Republicans seeking a future leader should get to know Dan Crenshaw, the former Navy SEAL elected last week to represent the 2nd Congressional District of Texas.
As the target of mean and obnoxious statements, Crenshaw emerged as the rare kind of leader who could make this country a kinder, gentler culture in the vision of former President George H.W. Bush.
The weekend before Crenshaw's election, Pete Davidson of "Saturday Night Live" used his comedic spotlight to mock the veteran's appearance. The actor said Crenshaw looks like a "hit man in a porno movie." He poked fun at Crenshaw's eye patch, which covers the socket of an eye he lost to a roadside bomb explosion while fighting for Davidson's freedoms.
"He lost his eye in war ... or whatever," Davidson said in a tone dismissive of Crenshaw's sacrifice.
The comment repulsed much of the country. Conservative media pundits pounced, expressing an almost apoplectic sense of dismay.
Crenshaw, unaware of the national outrage surrounding a joke made at his expense, awoke Sunday morning to hundreds of messages about Davidson's remarks. He had invitations for TV and radio appearances. Overnight, he went from an obscure candidate to a celebrity basking in a newfound victim status he did not want.
Crenshaw had an open invitation to destroy Davidson with the assistance of nearly all major radio talk show hosts, Fox News, veterans' organizations and more. Davidson had crossed a line. He was on the brink of going the way of Roseanne Barr, who lost a top-rated TV show for sending a careless and offensive tweet.
Instead of going bonkers, and sacrificing Davidson, Crenshaw took a step back. He agreed the comments were out of line. He also chose to see Davidson as a fellow human being, worthy of redemption and forgiveness.
"I agreed" the comments crossed a line, Crenshaw wrote in Tuesday's Washington Post. "But I also could not help but note that this was another chapter in a phenomenon that has taken complete control of the national discourse: outrage culture. It seems like every not-so-carefully-worded public misstep must be punished the fullest extent, replete with soapbox lectures and demands for apologies. Anyone who doesn't show the expected level of outrage will be labeled a coward or an apologist for bad behavior. I get the feeling that regular, hard-working, generally unoffended Americans sigh with exhaustion — daily."
Thank you, Mr. Crenshaw, for crying foul on the culture's pretentious oversensitivity and faux concern for "victims" of impolite and carelessly chosen words. Our country cannot continue acting so fragile.
In his desire to avoid another daily episode of whack-the-monster, Crenshaw declined to demand an apology of "Saturday Night Live" or Davidson.
Lo and behold, it turns out Davidson and the show's producers felt compelled to apologize without a demand. But they wanted something believable, meaningful and substantive. They persuaded Crenshaw to come on the show. After Davidson offered a heartfelt, no-holds-barred apology, he introduced Crenshaw as a hero. Then he allowed Crenshaw to poke fun at him.
Davidson has blue hair and bluish skin tone. Crenshaw said he looked like a humanized version of the famous blue crystal meth on the old TV series "Breaking Bad." He had a few other clever insults. Everyone had fun. Everyone laughed. The two men left the set as friends, respecting each other's backgrounds and human frailties.
For one moment on Saturday night, it seemed Americans could get along again without the divisiveness created by the unforgiving gotcha games that fuel a culture of grievance and outrage.
Let's have more of this, and fewer daily "kill-the-witch" dramas in response to collective uber-sensitivity. Let's stop destroying lives and careers in response to carless words and innocuous deeds that don't tell us much about a person's true heart. Let's learn from Davidson and Crenshaw, and become a more understanding culture of unity, forgiveness, respect and understanding.
REPRINTED FROM THE COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE