Rules To Live By

The principal assumption about personal criticism in Washington seems to be that everyone is fair game and only an over the top rebuke is likely to get noticed, so swing for the fences.

But over the weekend, Republican Congressional staffer Elizabeth Lauten found out there are still limits on where one may direct one’s snarky comments.

Lauten chose to use Facebook to disparage the president’s teenage daughters, Sasha and Malia, for their clothing and their attitudes during a ritual press conference to pardon a pair of turkeys just before Thanksgiving.

In the process she discovered that there are still rules of conduct in Washington, although they are unwritten because putting them in writing would codify a sense of decency, which suggests weakness.

How can we afford that?

Lauten resigned yesterday, jettisoned by the party for stepping over an invisible, but obvious, line.

In the absence of an actual rule about this, perhaps an aphorism would be enough – a very brief, pithy saying that carries more than its share of obvious truth.

I tried to write an aphorism about this, but alas, I am too wordy.  A clumsy rhyme, however, is something I can do.

When you take to the Facebook to chastise the youth
take care whom you choose to call out as uncouth.
Though it’s fun to disparage and cool to embitter
take heed when when your snark begins trending on Twitter.
The clothing you hate and the eye rolls you dread
are a preview – the next thing to roll is your head.

When have you crossed the invisible line?

40 thoughts on “Rules To Live By”

  1. Excoriate the prez if you’re partisan and willin’
    But go after grownups and never their chillun!
    It’s good to have standards you must advocate,
    But snarking First Kids will earn you the hate.
    So aim carefully when stones you must cast
    ‘Cause a blunder here can cost you your ass!

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Correct me if I’m wrong, Steve, but it seems to me you have been reluctant in the past to contribute any kind of verse on the Trail. Even haiku. I can’t account for the reluctance though, since you obviously have a talent for rhyming! Nice!


  2. Love the rhymes this morning. I’m sure I’ve blundered across many lines, but will have to think about it to come up with one. I’m actually much more likely to purposely charge across an actual line not an invisible one!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good morning. I am not good at avoiding crossing those invisible lines. I won’t give any examples of my indiscretions because when you have crossed an invisible line, the least you can do is not go any farther by talking about what you said. It seems I have a tendency to open my big mouth when I shouldn’t. I should learn to put my mind in gear before I put my mouth in gear.

    “Put your mind in gear before you put your mouth in gear” might be a suitable aphorism that people in Washington could use to avoid getting in trouble by inappropriately criticizing people. Many of those commentators in Washington can’t even wait until other people are done talking before giving their opinions. if they can’t show the courtesy of letting another person finish before they start, I’m sure they have no interest in thinking about what they say before they speak.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. tgith, your effort to pole-vault across one of those lines could result in a really bad landing if you find you have launched yourself across a line you very much shouldn’t have crossed.


  4. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    No poetry from me at this hour! Steve, you must not be sleeping well.

    Unfortunately, I often step across the line when I try to be funny. However, even I have enough sense not to do this to a President’s child. Yesterday at the gym I watched some of the behavior in question–I don’t quite understand this communication director’s outrage. These girls just looked like a couple of very tall teenagers enduring Dad’s lame jokes. If this is behavior to excoriate with such intensity, then what must we do about the range of teen behavior that roams into swearing, smoking pot, sneaking out, petty theft, skipping school. I know–Guantanamo?

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Totally agree, Jacque. I watched the video to see what sort of behavior was earning such self-righteous anger. Well. I had never watched the presidential pardoning of the turkey before, but my opinion is that the whole thing is kinda lame. To me, it looks like it would be a very hard job to stand next to the President with nothing to do but listen and look interested and alert every second of the ceremony. I thought the First Children did very well. They were dressed nicely and looked beautiful and did nothing to earn such scathing remarks.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, let me count the ways! Like Jacque, I can think of examples where my effort at humor turned into a few awkward “ha-ha”s followed by my thinking “uh-oh.” This is usually after one too many glasses of wine.

    It’s also easy to cross the invisible line when you have teenagers around. All kind of things you may feel are appropriate to say will be rejected, sometimes nastily. And then there’s trying to help too much with someone’s problems, when it’s not appreciated – often with family…


  6. The vanishing demon has thus far caused two efforts to respond to today’s question! Here goes the 3rd.

    lt’s hard to recall a time when l didn’t cross invisible lines and being so extroverted hasn’t helped. One of the earliest examples was at 5 or 6 while standing by my dad’s Cadillac convertible next to a car insurance adjuster. There was a sizable tear in the canvass. He said, “Little girl, do you know how this tear got here?” l said, “Yes, my daddy took a knife and put it there”. Oops. A spanking from Dad taught me that l’d crossed the line.

    lt gets worse, though. Many years later, my brother told me how the tear occurred and that l’d made the knife version up out of whole cloth! l was obviously too young to even know the adjuster’s role or that my answer to his question would impugn Dad, but that’s my first memory of crossing a line because he spanked me.

    A couple of years later, Dad’s big boss from Chicago flew in and took our whole family to the most expensive restaurant in Ames. Looking at the menu and hearing, “Order whatever you’d like”, my eyes landed on rib eye steak, then how expensive it was. l asked, “Who’s going to pay for it???” Dad kicked me under the table and l yelped, “Daddy, why did you kick me???” This line-crossing earned me the second spanking l can remember.

