Thursday, January 26, 2017

That Liberal Guilt

Yesterday in the New York Times, Frank Bruni dressed down all us liberals who have stepped over the line of decorum to denounce Trump and his minions with indelicate words.  I snorted and went on to read the next column, but the article stayed with me throughout the day.

Our candidates have been trashed by the right wing for decades, since Clinton bashing became a sport in the 90's, with the media leaping into the fray to reap the benefits of spreading scandal.  In Man of the World, the biography of Bill Clinton's post-presidential years, Joe Conason says, "While Hillary served in office, her approval ratings hovered at high levels; the Gallup Organization had identified her in its surveys as America's 'most admired woman' for seventeen years in a row....  But whenever she ran for office, her popularity would drop rapidly amid the partisan clash."

And Donald Trump feeds on lies.  Before his candidacy, he spent seven years attacking President Barack Obama's legitimacy by making repeated and baseless accusations that he was foreign born.  And, of course, the dog whistle being Africa, it brought the racists out to howl at the moon.  During the presidential campaign, leading with his strengths, Trump was cruel, stupid and relentless.  He shivered at Hillary having to take a long pee break at a debate and shunned all women with the ignorant "blood coming out of her wherever" and "fat pig" cracks.

Decades of lies and conspiracy theories about the Clintons led far too many rational voters to question Hillary's sincerity, and too many to refuse to support her in the end because "she lies."  At Trump's convention, the party atmosphere involved joyous chants of "Lock her up," the violent pronouncement that she should be put before a firing squad, and swag with pictures of Hillary behind bars.  She has put up with years of being harassed by the right wing and the punch-drunk media, and decades of one frivolous investigation after another.  Undignified and inappropriate are the least of what I would call the insults and accusations that Trump hurled at our candidate.

And it wasn't just politicians that Trump went after.  A lifetime of bullying yielded an unfailing instinct for going after those in our country least able to fight back.  He started his less-than-illustrious campaign by calling Mexicans "rapists" and fueled post 9/11 fear with anti-Muslim rhetoric.  Out of his ignorance came apocalyptic and insulting images of African American life, and out of fear and ignorance came the mocking of the disabled.  A lifetime of gynophobia and reaction formation result in a litany of verbal and sexual assaults that belie his purported love for women and pursuit of women of beauty.

After two years of being pummeled by Donald Trump, we are tired of listening, sickened by the mad paranoia and narcissism.  Despite his loss of the popular vote by nearly three millions votes, the bully was sworn in.  His unholy alliance with right wing republicans has seen a tsunami of executive orders designed to take away rights and freedoms and do damage to the poor, minorities and women.  He has leaped into action with enthusiasm to make good on his promises -- to the wealthy and powerful -- to lower taxes, increase profit.  His advisers and cabinet reflect the radical republican goals that have failed since Ronald Reagan proposed that filling the coffers of the wealthy would result in prosperity trickling down their legs onto the rest of us.

And our legislators can count on Trump to distract us from the damage they are doing to our environment, to our educational system, to our access to health care and housing in the name of profit.  Paul Ryan, unlike his president, is not stupid.  He knows "the wall" is symbolic and a waste of tax dollars.  With the exception of our own Lindsey Graham (not often I have chosen to identify with the senator), republicans have allowed Trump's paranoid delusion of the millions engaging in voter fraud to gain momentum.  Because while we are pursuing his mad insistence on a formal investigation rather than backing down, we are not pursuing his tax history, his past financial involvements with foreign governments, and his post-election web of corruption in the form of favors and gifts.

Each day since November 9 we go to bed worried and wake up anticipating more hate-fueled words and actions.  We see our safety nets being torn to shreds.  We hear the threats to the freedoms of people of color.  We watch, helpless, as women's health care, women's dignity, women's right to self-determination is destroyed.  Our environmental protections are being dismantled for the sake of profit and even just so that the big corporations, petroleum and agriculture, can assert their right to control the country's assets.  People who have finally been recognized and respected as LGBTQ will once again be under assault.

I am a 65-year-old white woman, worried about my social security income (inadequate to make ends meet as it is) and medicare.  But my fears just cannot compare to the obscene plans that feature demonizing, controlling and punishing people of color, people whose faith or sexual identity differ from the majority.  I just cannot wrap my mind around living in a country that builds a wall to keep what it considers inferior others out.  Or that will force people to register based on their religion.  These are the horrors of countries and eras of the past.  This is not the America I have spent my life in.

Back to Frank Bruni.  When we are being relentlessly pummeled, there comes a time when we no longer are able to go high when they go low.  When we are being systematically stripped of our social safety net, our right to work for a living wage, a healthy environment, when we see those we love threatened and hurt, we get angry.  And we fight back.

When we fight back, some of us are able to do it with more civility than others.  Some will attempt to persuade; others will find other ways to resist.

I will not judge the quality of the expression of the anger at the unceasing assaults.  When the president of the United States has spent years hurling insults, I will defend the right to free speech for the rest of us.  When his surrogates tell us we should respect the office of the presidency, this is my reply:  I have too much respect for the office to stand by while it is soiled and corrupted.  We are watching a wealthy family dynasty take over the country, with obvious plans to hold onto that power as long as possible, with the aid of an all-too-compliant Congress.  Civility is not in order.

I have watched our Democratic representatives make strong statements and then cave in to vote for cabinet nominees who will further the foul agenda of an insane man.  And I am wondering, where is the outrage?  Where is the strength and courage of our convictions?  After eight years of republicans obstructing our president, not because they disagreed with his agenda, but just to promote their own party, I am wondering what it will take for the Democratic Party to unite for the causes they say they hold.  For gods' sake, they are still squabbling over who will head the party, because a black Muslim just might scare away a white middle class voter.

Instead of being critical of those who are fighting the atrocities that are raining on our democracy, it is time to show unflinching support for all of us who are attempting to fight the attack.  Instead of looking at how we word our resistance, it is time for the media to demand that the leader of the country begin to model civil discourse.

I use snark and sarcasm to release the fears I have over what is to become of me, of my children, of my country.  I am afraid that our Democratic leaders will continue to attempt to sound reasonable and willing to compromise rather than standing united -- and angry -- at this tyrannical and un-American ruler.

Americans have the right to freedom of speech; we have been taking the blows from listening to those who hate our differences and want to control or harm us.  We have heard threats to lock up our presidential candidate.  Our freedom and dignity has been under attack throughout the election season, and the winners have doubled-down.  It is time to react with anger. When our patriotism is questioned, when we are told to "get over it," when we are told how and when we should express our dissatisfaction, we need to stand tall, stand together, defend our right to speak freely, to protest, to criticize.  When we are told our words have gotten out of hand, we need to stop reacting with that liberal guilt that is so easy to manipulate.  We have a right to our rage.  We have a right to our words.  We have a right to our protest.

We still live in a democracy.  But it is precious and under attack and we have to guard it.  So, Frank Bruni, don't tell us to watch our language.  Take a look at the anger that has provoked that language, and recognize its validity. 

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