Last week, a brief moment in time captured much that has gone wrong with post-'60s liberalism and feminism.
Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers was testifying at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. At one point during his responses to questions posed by the Committee Chair, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the senator interrupted the general to admonish him about using the word "ma'am" when addressing her:
"You know, do me a favor," Boxer said in an annoyed tone of voice. "Could you say 'senator' instead of 'ma'am?' It's just a thing; I worked so hard to get that title, so I'd appreciate it. Yes, thank you."
"Yes, senator," the humiliated general responded.
The oxygen was sucked out of the room by Sen. Boxer's remarks.
It is hard to know where to begin in describing how reduced the U.S. Senate was at that moment. It is not due to differing politics that many in California are embarrassed to have Boxer as their senator; few Californians who differ from Sen. Dianne Feinstein are embarrassed by her.
To think that a body once called "the world's most deliberative" was reduced to this juvenile level is to mourn for America. The immaturity of a U.S. senator needing to ask to always be responded to as "senator" rather than "ma'am" in an ongoing dialogue with someone -- of equal stature, it should be noted -- should be self-evident to anyone.
However, in case it is not, two arguments should make this clear.
First, people in the military are taught to call their superiors "ma'am" and "sir." Thus, for example, a sergeant responding to a general will say, "Yes, sir," to a male general and, "Yes, ma'am," to a female general. Though not in the military, I always feel honored when a caller to my radio show says calls me sir. And I always have renewed respect for the military for inculcating that respectful form of address into its members.
To object to being called sir or ma'am by anyone, especially a member of the military and especially a high ranking member of the military is to betray an ignorance of the military and a tone deafness to civility that is appalling in anyone, especially a member of the United States Senate .