Who controls what happens next ?
Again, I must confess. I am still addicted to the many, daily “tweets” from our President, and the non-stop news articles, comments, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, and sketches responding to his actions, from both those of us at home and those abroad. I find some of what I see and read to be humorous, although they are always at the expense of someone else, and at the expense of my better judgement. I especially enjoy Alec Baldwin’s SNL sketches portraying Donald Trump. I see them as simply good-natured satire, and they provide me with some comic relief, which is a good thing. However President Trump clearly doesn’t see them that way. I guess that I wouldn’t either if I were in his shoes. I imagine that for him and for the half of our population who voted for him, they are not funny, but instead quite offensive. But mostly, the vast majority of what I have read and seen is simply very discouraging. It saps my energy and leaves me with a hopeless feeling.
If you follow my blog or pay attention to what I LIKE or SHARE on Facebook, you know that my political views lean left. Not surprisingly, I find our new President to be woefully unqualified for his job. See my posts of October 8 and November 1, where I outlined my criteria for the person who aspires to be the President, specifically characteristics of Integrity, Temperament, and Experience. Mr. Trump’s job performance thus far confirms my prediction that he fails to meet those criteria. At best, he only very minimally meets the criteria of Integrity, in that thus far he has done exactly what he promised to do.
That said, our response to his actions, either supportive or critical, have taken on a reactionary, obnoxious tone, leaving little room for civil discourse. Rather, they demonize the person(s) whose thoughts differ from ours. This is not the way to make our democracy work. Our government is already fractious and dysfunctional. We do not need to add fuel to that fire and/or to our own differences.
I am not arguing for inaction or passivity. We need to respond to our discouragement and feelings of hopelessness. It helps me to write this article to you, and I regained some sense of power when I participated in a peaceful demonstration in my community celebrating diversity and inclusion of others not like ourselves. But demonstrations alone are not enough. Yes, they give hope and a means to discharge strong emotions, and they can serve as a good starting point. But by themselves they do little to actually change anything. This is especially true when they only express outrage and negativity.
I am reminded of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. There were anti-segregation marches and protests, and many of my contemporaries participated in them. Many of those marches were led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. But there were four other essential elements to the success of the civil rights movement besides protest marches.
- First, there were clearly defined goals.
- Second, there was a strategy. Many marches were carefully planned to take place at a specific time and in a specific, symbolic place.
- Third, there was much constructive work done behind the scenes. Let us not forget that Dr. King worked with President Kennedy to modify the original plans for the 1963 march on the National Mall in order to avoid violence. He also met with officials in the Johnson administration to plan how civil rights for African Americans could be codified into law and implemented.
- Finally, the civil rights movement was firmly rooted in the basic principles of morality and hope. This is perhaps best exemplified in Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
At this time our protests are not only against Donald Trump’s actions, but also against him personally. While many find his character to be reprehensible, never-the-less he is, and will be, our President for the next four years. Of course, it is still too early in his Presidency for those opposed to his policies to form strategic plans to counter his actions. But such will be necessary in order to effect change. Meanwhile, the more we sling insults at him personally, and at each other, the greater our divisions will be.
Fortunately, there are some who are already following up their opposition with targeted action. Examples include the ACLU filing suit against Mr. Trump’s immigration and refugee proclamation, acting Attorney General Sally Yates’s refusal to defend the President’s ban on immigrants coming into the US, the cities that have affirmed that they are “sanctuary cities,” and the legislature of California hiring former Attorney General Eric Holder to prepare for litigation to thwart possible deportation of undocumented immigrants. These actions have reportedly prompted President Trump to consider modifying his order on immigration and refugees. If we wish to change Mr. Trump’s policies we will need to hone our objectives and organize our actions in a non-emotional fashion, similar to the examples above. Our current vitriol will do nothing to help our nation move forward.
Enough “trash talk” already!
Those who do not agree with the direction our new President is taking must not let him set the national dialogue by always jumping to respond to his vacillating pronouncements and incessant, reactionary, offensive “tweets.” Instead, let’s step back, refuse to participate in the vicious conversation, roll up our sleeves, and get to work in a coordinated, constructive way to reclaim the American values and policies that we believe in.