“My brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life.”
For the first time in the nine minutes of a speech eulogizing his older brother Robert - the third older brother that had been killed too young, Senator Ted Kennedy’s voice began to waver with grief.
He regained his composure and delivered the next line which he could speak with genuine belief. “But to be remembered simply as a good and decent man who saw wrong and tried to right it, suffering and tried to heal it, war and tried to stop it.”
Be remembered simply as good and decent.
This has been my mission for a decade since I first read Evan Thomas’ wonderful biography on Robert Kennedy in 2011 and discovered the eulogy.
While wondering out loud what I should write about for this column, my wife suggested Simone Biles’ exit from the Olympic Games due to mental health. I reminded her I like to keep the focus on local issues to which she retorted with the confidence of knowing she had already won the argument, “you don’t think mental health is a local issue?”
I don’t know much about the county’s mental health services, however, but the reactions to Biles’ decision to end her competition was a polarizing move.
I had read a tweet from sports podcast host Pat McAfee, a former NFL punter and WWE commentator who has a reputation for an unapologetic take on a range of issues, earlier that morning. He wrote in support of Biles, something his audience instantly disagreed with in the replies, usually using some form of the phrase that she can’t be the greatest of all time if she quit on her team.
One of these tweets came from an account that unironically had a profile picture featuring Michael Jordan, who is considered by most to be the greatest basketball player of all time despite quitting his team twice.
Matt Walsh of the Daily Wire publicly argued the quitting side of the debate. The Daily Wire, a conservative media outlet started by Ben Shapiro, was the topic of a NPR feature story last week that showed data the Daily Wire gets more social media engagement than the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN combined and suggested this is because the Daily Wire is able to make conservative ideology indistinguishable from outrage.
In some circles of the conservative movement, outward displays of anger appear to be the social currency with a few falsely equating their bravado to value. This is likely why Walsh had taken his position. But the two don’t have to be intertwined. Congressman Dan Crenshaw, a conservative hardliner whose district is a suburb of Houston near where Biles is from, tweeted his support for her move as well recognizing the way she previously represented the country.
Crenshaw’s words may have surprised some but it wouldn’t to those who know conservatives tend to be prematurely dismissed as anti-intellectual or incapable of reasoned thought, and despite a troubling recent trend toward anti-intellectualism, this hasn’t been true throughout history.
Yet there’s no denying the effectiveness of outrage. If I wanted to make the Concurrent as successful as possible, I should trigger anger in every column, podcast and social media post. But the Concurrent doesn’t want to perpetuate a news cycle of what to get mad about today; we want to provide understanding for complicated issues.
At the commission meeting on Tuesday, Commissioner Holly Davis said, “we have been cheap in this county for too long” to advocate for keeping the millage rate the same, which Commissioner Ron Kitchen pointed out would effectively be raising taxes since property values rose (it is worth noting that even under the adopted rollback, most residents’ taxes will still rise.)
It’s comments like these that would be easy to incite anger over. The only thing a person wants less than to be called cheap is for their taxes to rise to prove they're not.
The purpose of the Concurrent will be to advocate against proposals such as that one for a static millage rate, which ended up failing as the rollback rate was approved 3-2 with Commissioners Davis and Schlabach in dissent.
It’s impossible to please everyone, and on some issues when there can be only one way forward then battlelines will be drawn, but it is our goal to search for understanding over anger, to be thought-provoking rather than divisive and to be remembered simply as good and decent.