Maher incident a sad commentary

So Bill Maher is back on television, and apparently all is forgiven. Maher was away for a short time after using the “N” word in what was apparently an offhand reply to something said by his guest, Sen. Ben Sasse, and apparently hoped he’d get a laugh.

And he did. Not a great guffaw from his audience, but some laughed, and Sen. Sasse let it go by because, he said later, he was a little surprised at the use of the word and couldn’t think quickly enough to respond.

Sasse is not alone. Too many of us, when confronted with people who say terrible things, don’t know how to react, or if we do, we don’t do it quickly enough. Or perhaps we’re reluctant to react because the person saying that awful thing is a friend or a co-worker or even a superior.

And, of course, in these violent times, perhaps we’re a little afraid to say anything, to object, because we have no idea how someone will react. How can we know? Workplace slayings, while not commonplace, aren’t all that rare.

There have always been people who said odious things, but something is different now: Now, we almost should expect it. That’s a sad commentary on our times.

Now we can say, well, here in the Souhegan Valley, people are different, people are tolerant, people don’t think that way or say those things, and those who might will keep it to themselves because they know that here, it isn’t acceptable.

But when people like Bill Maher just spew it out on television, well, he can apologize until the cows come home, but he still gave the word a certain amount of credence, and the audience, by not reacting angrily, added to that, as did Sasse. Yes, he was surprised, as would any of us have been in his situation and just couldn’t think quickly enough to say, “Hey, Bill, that’s not acceptable.”

Next time, though, Sasse will be prepared. The sad thing is, we all need to be.

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