By Ruth Gadebusch
What a sad state it is when so many seem to think they must be disagreeable when disagreeing. At this time, the focus is on the Fresno State professor who chose to make inappropriate remarks at a most inappropriate time. Of course, I refer to the tweet on the death of Barbara Bush by the English professor whom I refuse to name because she already has received far too much attention that she seems to thrive on.
Many, many of us deplore the actions of both Bush presidents but most especially that of the son; however, we can hardly blame Mrs. Bush for the actions of her husband on whom she might be expected to have some influence (influence, not control!) but hardly that of her son in taking us into a horrible military situation that exists still in the Middle East, especially with the fallout in Syria.
Anyone who has been a parent appreciates how we work to inculcate our values into our children while at the same time raising them to be independent thinkers. And, of how often, this latter produces something far different from what we expected. That is how society changes— sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Arguably, in the case of George Bush the younger, a terrible war not settled until this day.
We can hardly blame his mother who appears to be the stalwart independent progressive in the family. It would not be the first time when a mother’s values did not fully develop in a son, especially in our society where men are still too often expected to rule the roost all too often.
As for the Fresno State professor, yes, she does have freedom of speech, but that does not absolve her of responsibility. Responsibility includes her position, the method used, the actual words and the timing. She seems to put arrogance above all. Granted, her background has some justification in deploring the actions of George W. Bush; however, she need not be so deplorable in how she expresses her feelings. In attacking his mother for whom there is no indication of racism, she was totally out of order.
As a side note, racism is far too rampant in this nation to ignore but it serves no purpose to blame all with whom we disagree as racist. There are those, both dark skinned and otherwise, making every effort to overcome who do their best to make this nation the one we like to think we are. One can disagree with Barbara Bush but not make her a racist.
Equally out of order is much of the criticism now placed on this attention-seeking professor. Many are even more disagreeable than the original tweet. Their tone is just as bad and the judgment just as harsh, just as misplaced as that of the professor.
Then there are those who blame the entire university for the actions of one person. While the actions of any one employee in any organization reflect on the organization, the actions of a single person are not the whole.
Particularly in a university, free thinking is supposed to be a prime value. We would fervently hope that professors would especially take care in how they state their own principles, but they do not give up all rights. It definitely appears that this professor stated her views in a public forum designed more to inflame than in a reasonable way designed to generate free thinking with her students.
She accomplished her apparent purpose. She is on the front page of our daily newspaper as well as national media headlines. It has worked so well for the president of this nation, one can hardly blame her! The trouble is in so many situations it reinforces the negative instead of developing new thoughts and new methods on how to deal with the differences in this world.
It has been my experience in all too many situations that 100% agreement is required. At 90%, the cry can be you didn’t hear me. We desperately need some appreciation of compromise, an acceptance of other views. We can agree to accept our differences. We should attempt to persuade to our views but when we do so we must accept that the other person(s) has the same right to attempt to persuade us. Put in its most simple form: We can, we must disagree without being disagreeable.
Ruth Gadebusch is a veteran and community activist, a former member of the Fresno Unified School Board and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Civic Education