Tweet others the way you would want to be tweeted
To mark Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 10-16) last month, one of Sanpete’s representatives in Congress, Rep. Chris Stewart, tweeted, “Last week was National Suicide Prevention Week. Let us take the opportunity to ask ourselves what we can do to prevent these tragedies.”
That was on Sept. 18.
Within the same week, the congressman tweeted statements displaying the kind of mean-spiritedness that has been shown to contribute to many decisions to commit suicide.
On Sept. 14, Stewart tweeted about Harvard’s decision to name Chelsea Manning a Harvard fellow. Manning is the transgendered former Army intelligence analyst who, in 2010, leaked military and diplomatic records to Wikileaks. She pleaded guilty to several charges but was acquitted on the most serious charge of aiding the enemy. She maintained her leak was an act of conscience.
Stewart tweeted, “Just heard Chelsea Manning named Harvard Fellow. Way to go Harvard. Please consider my 5 yr old grandson for next opening. Equally qualified.”
Then after President Trump’s speech to the United Nations on Sept. 20, Stewart tweeted this: “Laughing. Liberals going nuts after prez UN speech. His idea = defend freedom. Their respond = drink 18 glasses of water and wet pants.”
Stewart deleted the latter tweet after one hour but not before it had been archived by ProPublica. It’s unclear what he found inappropriate about the tweet: Its mockery of liberals or the fact that it referenced urination.
On the Manning tweet, several people gave examples of how Stewart could have expressed his opinion without being mean and petty. One person, in a reply to Stewart’s tweet, suggested the congressman could have said, “I don’t think based on merits this was warranted. There are many others who did far more to serve their country who do.”
Likewise, it is possible to express opposition in public policy matters without self-righteous condescension. The tone, not necessarily the content, of Stewart’s tweet regarding opposition responses to Trump’s U.N. speech is distressing.
The musical “Into the Woods” contains a lyric: “Careful the things you say—children will listen. Careful the things you do—children will see and learn. Children may not obey—but children will listen. Children will look to you for which way to turn.”
Which way do you want them turning, Rep. Stewart?
Utah is on track to have the worst year for youth suicides in history. Cyberbullying is frequently a factor in such deaths. The cyberbullying phenomenon is not surprising in the era of a Bully in Chief. We are experiencing what has become an unfortunate staple in our political and social discourse: Trickle-down rudeness.
To Rep. Stewart, President Trump and others who post ill-considered and hurtful comments on social media, we say: “Stop it.”
In fact, we ask everyone to tone done down their rhetoric, especially in the relative insulation of the online world.
To paraphrase one of the oldest rules of civility: Tweet unto others the way you would want to be tweeted.