Last week, a brief moment in time captured much that has gone wrong with post-’60s liberalism and feminism.
Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers was testifying at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. At one point during his responses to questions posed by the committee chair, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the senator interrupted the general to admonish him about using the word “ma’am” when addressing her:
“You know, do me a favor,” Boxer said in an annoyed tone of voice. “Could you say ‘senator’ instead of ‘ma’am’? It’s just a thing; I worked so hard to get that title, so I’d appreciate it. Yes, thank you.”
“Yes, senator,” the humiliated general responded.
The oxygen was sucked out of the room by Sen. Boxer’s remarks.
It is hard to know where to begin in describing how reduced the U.S. Senate was at that moment. It is not due to differing politics that many in California are embarrassed to have Boxer as their senator; few Californians who differ from Sen. Dianne Feinstein are embarrassed by her.
To think that a body once called “the world’s most deliberative” was reduced to this juvenile level is to mourn for America. The immaturity of a U.S. senator needing to ask to always be responded to as “senator” rather than “ma’am” in an ongoing dialogue with someone – of equal stature, it should be noted – should be self-evident to anyone.
However, in case it is not, two arguments should make this clear.
First, people in the military are taught to call their superiors “ma’am” and “sir.” Thus, for example, a sergeant responding to a general will say, “Yes, sir,” to a male general and, “Yes, ma’am,” to a female general. Though not in the military, I always feel honored when a caller to my radio show calls me sir. And I always have renewed respect for the military for inculcating that respectful form of address into its members.
To object to being called sir or ma’am by anyone, especially a member of the military and especially a high-ranking member of the military is to betray an ignorance of the military and a tone deafness to civility that is appalling in anyone, especially a member of the United States Senate.
Second, and both more revealing and more instructive, is to understand how inconceivable it would be for a male senator to make such comments. Neither a Democrat nor Republican could imagine a male senator interrupting the testimony of a brigadier general to admonish him publicly, “You know, do me a favor. Could you say ‘senator’ instead of ‘sir’? It’s just a thing. I worked so hard to get that title, so I’d appreciate it.”
If a male senator had said that, he would rightly be regarded as insecure, narcissistic, arrogant and juvenile, which is precisely why no male senator would ever say such a thing: He would know that he would be the laughingstock of the U.S. Senate.
For example, every Obama press conference transcript I read included journalists calling President Obama “sir,” as was true for previous presidents. Can one imagine President Obama halting the conference to announce that because he had worked hard to earn the title, he expects never to be called “sir,” but only “president”? It is inconceivable. People would have thought he had lost his mind.
Why did Boxer fail to think that way?
The answer is not only because she happens to act foolishly and childishly. The reason is deeper. Liberalism has lowered expectations of behavior for everyone in America except white Christian heterosexual males. They are the only Americans from whom dignified and mature conduct is always expected. Liberals treat women, blacks, Hispanics, gays and many non-Christians with what is known as the soft bigotry of low expectations. Many liberal women, blacks, Hispanics and gays know that and use it to get away with conduct and speech that no WASP heterosexual male could. People rise or descend to the level of behavior expected of them.
That is why those 17 seconds in the U.S. Senate were so revealing and worthy of attention. They encapsulated the way in which modern liberalism has lowered the bar of civility for so many in America. And they revealed – yet another time – why this particular senator from California is an embarrassment to her colleagues, her state and the U.S. military. It was not, unfortunately, an embarrassment to Barbara Boxer.