About a week ago, I wrote about my own experience with being bullied. If there is a single overarching disappointment with the electoral victory of Donald Trump, it’s the resurrection and resurgence of a culture of bullying, of vilifying people by virtue of their being a member of being a part of a group. Judging people not by the content of their character but instead by some vaguely defined membership (which may or may not be an active choice).
I don’t have disdain for David Duke (for example) because he used to belong to the KKK. I have disdain for him because (among other things) he believes himself to be superior to others because of the color of his skin. That this worldview comports with that of the KKK, although not coincidental, is not the whole story nor is it the entire justification for my contempt for the man. At an individual level, I would still judge other KKK members separately from the group to which they belong.
One thing that makes 2016 different from 1980 (another time a celebrity perceived by many as a political lightweight rode a populist wave into the White House, threatening to undo a lot of the hard-fought social progress recently achieved), is the fact that the losing side is refusing to remain silent. Indeed, two weeks have passed since the election and the rallies of the opposition continue to seize the intellectual and moral high ground.
About a month before the election, my son asked me what I thought were the three biggest issues facing the country. I thought about it for a minute and said the environment, nuclear proliferation, and tribalism.
If you agree with me on those topics then you also agree that the election of Donald Trump — if we can take his relevant public statements at face value — are a setback with regard to all three of those issues. His threats to back out of the Paris climate deal and the Iranian nuclear deal could (if he follows through) make global warming worse than it already is, and could make it harder to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
And he undoubtedly used tribalism, fear, and hatred to appeal to people who either feel left out of the economic recovery we have otherwise been enjoying, or whose beliefs cause them to fear people they otherwise don’t know (pick a group: blacks, muslims, the LGBT community, atheists, liberals,….)
Trump himself isn’t the real problem. It’s the acrimony he has encouraged, the resurrection of anger, rage, scapegoating, and tribalism. They’ve always been there; he just reawakened it, at least in this country.
I had the good fortune to attend a rally in Philadelphia this past weekend. While some of the sentiment was decidedly anti-Donald Trump, the real message was love, of building bridges rather than walls, of offering someone a hand instead of a fist.
The rally was a thing of beauty. Men, women, and children of all ages, creeds, colors coming together. Strangers, mostly, united by the shared belief that we, as a people, can be better, do more for our fellow human beings and the world around us.
It wasn’t so much a protest as it was a call to action, to turn the lights on as the darkness approaches. We listened to inspiring speakers talking about their visions of what truly makes America great.
And then we marched to the Constitution Center and back. We sang and cheered for life, love, beauty.
The most moving part was when we marched by the National Museum of American Jewish History and the entire crowd (well over 1000 people) went silent and gave a polite salute to the six million people who were slaughtered during the holocaust as a part of the brutal nazi regime in Germany seven decades ago. The unspoken words: never again.
I had made a sign that read “However you say it, we need more love” with the word “love” written in multiple languages around the poster board. The languages I chose were French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, German, Hindi, Hebrew, and, most prominently, Arabic.
I can’t imagine the incoming regime actually making good on the promise to implement a registry for Muslims. I would imagine that before they even try, it would be challenged on first and fourth amendment grounds, and would fail in the courts. But you can count me among those who would clog the list if it were to come to fruition with erroneous and misleading data.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a fan of Harry Chapin, both his work and his music. He’s got two songs that have been echoing in my head since the rally on Saturday, both of which are a call to action, to motivate us against complacency and the forces that seek to divide us.