Crenshaw talks about taking the diss out of disagreements

Elizabeth Howe
November 14, 2018 - 11:50 am

Photo courtesy of Crenshaw/Dreamstime

“Was I really outraged by SNL? Really offended? Or did I just think the comment about losing my eye was offensive? There is a difference, after all. I have been literally shot at before, and I wasn’t outraged. Why start now?”

In a recent Washington Post opinion piece, former Navy SEAL and representative-elect Dan Crenshaw explained how he felt after waking up Sunday morning to find hundreds of texts from friends and colleagues displeased by Pete Davidson's SNL joke.

"A lot of America wasn't happy. People thought some lines still shouldn't be crossed," Crenshaw wrote. "But I also could not help but note that this was another chapter in a phenomenon that has taken complete control of the national discourse: outrage culture."

Outrage culture, Crenshaw writes, is about punishing every "not-so-carefully-worded public misstep" "to the fullest extent." It's about "soapbox lectures" and "demands for apologies." And Crenshaw believes that the "generally unoffended" American population must be super tired of this culture.

"So I didn’t demand an apology and I didn’t call for anyone to be fired. That doesn’t mean the 'war . . . or whatever' line was acceptable, but I didn’t have to fan the flames of outrage, either..."

Thus, Crenshaw uses his experience with Saturday Night Live to show us how we can disagree with each other without screaming for apologies from our high horses or resorting to playground-style name-calling.

“For starters, let’s agree that the ideas are fair game. If you think my idea is awful, you should say as much. But there is a difference between attacking an idea and attacking the person behind that idea. Labeling someone as an '-ist' who believes in an '-ism' because of the person’s policy preference is just a shortcut to playground-style name-calling, cloaked in political terminology. It’s also generally a good indication that the attacker doesn’t have a solid argument and needs a way to end debate before it has even begun.”

Crenshaw appeared on SNL with Pete Davidson over Veterans Day weekend — reluctantly at first, but reassured that it would be an opportunity to "send a message of unity, forgiveness and appreciation for veterans. And to make fun of Pete Davidson, of course."

And far from preaching rainbows and unicorns, Crenshaw understands that the outcome of this specific situation isn't the beginning of a bipartisan utopia — "there are many ideas that we will never agree on" — but maybe it's a good example of how to "work toward restoring civility to public debate."

Read Crenshaw's full op-ed here.