Don’t be a Poltroon!

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I follow @RevRichardColes on Twitter. He’s a very interesting fellow, a vicar in the Church of England, a radio presenter, and a former pop star. From what I have learned about him, he seems to be a splendid chap. In his tweet he poses an interesting question, “Who would abuse disfigured people in the street?” We know the answer: a dick. Personally, I don’t think there is any question about that. Richard, being the gentle soul he is and using the more obscure English vocabulary when he can, calls our offensive dick a poltroon.

But I read the answers to Richard’s post, and down at the bottom of the scroll I found this.


I get the feeling that this is what’s called “Playing the Holier Than Thou Card.” A thing which C of E vicars must get a lot of. I suppose anyone who wears a dog collar is liable to get this, although, thus far, I have been lucky. Maybe because I am clearly not holier than anybody.

This raises this question: When somebody is acting like a dick, what is the correct response? Let me say at once, responding with dickish behavior is definitely not the way to go. It’s not that two wrongs don’t make a right, but that two dicks are just twice as many as one!

I do believe that calling out the person for dickish behavior is the proper thing to do. Draw their attention to what they have done by giving constructive advice such as, “Hey! Stop being a dick!” Or, if you prefer, point out that they are being rude, or that “We don’t do that kind of thing,” or if time allows, remind them that not doing as you would be done by leads us all to hell on earth. You might even want to provide the dick-in-question with a better example and go to the victim and say,” I’m sorry, but that arse-hole is just that. Don’t pay any attention to them. No one but a jerk would say such a thing.”

Or simply, shout, “Jackass!” at the offender, while offering support to the victim.

But then, isn’t what I suggested just what Richard did? Wasn’t I just a bit rude there?

But wait a minute, was what I suggested the same as what the Rev. Richard Cole did? I don’t think so. Here’s the difference.

My suggestion was directed at the person being dickish. Richard’s comment was a general comment, which was directed at the IDEA of such reprehensible behavior. What is more, by using a rather delightful old fashioned word, he tried to keep the criticism light hearted, though with a serious message. And if someone who had insulted a person with a facial disfigurement read Richard’s comment and understood it referred to him, well, that’s on him! In other words, If the shoe fits, wear it. I don’t think Richard was being rude, because he wasn’t talking to anyone in particular. It was, quite literally, a case of hating the sin, but not the sinner.

So, now do you see why I think there was a little bit of holier than thou in the second tweet? And, while we’re on the subject, being Holier Than Thou still counts as dickish.

Richard Cole’s tweet, and even more, the BBC London News item that prompted it, is an example of the kind of behavior we are seeing more and more. Out and out obnoxious, rude, dick behavior. Were it not for my many friends who are not dicks, but who go out of their way to support the dispossessed, the homeless, the disenfranchised, the victims, the refugees… were it not for them, I would despair. But these friends give me hope. They convince me that the Rev. Richard Coles and I are not wasting our time. Because for every dick who makes fun of a birthmark, for every bastard who underpays his staff, for every bigot who harangues someone for wearing a hijab, there are ten people who are not dicks. And for every ten of them, there is an anti-dick.

I want to talk about them some time soon.

In the meantime, if you catch some poltroon being a dick, call them out. And if you are a little rude about it, I won’t mind.


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