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home : insight & opinion : guest columns
October 23, 2018

1/23/2018 2:30:00 PM
Respect is golden; silence, not always
By GREGG BONELLI
For the Daily News

Ruritania is a fictional country, but it was the source of a parable about the law that caught on: "Silence equals acceptance." You hear it often when people speak about a bargain they have struck with a reluctant party who simply did not object. It must be all right, whatever it is, because there was no objection.

Some things slip past because neighbors are reluctant to speak up about them and before you know it, people are playing with their phones during the National Anthem, not going to church on Sunday and using vulgar language in the office of the president, while they are the president.

I'm not joking here, although it may sound like it. I don't think you should play with your phone during the National Anthem; I think you should take your hat off and stand silent if you can't remember the words or sing if you can. I think you should go to a church somewhere on Sunday. And, most important, I believe the President of the United States must comport himself with the dignity of the office. 

Vulgar language is a sign of a poor vocabulary - either the speaker lacks the education to know a better word to express the same idea or, more commonly, the speaker lacks respect for his audience and presumes them to be ignorant and only able to understand vulgarity.

There may be a time and place for it, but if you're the president, or any important figure that people look up to, then that time is "never." When I first went to college I heard children trying out their cussing skills with one another as soon as no one was there to stop them. The desire to cuss is apparently in a great many of us.

It was humorous to some extent, some of the ways they would describe certain things and how creatively they could insert meaningless adjectives just to get to use their favorite cuss words. I suppose we listened initially because of the novelty, but soon enough we stopped listening so much because they didn't seem to get when something was and was not appropriate.  Some colorful colloquialism about how cold it is, how fast someone can run or how rich someone may be may have been excepted, so long as it lacked certain words and expressed some emphasis not otherwise available with common language. But there were limits, or there should have been.

Now our @#!%^ president, who doesn't have the good sense to *&$#%&( his !@%$!^ mouth, has embarrassed our country once again with his !$@$^#@$ comments. If you can fill in the blankety-blanks, then it's clear why those words were never necessary to begin with.

I am as unhappy about it as I can be, and while I am respectful of the office, its importance to all of us, and the laws of our country which tell me he has the right to persist in such conduct for three more years, I will not be silent about it. 

I won't, because someone who thinks he's just speaking the truth and has the right to speak any way he chooses would also believe my silence equals acceptance, and it does not.

 Scores of people were silent when our young gymnastics girls were molested by a doctor over years and years of abuse and said nothing. The girls ultimately did not accept it, have spoken up and are being listened to finally, but I have no doubt that some complained about it earlier - and for whatever reason were told to stay silent. That only made it worse, for them, and for the others who might have been spared a similar fate had someone spoken up sooner.

The man who was deported to Mexico after living here for 30 years in peace, paying taxes, not breaking any laws, marrying someone and raising a family is another troubling example of what happens when we remain silent when we see something wrong. It is deplorable that his children will now lose their father and that he will have to wait 20 years to apply to return to the country of their birth where they are citizens. Someone knew and someone was silent, and this is the price they have to pay for it. It seems unjust. It's not.

Justice is made up of equal parts fairness and equity as expressed by the consensus of a society. If we want this man and those like him to stay, enough of us will have to say so that a law will be passed allowing him citizenship. That has not happened, so out he goes.

To be silent about it and say nothing means something. To argue that he broke the law and must be punished is a weak excuse; he was 10 years old and his parents brought him. To say allowing him to stay will encourage others is foolish; there is no time machine for adults here now illegally to hop into and go back until they were children and cross our border. To hold him accountable as an adult for something he did as a child flies in the face of our laws, which excuse juveniles for misconduct based on their minority.

Lincoln said it was better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt. He was wrong, and history shows us what that led to, but at least he had the decency to use proper language when president. Speak up for what you believe is right and make America great again - please.





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