2015-07-30 / Opinion

Bold Words, Questionable Leadership

To the Editor:

In the July 23 issue of Newport This Week, Mr. Cicilline updated us on the Newport Democratic City Committee’s actions in the wake of the Charleston, S.C., church murders. He highlighted their “not going to take it anymore” approach to all forms of discrimination, including voicing displeasure whenever racially offensive jokes or language is uttered in their presence. While I support their necessary stance on discrimination, I cannot applaud the timeliness of their public “call to action” and have serious questions about their leadership.

Too often, particularly in America, we are reactive in nature. A tragedy strikes, and we react with a bevy of emotion, big speeches and miraculous bipartisan agreement. These actions should not be confused for leadership. The discriminatory behavior admonished by the NDCC existed long before a lone gunman went on a racially-motivated rampage. Did his actions on that terrible day worsen the impurity of discrimination? I should hope not. Leadership involves taking a pro-active, uncompromising stance before events such as these unfold, not after. Anyone can speak in moral tones and in the loudest of voices after an egregious act. Leadership means demonstrating the ability to speak just as rightly and loudly when the masses are quiet.

The NDCC’s letter danced around a few other subjects worthy of comment. The majority of whites, which is more than can be said for other, more left-leaning racial groups, support gay marriage. Gays represent a group Americans believe to suffer the most discrimination, according to recent Pew research polling. It goes without saying (I hope) that the vast majority of whites also despise discriminatory behavior. And yet the NDCC suggested the whites are the “slackers” in our societal quest to end discrimination. Discrimination cuts through all races, creeds and sexual orientation. Does the NDCC plan on voicing their displeasure over the use of the “N” word by an African-American, or the Boston University professor who said that white males are the “problem population”? No one group has ownership of this unfortunate pollution of the mind, and no one group has sole responsibility for solving it — we all do. Leaders don’t discriminate when it comes to right and wrong.

Mr. Cicilline also condemned Donald Trump for racially questionable comments and the Republican presidential candidates for their silence. While Mr. Trump’s comments were not directed at all Mexicans, that doesn’t mean they weren’t stupid. Sometimes, however, life provides a tragic example of why stupid comments are valid. The NDCC should also take note of the deafening silence from Democrats regarding the murder of Kate Steinle, a young woman murdered by an illegal immigrant felon who was deported 5 times and given safe haven in San Francisco. Their silence stems from incongruous views on safety and illegal immigration. And for that a young American woman lost her life. I suggest that the NDCC hold off on throwing rocks, for they too live in a house of glass. Instead, the NDCC should acknowledge all ideological failures and show us what leadership really means.

Andrew J. Tompkins, M.D.

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