Shameless. What else can be said about the stunningly crass, self-serving statements that pundit Ann Coulter made about the widows of 9/11 victims in her latest book “Godless: the Church of Liberalism.” This is not about the politics of the left or right, war or peace. This is about fundamental, essential respect for human dignity.
It’s also about selling her book. She’s making money by making vicious fun of other people’s trauma.
Why should I care so much about this? I don’t know the particular women whom Coulter named, but I do know women and families who suffered the worst possible kind of losses on September 11. Trinity alumnae and members of our extended family lost sons, husbands, relatives, teachers, children, friends on September 11. This all came home to me again just last Saturday as I spoke with an alumna at Reunion whose son died at the World Trade Center. The national tragedy of that day cannot begin to compare to the awful realities that individual families experienced. No amount of politics can possibly trump their sorrow. The response of all of us in the rest of the national family should be nothing other than the utmost compassion and solidarity.
I won’t dignify Coulter’s ugly words by repeating them here. They are readily available in various places on the Internet. What’s utterly sad is that certain mainstream media choose to glorify such venom. Time magazine recently anointed Coulter as a member of the 100 “Most Influential” people in the world. I bet we all could easily name 100 worthier people than Coulter, women and men whose good work has improved so many more lives than the wretched excesses of Coulter’s daggers have harmed. But good works don’t sell magazines.
One of the worst characteristics of contemporary public life is the tendency to a kind of radical absolutism on just about any topic, leaving no room for compromise, for mutual growth through open dialogue, for compassion — for forgiveness, yes, even the possibility of admitting error. A nation whose public discourse reveals an increasingly bankrupt human sensitivity cannot possibly bring peace to a troubled world. Responsible public leadership — not only political leaders, but leaders of the press, the broadcast media, corporate and civic life — should insist on restoring a level of human respect, proportion and common sense to public discussion of the profoundly difficult issues of our times.