Wrestling with Wrong

trump-elected-2016I went to bed last night demoralized, my faith in democracy challenged in a way I never believed was possible.

It was late, after the acceptance speech by President-elect Donald Trump. I was exhausted. I slept very little.

I awoke this morning in a state of confusion, a daze that still lingers over me. My fear of half the nation’s voters, more than 50 million of my fellow citizens, brings grief and anxiety to my every thought. Can our ideas about what defines the United States of America be that different? Yes, they can.

I’ve worked a lot of campaigns as a volunteer. This one was different. This one was unprecedented in its vitriol and disgust. This one was personal. This one was moral. The fog of war created cover for absurdist antics and human abuse. This behavior was not taught as acceptable when I learned as a child to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

I have been physically threatened on multiple occasions for my writing about the election, almost entirely by anonymous sources online, for expressing my views, activating my right to free speech. I have experienced anti-Semitism. I have been asked to leave the nation to which my family immigrated generations ago. It is always strange to see words like this in print because I do not experience them at all in real world life, yet those words are always out there masked in cowardice. They never go away. Hate may sit in the background, but it is always with us.

I won’t stop writing. I won’t stop talking. You may have won an election but you haven’t won the bullying match. Don’t believe me, just watch.

I received an email early in the day from a dear friend asking for my advice on how to address his community this morning in the face of shock. I told him I was still forming my thoughts, but here was a start:

I would say human beings are fallible and the wrong answer has always been the risk of our democracy. Majority rule is by nature imperfect, but we haven’t identified a better system.

I would remind people we are now almost perfectly divided, that Trump prevailed by geography and demographics, not by intellectual mandate. Clinton won the popular vote, albeit by less than 1%, which tells us how few minds have to change for sanity to return.

I would make the point empirically that education is the basis of democracy, and while a precious few students enjoy the highest privilege on earth, that is not the norm in this nation by a long shot and if we don’t fix that divide we will destroy the American dream. With intelligence must come humility or Progressives will continue to be seen as elite and detached. Regardless and without apology, reading beats YouTube and a tweet is not a policy statement. Rigorous thought matters over the long haul, no matter how many trivialities consume our hours.

I would tell them to stand by their beliefs, that courage is only real when you oppose the tyranny of the majority and risk losing something for what others can have later. History is written in the future, not the present. Fight hate, fight oppression, have empathy for your opponent or you can’t win them over, have compassion for the hungry, never betray your morality for material gain, and prepare now to fix this error four years from now.

He’s the President, not the King. We bond together now to keep him from having more authority than our Constitution will allow. False prophets are always exposed. This one will betray his following like all others have and then our good work can continue.

Teach your children well.

Shortly after I sent that I watched the live concession speech of Hillary Clinton and felt pressure crushing my heart. Then I watched the live remarks of Barack Obama committing his team to the peaceful transition of power. Following that I spent a few hours reading numerous posts from friends, strangers, journalists, and pundits either trumpeting the success of their candidate or, like me, attempting to find a path to wrestling with wrong. Only now I am I beginning to come to a point of view on where to look next:

Clinton supporters vastly underestimated the power of disaffection and blame.

Trump supporters are even more vastly underestimating our commitment to our values and hard-won gains.

We are separated by the thinnest of all margins. We tip the scales by standing our ground. In the letdown of our opposition, which I believe is inevitable, a few will join us and then we’ll right the ship.

Don’t underestimate a committed cause. It cuts both ways, but reality will expose delusion.

Stand your ground, speak your voice, recommit to goodness.

I don’t have it all figured it out anymore than you do. There is still a brick on my heart and it won’t be lifted anytime soon. I will learn to live with that, and fight harder because I feel the perpetual discomfort. We will not teach the next generation that our ultimate experiment in democracy is won or lost on who is the most effective liar and stirrer of hate. That is too cynical a pill to swallow.

We also won’t cave under the auspices of, “It’s time to come together and heal.” I have no business with the alt-right. I have no interest in excusing racist, misogynist, bigoted hate speech. You want to build an idiotic wall? We will oppose it. You want to round-up millions of people you don’t want here? We will stand in front of their homes. You want to take away medical care from 20 million Americans? Not without the fight of your life.

Blind faith that your super-hero Trump can bring back jobs that are no longer economically viable is ill-founded. People who bet on a whim will discover that quickly. The notion that random change for the sake of change will improve lives is equally empty. People who embraced rhetoric absent a fact-based plan will also discover that quickly. It is illogical to reject globalization and automation. You don’t have to like it, but you can’t make it go away. If you try to put up walls, you will have wars, and they are way more costly. The change you think you want to embrace cannot occur without mass loss.

This reality will take place in record time. Remember some of the disillusionment that followed President Obama’s first few years in office? The exponential disillusionment coming your way will make that seem like a full slate of promises kept. If you were disaffected before, watch assets as they shift at lightning pace to the 1% when they go on sale. Then you will realize that you have been duped by a con man, and when a very few cross back over the line to sanity, we will get back to work moving forward.

