Looking in the Mirror

 

chants-field-mirror-4-by-alex-baker-photographyWe are at a fever pitch in this country, more than anytime in my lifetime, that is for sure. We are divided. And pissed. Not just mad, but PISSED! Raging! It’s obvious why those who aren’t in control of the country are raging but even the people in control seem to be raging. We are all furious. About everything. Dammit! I have long said that I believe history will show that we all went crazy when they put smart phones in our hands. Social media is saving us and killing us at the same time.

After the shooting in Virginia this week, people are calling for toned down rhetoric, which I think is a good thing. At the same time, people need to stand up to oppression and lies, which is where American is at these days. How do you fight a bully nicely? If you think Trump is just a normal president, if you’re not bothered by his attacks on our rule of law and on the media, if you’re fine with him profiting from foreign governments, if none of that bothers you and you’re happy that he’s shaking up the system, then you think those speaking out loudly and forcefully against him are just off the rails. On the other hand, if you see him and his people as s serious threat to our democracy and to the rule of law, then you’re not as inclined to quiet down. And should you quiet down and be polite if your government is being dismantled piece by piece right before your eyes? Should you be gracious when immigrants are being rounded up and families divided, even while the government denies that it is happening? Trying to figure out how loud, how crass to be right now is really quite a dilemma for many of us.

I have been thinking and talking about this a lot over the past year. I realized when Trump won, that the challenge for myself would be to stand up for what is just, while not becoming what I loathed so much in him and his people. I feared becoming mean and hostile like the other side. But I also realized that I was going to have to turn up the heat and fight fire with fire. Because polite disagreement doesn’t work when they’re “chanting lock her up” while punching people at rallies. Hillary and Obama played by the old rules and they lost. But Trump rewrote those rules and he won. He rewrote the rules of decency, of honor, he rewrote the rules about following the rules. And he was rewarded for it. So I decided once the horror began, that it was my job as a citizen to speak truth to lies, even though that was a new thing for me. It took months but eventually the NY Times started saying the president was lying. Not just that he was factually incorrect, but lying. For months they followed protocol, but then they got with the new rules.

I have spoken with many people in the last 6 months who feel passionate about the divide in our country and the direction we’re going, but who say that they just don’t like to speak politically online. They follow the old rules. They just don’t talk about it. Another congressman being shot makes me think about whether the tone I’ve used is the right one. Maybe I have contributed to the hatefulness of today by speaking honestly and yes, even rudely sometimes against what I see as an existential threat to our democracy. I can understand how some would say that I have written things that are toxic and hateful, though I would dispute that. Family members have called me a terrorist for speaking out against this administration. I have rarely used his name, instead calling him Commander-in-Cheetoh or the Orange Idiot or Captain Combover or Mr. Tiny Hands. That’s not respectful, I admit. But to be respectful when he’s attacking judges, when he lies about “birtherism” and wiretapping, when he calls James Comey a nutjob and the media fake news is just… lost. It’s taking a knife to gunfight. So yes, I’ve often chosen to be intentionally sarcastic and sharp-tongued in my writing over the last 6 months. And I wonder if I have become part of the toxic stew that makes up his swamp of hatefulness. But I also wonder what my responsibility is. When Hitler was taking over, wasn’t it everyone’s job to resist? When neighbors were being pulled from their homes wasn’t it time for people to speak up loudly? Not politely but with as much force as that army? Shouldn’t everyday citizens have dared to call truth to power for the good of humanity? I know to compare him to Hitler will make some roll their eyes, but to many he is nearly that dangerous, although he’s not half as smart. But he could be that authoritarian if he continues to be empowerd by sycophants.

Even as many are calling for a cease-fire of hostile rhetoric in the wake of this week’s shooting, we have a president tweeting nasty things and attacking the Russian investigation as ‘fake’ and calling those investigating him “bad people”. Even as he calls for unity at the podium, he can’t be nice or respectful. He continues to foment hatred. Does that mean we should follow suit? Isn’t that just perpetuating the hate? Yes, I think it is to some degree. But what else is there to do? Speak politely and respectfully about his never-ending disrespect? When Breitbart is influencing our government daily, we must speak out! And loudly! When our Attorney General makes a habit of perjuring himself, we must speak out. When top secret information is carelessly given to our enemies by our commander-in-chief, we must loudly protest. We have been forced into the corner of a hateful toxic America. I hope it passes soon. I don’t want to stay pissed. I don’t want to watch the White House press briefings every day as a means of self-defense. I fear that even when this is over and he has quit in a tantrum, or has been impeached or God forbid if the Republicans refuse to put country first and he lasts another 3 years… whenever it ends, I fear that civility is lost and that we’ll never be able to return to the old rules. I’m afraid he’s made me what I was afraid of becoming.

 

 

 

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