We have become, quite simply, a community of finger-pointers of the school-ground variety. Instead of dealing with insults the way they should be dealt with - either by ignoring them or returning fire in kind - we just complain to the school monitor and get our enemies a one-way ticket to detention.
And, when the school monitor is a sympathetic media and politically favored interest groups, detention turns into a well-oiled campaign of destruction.
It happened when Don Imus made a lame comment about "nappy-headed hos," thereby defaming African-Americans, women and championship athletes in one fell swoop. His comments were significantly more offensive than Limbaugh's, and he was rightfully criticized for them (although the firing went too far, in my opinion, particularly when Keith Olbermann remained gainfully employed at the time.)
But the attacks by the most rabid of those social engineers, the ones who have turned civil discourse into a straitjacket for loudmouths, took on a frightening new cast that has only intensified in the ensuing years.
Under the guise of civility, we have decided to wring apologies and penance from every person who utters a marginally offensive comment, with one notable exception: If you defame a conservative, a Christian, a white male or Sarah Palin, you get a blanket waiver.
Getting back to civility school, recent experience has shown us that if you deviate from the approved list of derogatory comments (and in this P.C. age, it is getting much narrower), you will be punished severely in the court of public opinion. And some of you will actually bend to the whip and whimper an apology.
When Tracey Morgan made some rude comments about beating up on his hypothetical gay son, the LGBT community went wild and demanded an immediate retraction. Hardly anyone stood up and mentioned the obvious: Morgan is a comedian whose jokes have typically been sophomoric, but it was clear that he was not endorsing gay-bashing. Everyone knows it, and those who say they don't are lying.
A few months later, Roland Martin, from CNN, made a similarly inappropriate comment about bending something like Beckham, and he was thrashed in the Twitter-verse.
They both ended up apologizing, because whenever one minority starts making cheesy comments about another minority, the whole social order is turned on its head and, quicker than you can say "Civil Rights Act of 1964," we circle the wagons and talk about how horrible it is to be a bigot.
Of course, there are bigots, and then, there are bigots.
Rush attacked a poor, defenseless, 30-year-old law student who believed that free birth control was an inalienable right.
Imus went after young black women. Morgan and Martin attacked gays.
All four of them were buffoons and boors, and all of them deserved to be roundly attacked for their frat-boy sense of humor (and I apologize to any frat boys I may have offended by the analogy.)
But forcing them to beg for forgiveness just so we could exact our pound of flesh (and in Rush's case, who would have noticed anyway?) is a shameful example of just how petty we as a society have become.
None of those men was sorry for what he said, or did. Because when you have to be hounded into saying you regret any damage you may have caused, the only damage you're really worried about is to your own reputation.
And yet, we continue to pretend that all this is necessary in a civil society. Take poor Olympia Snowe. We forced that nice, sweet lady to put on her white gloves and pack her bags, just because we're so darn mean.
Funny, though. I haven't heard anyone say that Matt Taibbi should be fired for writing an article titled "Death of a Douche" on the day that Andrew Breitbart died. Yes, he was a conservative firebrand. And, sure, a few decent liberals thought that was inappropriate. But, unlike Limbaugh's cowardly sponsors, there were no calls to boycott Rolling Stone, Taibbi's clueless employer.
Personally, I don't want that hack's sure-to-be-lame apology.
Similarly, Limbaugh, Imus, Morgan and Martin should have withstood the calls to grovel for forgiveness.
Because even asses should have the courage of their convictions.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.