We wrestle with wrong by exposing it. That path began this morning. The sooner we recommit to course correction, the sooner this injustice is corrected.

Yes, we can.

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The Shame of Trump Soils Us All

trump-apologyIn this one man, Donald Trump, I see everything that is wrong with our nation and what some celebrate as success. This is not a man of substance. This is not a man of commendable accomplishment. This is not a complex thinker who can solve intricate global problems.

This is a self-serving egomaniac with a singular view of the world formed from his own narcissism. There is no “but Hillary” to offset his catalogue of maniacal life behaviors. He is beyond redemption and history will not be kind to his legacy. He brings shame on everyone who wants to believe in the pride of America.

Trump is so intellectually thin you wonder how he ever made a dime. Can you imagine working for this blowhard for a day? I can’t. All bluster and hyperbole. No substance of any kind. No humility. No manners. No humanity. Keep spewing, Donald. It shows us who you are. You are a nobody, which is your very worst fear. You are not important  sorry to confront you with the truth.

Every one of us is soiled by his sad, tragic, despicable, deplorable existence. He is not making America great again. He is single-handedly making a mockery of all we hold dear. He is taking us down. This is not who we are. He cannot be an emblem of anything but shame and humiliation.

It will take decades for our nation’s reputation to recover from this global embarrassment. If we want the healing to begin, we need to categorically distance ourselves from this useless monster. We can offer only a humble apology to the world for his tirades, explaining that this is an extreme of the democracy we embrace, not a reflection of the character to which we aspire.

The debates we have witnessed have not been comforting, but they have been revealing, mostly of character and preparedness. It was actually the final question of the vice-presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence — asking how we as citizens enduring this noise can get past our immeasurable differences  that seemed to me the most telling. It is difficult to believe our nation will fully recover from the divisiveness of this campaign and the last twenty or so years of Congress in our lifetime. I don’t see big picture unity on the horizon no matter which party is in power.

Ultimately I think this bodes poorly for America a hundred or so years from now. Both sides are fully convinced the other has a catastrophic vision of the nation’s future. It is possible with that perpetual split both sides might be correct in their prediction. If we don’t fix that somehow, I wonder if it matters who holds power in the interim.

My own partisan leanings come not from a love of party but for a need for strength in numbers to stand up against oppression. I’m not a “joiner” by nature, but I am a minority and a product of immigrant culture. When I bond with others in a block vote it is to protect the social progressive agenda that I see as a moral imperative, despite the failings and manipulation of many on our side.

I don’t see Hillary Clinton as the lesser of two evils. I see her as a complex thinker who can lead no matter her flaws. I see Barack Obama as a hero who saved our nation from economic collapse and as an inspired legal scholar who thinks about justice and humanity with foresight and nuance. I am not a Democrat to be difficult. I am a Democrat because I have carefully taken stock of my values and need a voice much louder than my own to make the case for teaching tolerance and keeping hope alive.

In his own debate appearances and speaking engagements, Trump continues to demonstrate that he is largely incapable of expressing a single, coherent, on-point sentence. He rambles like a lazy school kid who won’t study before speech class. Imagine him in a cabinet meeting. Imagine him at a global summit. He is an emotional basket case, not a clear thinker. Take the word “disaster” out of his vocabulary and he becomes inarticulate. We see him pacing onstage with his back to the audience, looming like Frankenstein in a bad horror movie. We see him attack the debate moderators for doing their jobs. If this were a movie we’d have walked out on page 1 of the script.

Want to know what an unaccountable, menacing, totalitarian dictator looks and sounds like? Play back the second presidential debate and watch the man who seeks the United States presidency exhibit his version of democracy and visionary leadership.

I am ashamed that people abroad are seeing this. Will we ever regain their trust in our dream after we’ve shown them repeatedly that a signficant portion of our population considers Trump a viable commander-in-chief?

Vote in large numbers and send the global message that we abhor this lunatic.

_____

This article originally appeared on The Good Men Project.

Harnessing The Bern!

Dear Bernie,

You did a great job.

You galvanized a young generation of voters.

You helped change the dialogue to one of fairness.

You helped us to Think Different.

Now it’s time to be a mensch.

What’s at stake is everything.

We all have to row together in the same canoe.

I’m With Her are winning words.

Please be a mensch.

Love,

Those who need you.

bernie-sanders-hillary-clinton-democratic-debate

Author’s Postscript:

If we step out of campaign mode, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton really aren’t that far apart on the key issues that change our lives. They both share a core set of humanistic values and so do their constituents. Bringing us together will accomplish way more of the Progressive Agenda than an artificial wall.

We can continue to build upon the legacy of President Obama if we unite. Our commonality is way beyond our differences.

Bernie is going to join the Clinton campaign, I’m certain of that – the question is when and how ardently. None of his critical concerns will be ignored if he takes his seat at the table. He has earned that seat. It’s a good seat. He has to RSVP sooner rather than later because every minute counts now. He has to make that choice. I have faith he will do the right thing. Then Bernie can still be Bernie.

It begins. Onto November.

_____

Photo: DNC Presidential Debate, April 2016.