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FLOWERS COLUMN: Meme illustrates hypocrisy of growing cancel culture

FLOWERS COLUMN: Meme illustrates hypocrisy of growing cancel culture

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Cancel culture and cancer both begin with the letter “C,” which is not a coincidence.

The urge to obliterate, annul, remove, censor and excise from our collective social conscience is akin to what a surgeon does when he approaches a toxic tumor: Cuts it out. We no longer have a tolerance for anything that annoys. If someone has said something offensive, or if we have evidence that their thoughts are improvident or less-than-evolved, that person must be neutralized as a viable member of society.

We’ve seen it happen over and over again, and not just in the post-George Floyd/Black Lives Matter era. It started in earnest with the #Metoo movement, when any man who ever said anything that could vaguely be considered offensive was shut down, shut up and shut away (think Bill Cosby). It’s no coincidence that this month marks the second anniversary of the witch hunt against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a man who was accused of being naughty at a party in the Jurassic period of his youth.

Something happened more recently that highlighted the hypocrisy in the cancel culture movement. In my own backyard in the Philadelphia suburbs, Darby Township Commissioner Marvin Smith posted a meme on his social media page that depicted a white police officer trapped between two Black men. The Black men held pistols to his head. The caption read: “Does it have to come to this to make them stop murdering and terrorizing us?”

Until last week, Smith was the township’s police commissioner. After many outraged members of the community made their voices heard and their anger felt, he was removed from that position by the board. That’s a start.

No one should be surprised at the outrage that was triggered when the post became public. Many people, including myself, reposted it and demanded that the commissioners issue a response. Many people, also including myself, went a step further and demanded that Smith resign. It seemed then, and still seems now, that a police commissioner who finds it appropriate to post a meme that glorifies the murder of a police officer is unfit for his position. So at the very least, he should have lost his official title. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s still an elected official in a position of authority.

When I reached out to the commissioners, they responded with the communique issued last week, part of which includes this statement: “We condemn all act of violence and intimidation of violence against the police and citizens.” That’s nice, as far as it goes, but the addition of “and citizens” clearly dilutes the impact of a statement in support of the police. After all, Smith didn’t post a meme where “and citizens” were being targeted with having their brains blown out. It was one, white, police officer.

Furthermore, the commissioners stated that they did not have the authority to remove Smith, which is correct. That can only be done through impeachment, or conviction. There is another way he could be removed. He could remove himself. He could, in fact, resign.

As of this writing, he has not done that. What he has done is issue a smarmy apology that reeks of, “I have to write something to get them off my back! I remember what they did to that school board member and I want to keep this job.” Smith’s statement read in part as follows: “There have been some people that have taken offense to the meme.” Ya think, commissioner? How about anyone who knows how difficult it is for a police officer to walk out the door these days?

To make matters worse, some community members actually think Smith has nothing to apologize for. A story on Friday quoted someone as posting ““Actually you shouldn’t have (to) apologize, you stated truth and if that hurt some people then they need to get over it,” said another. “Police wouldn’t have to be offended if they did their f——— jobs right.” Imagine the response if, after George Floyd was killed, a police officer had commented that, “Well, maybe he shouldn’t have gotten himself arrested.” Yes, I’m sure you can.

As I write this, I know that the likelihood of Smith’s removal is as low as that threshold I referenced before. This will likely blow over, and we will all pat ourselves on the back for that warm and welcome “teaching moment” about how we need to empathize with the “frustration” of the “communities of color” and their allies.

But I will remember that a man was able to post a meme about the murder of a police officer, and that many of us just shrugged our shoulders, and waited for the next opportunity to demand the resignation of someone who offended the sensitivities of those who are very selective about the lives they think matter.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at cflowers1961@gmail.com.

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