Here we have two gentlemen: Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, and Wayne La Pierre, Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association. One has garnered national attention for making idiotic racist demands to a girlfriend, the other has garnered national attention for touting America’s strength and goodness through fearfulness – and guns. One, I have little respect for, and one shills for the NRA and Second Amendment absolutism, even though he can’t even admit it to himself. Sterling has notoriously run one of the worst sports franchises in any sport and La Pierre fails to concede that more guns only means more guns, not solutions to gun violence; yet I don’t believe LaPierre cares about such things.
Then I saw pictures of the two men today, one in a news photo, the other from a video. How alike they look. Their faces are eerily similar. The hair is combed in like fashion, the wire-rimmed glasses nearly identical. But their eyes… their eyes have this look of emptiness that comes with age, I suppose, for their faces bear the burden of age. I don’t know these men – no one really could – but I do feel that I wouldn’t want to be either one of them. They look like tired old white men.
While the lucidity of Sterling’s comments is up for some debate, it had to come from somewhere. I mean, how confused do you have to be for the inanity of his rant? But it comes down to this age of where some people in the hot glare of the public spotlight feel compelled to say whatever their inner voice tells them without regard of consequences. It’s tough living in a world where your moronic pontificating or your drunken diatribes can be recorded or videoed for all the world to see and hear. Right, Newt Gingrich, you beacon of morality? Right, Cliven Bundy, you cornpone philosopher of egalitarianism? Sometimes, it’s just better to shut up. But it’s too hard for people in the public arena to resist ginning up the base even though it’s a pyrrhic endeavor. By Mr. LaPierre’s logic, Chicago, the poster child for the gun lobby’s push for more guns everywhere, should be the safest place in the world because there are guns all over. But it’s not and more guns wouldn’t change that.
The problem that LaPierre and Bundy and Sterling share is a lack of respect for those who are not like them. This problem infects and festers in every facet of public discourse, whether it’s politicians feeding red meat to their constituents, media outlets grasping at ratings, bigots calling into question the citizenship of the president – still! – among other things, school boards trying to hammer in Christianity in the classroom by calling Creationism “science”, or something as rancid as trolls and nincompoops in social media. There comes a point where the nonsense has to stop and keeping that inner voice to oneself is not only good manners, it is vital to the good health of this country.
And I wonder if anyone really cares about that anymore.