational tender sterilizes the soul and induces a nausea that can’t be eliminated by blocking the person who dares to write the words.

And not even the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice will make it better.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at cflowers1961@gmail.com.

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