If You Can’t Say Anything Nice

On Monday, June 7, Washington journalist Helen Thomas retired after making inappropriate remarks concerning Israel and the Palestinians. Her apology was too little too late. Thomas,who is 89 years old, became a Hearst columnist in 2000 and began her career with the wire service United Press International in 1943. Thomas was dean of the White House press corps and has been recognized as a pioneering journalist who has covered U.S. presidents since 1960.

Thomas was quoted as saying that Israelis should, “get the hell out of Palestine,” and suggested they travel to Germany, Poland, or the United States. White House Press secretary called her remarks, “offensive and reprehensible”. The White House Correspondents Association called her comments “indefensible”. A speaking engagement on June 14th for the graduating class of Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md. was canceled as Principal Alan Goodwin notified students and parents that Helen Thomas was being replaced. Last but not least, Abraham Fox of the Anti-Defamation League says that the apology does not go far enough. “Her suggestion that Israelis should go back to Poland and Germany is bigoted and shows a profound ignorance of history”.  Thomas’ remarks were indeed insensitive and should not have been uttered, but no more of that.

My concern is at a deeper level. Is any individual or nation above critique? Is there really such a thing as a group of people being “chosen” above all others on this overcrowded planet of ours? Our Judeo-Christian roots profess that we are all created in the image of a Creator and are therefore equal. Yes, historically, our nation has shown that at times some people certainly were and continue to be treated “more equal” than others. Make no mistake, the sentiment expressed (rather how the sentiment was expressed) was offensive and wrong. Yet,one feels somehow that this is something Helen Thomas felt for a long time.

Perhaps behind that expression was a suggestion that nations are made up of individuals and that at times individuals sometimes make mistakes. If we cannot voice decent in a civil way, if our reputations are at stake whenever we critique a group of which we may or may not belong, we silence dissent. One of the things which make this country great is that we can voice contrary opinions—civily. Not to critique is enabling and to be beyond critique is dangerous.

This opinion  expressed is that of Michael Carter and does not reflect the opinion of Mission Hospital.

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