Dan Crenshaw challenges 'outrage culture' in uplifting op-ed about civility

Congressman-elect and Navy veteran Dan Crenshaw and Pete Davidson smile during the "Weekend Update" segment on "Saturday Night Live" on Nov. 10, 2018.
Congressman-elect and Navy veteran Dan Crenshaw and Pete Davidson smile during the "Weekend Update" segment on "Saturday Night Live" on Nov. 10, 2018. (Will Heath/NBC)

HOUSTON – Dan Crenshaw, a Navy SEAL vet, had a reason to be outraged after a comedian made a crack about the eye patch he wears, but he wasn’t. In an op-ed piece he wrote for the Washington Post, he explained why.

Let’s start at the beginning: "Saturday Night Live" cast member Pete Davidson joked about Crenshaw’s eye patch, which he wears after losing his eye in an IED explosion in Afghanistan. Davidson said Crenshaw looked like a “hit man in a porno movie.”

In the WaPo piece published Tuesday, Crenshaw said he woke the Sunday after Davidson’s bit to a flurry of text messages about it. “A lot of America wasn’t happy,” Crenshaw wrote.

Crenshaw continued:

“I agreed. 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 to 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.”

Crenshaw reminded people that he had been shot at before and he wasn’t outraged then.

“So I didn’t demand an apology and I didn’t call for anyone to be fired,” Crenshaw wrote. “That doesn’t mean the ‘war . . . or whatever’ line was acceptable, but I didn’t have to fan the flames of outrage, either.”

Crenshaw recounted getting the mea culpa call from "Saturday Night Live," when he was asked to be on the show. He wasn’t sure about it but eventually accepted. He got to make a few jokes at Davidson’s expense, and it seemed the nation felt everything was right with the world again.

“But now what?” Crenshaw wrote. “Does it suddenly mean that the left and right will get along and live in utopian harmony? Maybe Saturday’s show made a tiny step in that direction, but I’m not naive. As a country, we still have a lot of work to do. We need to agree on some basic rules for civil discourse.”

Crenshaw ended his op-ed by saying that name-calling, labeling and attacking is not the way to have a civil discussion about our differences or get things accomplished.

“Assuming the worst about your opponents’ intentions has the effect of demonizing their ideas, removing the need for sound counter-reasoning and fact-based argument,” Crenshaw wrote. “That’s not a good environment for the exchange of ideas.”

What's Crenshaw’s advice for a return to civility in our public discourse?

“When all else fails, try asking for forgiveness, or granting it. On Saturday, Pete Davidson and SNL made amends.”

About the Author: