Let me be clear. I am no fan of Ann Coulter.
The right-wing firebrand disdains all forms of moderation in both tone and worldview, whether she is tweeting expletives about Jews or hailing Donald Trump’s immigration plan as a new Magna Carta. When it comes to discrediting the intellectual and moral integrity of conservatism, nobody does it better.
Even Ms. Coulter’s political mentor, arch-conservative David Horowitz, disavowed her for attempting to resurrect as a martyred crusader Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose self-serving campaign against communists real and imagined represents one of American history’s ugliest eras.
In his review of Ms. Coulter’s 2003 revisionist polemic, Treason, Mr. Horowitz wrote: “It is distressing when someone you admire gives credibility to liberal attacks. But that, unfortunately, is what this book has done.” His dismantling of Treason as a work of ideological irresponsibility only grows more damning from that point forward.
For my part, I’ve never gotten out of my head Ms. Coulter’s inexcusably cruel and utterly gratuitous swipe at Margot Kidder in a 2004 column about the controversy that eventually ended the career of CBS anchor Dan Rather. With neither context nor pretext, Ms. Coulter’s savaging of an admired actress struggling with bipolar disorder was even more contemptible that Donald Trump’s mocking of disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski.
So it may be simple karma that Ms. Coulter received as good as she dishes out at last weekend’s Comedy Central roast of actor Rob Lowe. Her mere presence on the dais apparently marked her as fair game, making her the target of more vicious barbs than the man-of-honor himself.
MY ENEMY’S ENEMY IS NOT MY FRIEND
But karma does not excuse the cast of notables who turned what should have been good-natured (if adolescent) banter into a lynching party. As guest of honor at a celebrity roast, Rob Lowe signed up for an evening of buffoonery. By accepting a place on the stage, Ms. Coulter had no reason to anticipate the need for wearing body armor.
But as the current presidential campaign has made so appallingly clear, civility is a vanished ideal in our boorish society. Expectations, standards, and codes of conduct are anachronisms lost in a culture that worships spectacle over sincerity, that enshrines caricature over character.
In the course of the evening’s event, a parade of would-be wits described Ms. Coulter as -- among other things -- an abortion, a ghoul, a scarecrow, and Adolf Hitler. It was also suggested that she should kill herself.
Does anybody wonder how the same ideologues who support militant political correctness in the media and on college campuses rationalize this kind of vitriol as acceptable entertainment? And is it any wonder that our politics have almost nothing to do with issues, policy, and fitness for office but revolve entirely around personality and personal prejudice?
THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS IS STILL EVIL
What we don’t need is more legislation criminalizing hate speech. What we do need is an electorate willing to take a stand against extremism from either side of the ideological divide. It shouldn’t matter whether invectives are thrown from the right or the left. If we the people don’t demand civility and integrity from our leaders, then we bear full responsibility for our culture descending into the mire. If we continue to support candidates who are unfit to hold office, then we have little hope of recovering any surviving kernel of national self-respect.
King Solomon says, The one who digs a pit will fall into it, and whoever rolls a stone -- it will roll back upon him.
Whether we call it karma or providence, the wheels of celestial justice can be counted on to return every force set in motion to its point of origin. But Solomon’s parable contains a much more pedestrian message: the way we engage the world around us fashions our world’s very nature. If we act towards others with animus and venom, then we create a culture of malice and malignancy in which we ourselves have to live.
So if we attack those with whom we disagree without regard for their human dignity, if we disparage others primarily because they reside outside our own ideological circle, then we leave ourselves open to the same kind of unprincipled attacks. And if we excuse individuals for their undisguised corruption and coarseness merely because others behave worse than they do, then we have no one to blame but ourselves when the electorate despairs of qualified leaders and supports increasingly unconscionable public officers.
There are times when we may be forced to choose the lesser of two evils. But when faced with two options inarguably beyond the pale, to compromise our core values for mere pragmatism is to infect our soles with the same corruption that we abhor.
Only if we hold ourselves to a higher standard can we hope for leaders who will help us return to civil conduct and noble values. And if not… well, we can see the consequences right before our eyes.