The problem with Gail Gordon Donegan isn’t that she’s outspoken and provocative.
It isn’t that she’s profane.
It isn’t even, strictly speaking, that she’s offensive.
It’s that she knows she’s offensive and she tries to be offensive. Many of her tweets are downright venomous.
That kind of deliberate effort to hurt others ought to be called out for what it is: bullying. And it ought to be rejected by a thoughtful citizenry.
The Alexandria activist is among the governor’s new appointees to the Virginia Council on Women. The group awards scholarships, develops programs and advises the governor and General Assembly on women’s issues.
Gov. Ralph Northam’s office, meanwhile, defends his appointment by saying that Ms. Donegan has built a long record of involvement in women’s issues. This is an attempt to compartmentalize the issue.
But Ms. Donegan’s tweets hint at a problem that can’t be compartmentalized.
Her tweets have attacked conservative commentators, Boy Scouts, the Roman Catholic Church and even members of her own party. Her favorite trope seems to be “f--- off.”
She defends this by telling the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Psychological studies show that people who swear make better friends. And they’re smarter.”
But none of that is really the point. The point is her apparent desire to cause damage. Can this woman really be trusted?
The Catholic Church has pushed back against her anti-Catholic rhetoric.
She defends that rhetoric by calling attention to the deficiencies of the church: “My father was orphaned at age 4, sent to live in Catholic foster homes and severely beaten until he ran away at age 14.”
There is much to condemn about the Catholic Church’s treatment of children — and her father’s experience isn’t the least of it. The tragedy of child molestation by priests, and the church’s connivance in allowing the practice to continue, is one of the worst scandals of our age.
These matters should be discussed in our society, not hidden any longer. They should be denounced — in the strongest language possible, profanity included.
But Ms. Donegan doesn’t stop there.
She stereotypes, ridicules and reviles innocent members of the church and, by extension, the sincere practice of their religion.
Here’s an example: “Go tell a Catholic they have dirt on their forehead” — an apparent reference to the practice of wearing a cross drawn on the forehead with ashes to commemorate Ash Wednesday during the Lenten season approaching Easter.
Not only is the comment demeaning, it’s just plain mean. And Ms. Donegan knows it’s offensive. She wants it to be offensive. She signs off with #waytooffend.
If this kind of bullying goes unchallenged, our society is in danger of engaging in double standards.
President Trump’s juvenile and egotistical tweets are roundly criticized — and rightly so. But such criticism shouldn’t be reserved by Democrats for Republicans.
There is also a danger in tacitly accepting some stereotypes while opposing others. Is it “acceptable” to stereotype Catholics … but not, for instance, Muslims? This is hypocritical as well.
Instead, mean-spirited attacks and offensive stereotypes should be condemned wherever they are found, by those on all sides of the political, cultural and religious (or non-religious) spectrum.