One of the latest Internet memes from the current political can of worms was from First Lady Michelle Obama: When they go low, we go high.
Mrs. Obama’s entire speech at the 2016 Democratic Convention can well be described as fierceness with grace, as one informal reviewer suggested. [Dr. Nick Morgan has explained the purpose of giving a speech.]
When they go low, we go high is an approach to life that the rest of us might well adopt and it has nothing to do with one’s political views, or at least it shouldn’t when we cast aside often-inborn prejudices.
When offensive people say or do offensive things to us or in front of us, do we stoop to their level? When they accuse us of lying when it’s obvious we’re not, or of being snooty when we’re just selective in our choice of acquaintances, do we stand up for ourselves boldly but without using obscenities? Do we spew vitriol ourselves? Not if we have any class whatsoever.
Of course, we’re entitled to vent, whether it’s to our best friend, our manager, our friends at church, or even the local news rag, if they’ll publish rants. Some things that could be perceived as unkind are going to be said. Also, I’ll be the first to admit that some people are scarcely deserving of being addressed with “class”. A trucker’s barrage or a fishwife’s coarseness might be more appropriate for their ears, and may in fact be the only way to get their attention.
But more than 90% of the time, responding civilly and coherently is the better approach — and definitely the best example to set for our teens, tweens and younger grades. It’s embarrassing when public figures say and do such vulgar things that we need to cover our children’s ears. And I don’t care if they hear it all in the schoolyard and the classroom anyway. That doesn’t make it acceptable. We need to let them know what our own standards are that we expect them to make part of their own lives.
The way we behave now fuels the future of our own culture and the civilization of the world. Given regular exposure to our lifestyle, our children copy us for better or worse. If not, they copy someone else, including public figures who too often present as poor excuses for human beings.
When they go low, we need to go high.