Not to say that nobody spoke to the issues of personal responsibility and social accountability. Many did. But many were also indifferent to this young woman’s willingness to barbarize someone she disagreed with, and to top it off, they somehow viewed her attitude and actions as noble – as if the ends justify the means to such an extent that it is right and good for someone to use any means allowed by law in every situation. So, since Americans enjoy freedom of speech, words can be used in any combination so long as the goal is a desirable one (in someone’s estimation). In this case, the goal was apparently conveying her dislike of the Governor to at least the 60 or so people currently following her online via Twitter, if not whoever else may decide to check her Twitter account out.
It is not helpful, or healthy, for people to begin making it socially acceptable to verbally assault others simply because they disagree with them. And for a high school student to be told it is within her right to denigrate the office of the Governor, and indeed, the entire political process through hurtful and disrespectful words, while technically, legally permissible, is most definitely not beneficial to the fabric of society. I know, “She’s only one kid,” you say. You know, you can take a sleeve right off an expensive suit by recklessly handling one thread – ruins the whole suit. Obviously, given the numerous supportive and or dismissive comments that accompanied the online articles, there are many, many households making the same mistakes as young Emma Sullivan’s mom: “It's more attention grabbing. I raised my kids to be independent, to be strong, to be free thinkers. If she wants to tweet her opinion about Gov. Brownback, I say for her to go for it and I stand totally behind her.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/27/emma-sullivan-apology-sam-brownback-tweet_n_1115382.html).
Do we have a “right” to treat each other harshly? Hmmmm. Who gives us such a right? Are we able to treat each other harshly? Absolutely. Emma’s tweets and many of the online comments in response to them prove that. Is it right to do so? Not so sure.
You see, a society is not built on, or held together by, “independent,” “free thinkers.” It built on interdependent, good thinkers that cooperatively, constructively, and often compromisingly find a way to graciously do life together.
Too many are conveying a cultural mindset that hovers at the border of what might be considered social pathology – a pure lack of regard for social norms and mores: “So what if what I said was hurtful or disrespectful. I have a right to feel how I feel.” How long can a society honestly hold together if each individual is only concerned with addressing and expressing how they feel with no regard for how anyone else in the room feels?
Understandably, we are a young nation – merely 230 years old. Of those 230 years, the rise of the adolescent as an entertainment vampire and source of economic empire is only about 60 years in the making. In our infancy, we had the parentage of our European ancestry to hold the seat once we kicked off the training wheels. Well, somewhere along the way we decided it was time to shrug Father Western Civilization off and try to ride like a big boy or girl. Maybe it’s just time for us as a people –a nation – to grow up, just like young Emma Sullivan needs to grow up, and behave like responsible, adult members of society?