Editor’s Column: When is the label more important than the contents?

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When my kids were small, and now with my grandkids, when one child gets in trouble for something at least one of the others is quick to chime in with, “I wasn’t doing that, Mimi!” or “He/she was doing it first.” That kind of behavior is expected from children under the age of 10. It shouldn’t be accepted, excused or glossed over in anyone older. Just because someone else behaves badly does not give us a license to behave badly, or an excuse to overlook bad behavior in others.

Niki Turner

For example: in the current tidal wave of alleged sexual assaults, it’s easy to say, “Yeah, but Hollywood stars are guilty, too.” Or, “(Bill) Clinton did it first!” and therefore the thought follows that we should treat the latest accused differently.
That’s like saying, “My brother stole a cookie, so it’s OK if I steal a cookie, because he stole a cookie first.” Really? This is still something we have to debate? Have we devolved to a preschool level of morality? Or have we simply bypassed any ethical code whatsoever in favor of clinging to a particular political label?
If I look at the label on a can (wearing my new reading glasses, because otherwise I can’t read the label now) I’m expecting the contents to agree with the label. A can of peas should contain peas. A bag of chips should contain chips. A bottle of wine shouldn’t be full of vinegar.
But it seems in today’s world—and maybe this isn’t really new—that you can slap a label on anything and expect everyone to trust that’s what’s they’re going to get, and when they don’t get that and cry “foul” we simply point to the label and call it good.
When we vote, either in the ballot box or with our money and time, and our vote is based solely on a label, not on the contents, we’re not being wise consumers, whether of peas or politicians. People matter more than party. How long will it take us to come around to that idea again?
Our forefathers rejected the rule of royalty in 1776. Why? Because we vehemently objected to the notion that a particular class of humans had the authority to abuse, torment, control, tax or otherwise violate the God-given freedoms of other humans. A century later we finally decided slavery was another kind of that abuse of power and abolished it (although apparently there’s a segment of folks who think that was a bad idea). Another 50 years and we decided women were worthy of representation in government and gave them the right to vote. That was less than 100 years ago. Another 50 years or so and we decided all skin colors could be included in those basic freedoms with the civil rights movement. In the last 20 years we finally criminalized marital rape. Yeah. Just in the last 20 years. Appalling, isn’t it?

I never thought I’d be longing for snow, but this year is changing my perceptions. It’s the warmest, driest November and December on record in more than a century. Considering the vicious wildfires ravaging California, I’m hopeful this weather trend will change soon, lest we face similar battles next summer. I’d even settle for rain, but I know that’s not what we need in the long haul for our forests, our aquifers and our agriculture. So, for maybe the first time in my adult life, I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. Here’s hoping.