    For most of my life and until l got really good therapy, the only way l’ve known that l’ve crossed another person’s line has been when he/she has gotten mad at me. People who are passive aggressive are toxic for me because they won’t tell me that l’ve crossed their lines until that final one, then they inform me of a whole bunch of former offenses.

    Very slowly, but surely, l’ve taught myself to ponder what’s about to come out of my mouth, but it’s still swimming against my natural current.


  7. I know I cross the line lots. I will have to think of one to share.

    I once heard a terribly affronted chemical dependency patient complain about how undignified were the tasks that were being required of him by a therapist during a group session. The therapist told him “You sure looked real dignified when you were falling off that bar stool.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Depends on the introvert, CB. I think I’m about a 10 or maybe a 9.5 on the introvert scale, 10 being totally introverted, but I don’t think before I speak that often (if I did, I would probably say nothing for days at a time; I’m a slow thinker). I’ve had my share of looking back at a social evening and knowing I shouldn’t have said something that I said. But I comfort myself with the fact that most people aren’t really listening anyway, so it’s likely nobody noticed the dumb or inappropriate thing I said.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Rico – this reminds me of one of my favorite poems

      Timing Toast
      There’s an art to doing it
      Never try to guess
      Toast until it burns
      Then 20 seconds less.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. l’ve had a hard time of it when once in a while l’ve managed to really ruff up someone’s feathers, then attempted to explain “what l really meant” or even apologize for whatever that person reacted to. lt’s seemed to me that when someone’s emotions detach from rationality, all he/she really wants if for the “offender” to lose control just like he/she has. ln other words – and for me – staying rational escalates the other person’s anger. Clear as mud – right?


  8. Rather than talk about me, which I do too much, I’ll mention the most interesting man I ever met. Don was an original. When I met him he made his living by shooting deer whenever he ran low on meat, and I mean he shot deer in spring and summer in spite of that being illegal. His former profession was riding broncos in rodeos, but he was too busted up to do that by the time we met. Working the rodeo circuit means two things. Don had broken just about every bone in his body. And since nobody makes money riding rodeos, he had a long career as a petty criminal because rodeo guys are always desperate to raise entry fee money. Don is the only friend of mine who has served prison time for cattle rustling. Or the only one I know about!

    Late in life Don caused a stir by doing the play-by-play announcing at a local rodeo. People found him outrageous, foul-mouthed and incredibly funny. The local radio station hired Don to do a talk show. He was astonished. “All my life I’ve gotten in trouble when I said things, but now people are paying me to run my mouth!”

    Alas, Don was like a standup comedian who wins applause by flirting with the line of outrageous comments. It is a dangerous way to make your living. One day Iowa’s Governor Harold Hughes was brought into Don’s studio for a live interview. Hughes was an interesting guy. The most interesting thing about him, Don decided, was that Hughes had been a notorious drunk before becoming a teetoler. Don asked Hughes about his boozing. Hughes stiffened and went silent. Don tried harder, asking another question about Hughes’ reputation as a staggering drunk. Getting no response, Don tried again. By the time he left his studio, Don was an ex-broadcaster.

    Society can by a hypocrite. We often reward folks for doing or saying outrageous things. Then we might suddenly decide they have gone too far. Don had crossed the line, but at the time the line was mighty fuzzy.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Some who’ve “gone too far” stay employed way too long – like Joan Rivers (who was roundly lambasted until she suddenly died); Glenn Beck, Limbaugh, Palin and, of course, Minnesota’s finest, Bachmann.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. There are many who should’ve been unemployed by now or in the past, lMO: Joan Rivers (lambasted until she suddenly died), Limburger, Beck, Palin – and who could forget Minnesota’s finest, Michelle Bachmann?


  9. SPeaking of crossing lines, I decided that don’t like my current bass guitar and I am probably going to get a fretless bass. I am tired of the sounds that the strings make on the frets. It may have lines, though, so I am not totally lost on the finger board.


  10. I am completely lost on this topic, I mean in my life. I am always upset with myself for crossing the line and not crossing the line.
    In B & N today waiting for Sandy in the coffee shop. A woman sat down in the table across the half-wall from me and started slathering heavily-scented skin cream on her arms. Before I could get out of the power of that odor, she took out some kind of scented spray and started spraying on her face or hair or what, which sprayed on me. I had to wait 30 minutes more for Sandy before I could go home and shower and wash my clothes. My head is killing my right now from it. But I am glad now I did not cross the line but not then, and you know of course any comment would have been crossing the line.


  11. OT: today my son completed IOS boot camp at the top of his class. now to get a job. Before he entered boot camp ten weeks ago the state of Washington qualified him to receive unemployment during the 8 weeks of the program. then they lost the paperwork. He he did it again but the second time they did not qualify him. Then he fought to get qualified. Then some guy sat on it for 10 days before requalifying him. Then the authorized backcheck did not come. It is all lost somewhere in the computer system. They cannot process it again. At the moment it looks like he will only get two weeks of it as a result, and even that he does not yet have.


  12. I have probably crossed some lines, but so far as I can recall, no one has pointed it out to me, Maybe I’ve not crossed very far, or it was acknowledged as unintentional and given a pass.


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