I take it back. A few months ago, I had nothing but praise for Dr. Ben Carson and his call for intellectual diligence. He spoke at the annual Christian Fellowship Breakfast, where, in front of President Barack Obama and others from Capitol Hill, he called for disagreements between the right and left to be done in an atmosphere unfettered by fear of reprisal, for Congress to be intellectually rigorous in the debates and for all to treat one another civilly.
In my commentary, I endorsed the good works of the foundation that Carson and his wife started in support of students who excel in academics and who also have a commitment to service. I still applaud them for those efforts.
But I take back all my other praise and assessment of what Ben Carson said on that day last year. What a difference a day (year) makes. I take it all back after hearing what Carson said in a press conference last week, for all the world to hear: that “Obamacare” was worse than slavery. Just what is it about that statement that makes me see red?
Everyone has the right to disagree with an idea or opposing political positions. I have endorsed that principle with every particle of my being. Carson endorsed that very notion just a year ago and he has crossed his own line.
No one is allowed to shout “fire” in a crowded theater when there is none. It provokes panic and will endanger lives. That inflammatory outburst is punishable under the law.
One can also be punished, if only by social shunning, if one calls out in anger and threatens someone by using the N-word or using the derogatory term for the female privates.
And, no, you should not call someone a racist if he or she has no power to make or execute laws that will deny you any of your rights, based on race.
Words have power. And they hurt. Their usage is subject to the application of our laws and laws governing civility are of the highest order.
In our society, references to slavery and the Holocaust are fighting words for two very special and, oftentimes, protected groups: the descendants of western slavery as practiced in America and the survivors of the Nazi scheme to annihilate the Jews in Europe.
In choosing that analogy to slavery, Carson violated some precious, established rules of engagement. More importantly, he effectively ruined his chance to continue promoting his platform in an atmorphere of calm and reason. He screamed “fire” and I, for one, am running away from him as fast as I can to avoid any additional injury.
Carson is currently described as a retired neurosurgeon. He has built a wonderful brand, up to now, and I think he needs to go back to the lessons his mother taught him when they were living in abject poverty and he was the dunce of the class: Do your best.
His current platform is unworthy of his achievements and his renown for groundbreaking pediatric neurosurgery. What happened to you, Ben? He has obviously picked his side in the current war of the rightists, leftists and the centrists around the issues facing America today.
So what is fair in this war for the moral center of this country? People seem to be afraid of everything these days: losing their right to bear arms and thus forming little militias in their homes with arsenals worthy of a small country; divided in their positions on a woman’s right to their own bodies versus the rights of unborn yet and still neglecting babies
living in poverty; casting aspersions and suspicion toward foreign-born “others” while struggling to define who a real American is or is not; creating “academies” and running away from the public school systems.
The list is long and the growing fears are paralyzing us. Fear-based politics dominates and, instead of helping, Carson has become sullied with the dirty rhetoric of the day. He has adopted a new manner of calling names and slinging slurs and slander. What’s next? It’s a slippery slope.
Our Congressional representatives seem to have lost their ability to legislate. There is no debate, in the classical sense. Congress has devolved into a chamber of insults, thrusting spears and exchanging provocations across the aisles, mimicking less advanced “tribes.”
Is this where Ben Carson is going? Is this where the brilliant doctor aspires to be elected, to join the cohort of jeering jesters in Washington?
I say wait for the announcement for his run for office as a tea party candidate. If so, I’ll just put on my raincoat and a pair of thigh-high boots, as well. I will be listening and I will be taking notes while sloshing around the ongoing invectives, low blows, insults and downright uncivil drippings from so many wagging and forked tongues.
Where will you be? Have you chosen your side?
Antonia Williams-Gary may be reached at Toniwg1@gmail.com