Emma Sullivan & Dr. Krawitz vs. Gov. Brownback and American Lunatics
I’m not sure what’s going on in Kansas. Whatever it is, it means something, and we should listen to it. It says something about the state of America nowadays. It reaches beyond the state lines. It highlights the problems in Washington, D.C. It says something about our cultural identity. It says something about the psychology of the masses. In short, it says something about who we are.
If you follow my Twitter account, or are one of the hundreds of people who read my last blog post about Emma Sullivan, then you know the story of the Kansas teenager who posted something on her Twitter account about the governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, and his staff’s subsequent overreaction to Miss Sullivan’s tweet. What I posted was simply the e-mail I sent to her principal, plainly explaining my argument as to why she didn’t deserve to be disciplined at the behest of the governor. I also urged my readers to stand up for Miss Sullivan. I still believe that the governor and his staff were using Principal Krawitz as a way to bully a high school senior. I believe my letter clearly stated this. I’ve been keeping an eye on Twitter today, thinking that the storm Governor Brownback has started would be dying down, the day after governor Brownback and the Shawnee Mission East School district apologized to Miss Sullivan and said no further action would be taken. But this isn’t the case. In fact, the storm has not only strengthened, it’s changed direction. This Kansas high school, I believe, has become a microcosm of life in America right now.
First, let me address Principal Karl Krawitz. I know absolutely nothing about the man other than what the (credible) news reports stated, that he was contacted by governor Brownback’s staff about Emma Sullivan’s tweet. He then called her to the office to scold her and demand an apology. If you followed the #heblowsalot hashtag on Twitter over the weekend, then you saw that a lot of people in this country disagreed with this course of action that Dr. Krawitz took. And this is fine. People can disagree. Oh, there were jokes about the governor being a crybaby and so forth, and this is still okay; it’s simply people using humor to express their anger at an unfair situation. Some Twitter users, including myself, called the school to voice their support for Emma Sullivan’s rights and to ask that she not be required to write the apology to governor Brownback. The school’s phone number and e-mail address were passed around, too. And this is STILL okay. We’re still in sane and rational territory. Voicing one’s opinion about outrageous behavior is a fundamental American way of doing things. But from what I can tell, we’ve left that territory far behind and ventured into the land known as WTF World.
Over the course of the past weekend, most of what people posted on Twitter dealt with Emma Sullivan’s right to free speech and Bownback’s overreaction. These are all appropriate courses of dialogue. But apparently, Dr. Krawitz has been receiving death threats. His home phone line was cut and he needs police protection. The news media hasn’t reported any of this, but his students are posting this information.
I need to unequivocally state that, at no time, did Dr. Krawitz deserve any sort of violent action towards him. That pretty much goes without saying, and I’m sure Emma Sullivan would agree. Up until today, it was my assumption that Dr. Krawitz was a participant in a civil and rational debate about the situation he was caught up in. I’m not sure when these people jumped the tracks of the Sane & Calm Express, but they did, and what began as a constructive dialogue has quickly turned into a whacko-infested circus. Pretty much the way Congress in D.C. conducts itself these days. Some people expressed their opinion in an intelligent, respectful way. But once you threaten, you pretty much ruin your credibility and tarnish the side you (claim to) support. How, I ask, does going bat-shit crazy and cutting someone’s phone line help Emma Sullivan? Where did everyone’s perspective go? Do we seriously need to medicate our population more? I am resigned to think so.
There’s a rumor on Twitter as I write this that Dr. Krawitz is considering resigning as principal, and judging by the tweets from his student body, there’s some substance to the rumor. They use the hash tag #teamkrawitz and are posting about a support rally after school.
They’re also using this hashtag to go after Emma Sullivan.
The tweets don’t mention governor Brownback. They say nothing about Dr. Krawitz performing his duties at the whim of the governor’s office, which I think was the at the heart of the whole affair. What Team Krawitz is doing is assaulting Emma Sullivan’s character, calling for her expulsion from Shawnee Mission East, and saying that Krawitz is greater than Emma. Two points of interest:
1. Using the name of the man whose character and job you’re defending to say that a 18 year old girl should be kicked out of school, directing profane comments at her, and to basically be stupid smears the character of the man you purport to defend. You’re pretending to be supportive while you’re really acting like idiots.
2. Team Krawitz, by attacking Emma Sullivan this way, is conducting itself in EXACTLY the same manner as governor Brownback and his staff, which is how this whole thing started. They’re pushing around a young woman who doesn’t deserve to be. They’re bullies, just like the governor’s staff.
What’s happening at this small high school in Kansas, America’s “heartland”, has a cultural pathology to it. Perspective has been thrown out of the window. A bunch of people got worked up, threw intelligent discourse under the bus, and started acting like idiots. Call it “American Social Media Schizophrenia”. I’m not saying that people in Kansas are idiots. I’m asking where the rational thinking of the people who are attacking Dr. Krawitz and Emma Sullivan went. Politico.com has just posted a story about the reactions of Emma Sullivan’s peers at the school, and it’s sad. This was supposed to be about right vs. wrong, a powerful man bullying a teenager, and the duty a principal has towards his students. It’s exploded into personal attacks. People are saying that Emma Sullivan started this. I’m arguing that she didn’t. Thousands of people post things on Twitter every minute that don’t get picked up on. The focus is now on attacking her, when it should be solely on the actions of the governor and his staff, now that Dr. Krawitz has stated that there won’t be any discipline imposed upon Emma.
The students behind the personal attacks and cyber-bullying of Emma Sullivan are conducting themselves in precisely the same manner that governor Brownback’s staff did. Want to call this a recruitment exercise for potential positions on the governor’s staff? That’s what this has turned in to, with the exception of a portion of America who used their freedom of expression to make death threats against Dr. Krawitz. Where’s the governor’s office now? Shouldn’t he or his staff be calling for calm? They started this whole mess, and now it’s blowing up uncontrollably. And they’re in Topeka, probably relishing in the backlash against Emma Sullivan and her supporters.
America…we lose our perspective all too often, and too quickly. Outrage to explosive anger in 2.3 seconds. And in this case, the victim is still an 18 year old girl and now, the principal who apologized. We’re reacting instead of thinking. We see other people on the Internet who are upset and we add our voice to the roar, instead of inserting our opinion and views. We basically scream because other people are screaming. Like monkeys in a monkey house.
If you’re angry, do something constructive with it. Build an argument and express it. Calling someone an “attention whore” marks you as a tacky moron with limited intellectual resources. Making death threats exposes you as a seriously disturbed individual. And there are people, politicians, news commentators, and governors who should take this advice.
So, it’s time to calm down. Dr. Krawitz shouldn’t lose his job. The members of Team Krawitz should quit proving why those people who are taking Emma’s side are right in defending her. We need to ask ourselves why we’re so ready and willing to act like raving lunatics at the drop of a hat and start remembering that you don’t need to act like a governor’s employee to make an impact. Emma Sullivan and Dr. Krawitz deserve better. It’s up to us to give it to them.