By Ken Trainor
'Marinating in the news in New York City, I'm often sick with despair. An authoritarian president of dubious legitimacy and depraved character is poised to remake America for generations with a second Supreme Court pick. The federal government is a festival of kleptocratic impunity. Kids the same age as my own are ripped from their migrant parents."
That's how New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg framed the situation in a recent column. Was last week's news more of the same? Not at all, she said, citing election victories by democratic socialists, most notably, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York City, and three other women candidates in Pennsylvania.
The young, Goldberg says, particularly women, are rebuilding the Democratic Party from the bottom up. Instead of a blue wave, it looks more like a blue groundswell.
So despite several weeks of bad news about separating families on our southern border and Supreme Court decisions giving comfort and cover to those who discriminate, there is hope on this July 4th with just four months left till the midterm elections.
Counterattacking conservatives, meanwhile, are trying to put the focus on liberals who promote the shaming and shunning of Trump and his supporters. How can liberals justify acts of incivility, they ask, such as the Red Hen restaurant owner in Virginia who told Trump's press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to leave her restaurant (at the request of her staff), and Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who called for more acts of shaming directed toward this administration.
It's far more effective, of course, to win elections, but not all of us are running for office, and opposition takes many forms.
Without a doubt, Trump is shameful in almost everything he says and does. Therefore, anyone who voted for him and continues to support him shares in that shame. Keep in mind that silence, too, is a form of support. Silence gives consent. Not speaking out about shameful statements and actions, then, is likewise shameful. With Donald Trump, more than any other public figure, you don't get the luxury of sitting on the fence and saying, "Oh, those politicians are all the same." No, they're not. No one else even comes close.
Maxine Waters' call for shaming and shunning bears no resemblance to Donald Trump's policy of separating children from their parents. Red Hen's owner asking Huckabee Sanders to leave her restaurant is not the same as the Supreme Court approving a bakery owner's right to discriminate against same-sex customers based on his "religious beliefs," thereby sanctioning all discrimination in the name of faith, even when that faith's deity preached the exact opposite of discrimination. And it's also not the same as the Supreme Court sanctioning religious discrimination against Muslims through Trump's travel ban.
It is not our place to tell people sitting on the fence that they need to get off the fence and take a side. It is our responsibility, however, to inform them that by remaining on the fence, they have already taken a side, Trump's side, and ask them if that's really what they want.
Shaming is a tricky business. Let those without sin cast the first stone and all that. It's easy to overreach. Overused, shaming turns into ineffectual scolding, so it should only be used in rare cases. Separating children from their families is definitely one of those cases.
Shunning, on the other hand, is the ultimate form of passive aggression. We should never declare a fellow human being beyond redemption. Even Trump. Shunning is a form of violence, and liberals who want to stay on the "high road" must never resort to violence.
In the case of Huckabee Sanders, I would have told her she was welcome to eat at my establishment, but that the verifiable lies she tells on a regular basis to promote Donald Trump's agenda are shameful — and assure her this is not just some political disagreement. I would tell her that I hold her in contempt of the truth, just like her boss. I would say, "You are an integral part of the communications mechanism that furthers inhumane policies like the travel ban against Muslims and separating children from their parents, which is hard to understand since you're a parent yourself. But you're welcome to stay here. Instead of finding another restaurant to patronize, I suggest you find another line of work."
If she took offense and chose to leave, I would point out that she was "self-deporting."
Meanwhile, if the conservatives who are busy shaming and shunning Red Hen and Maxine Waters were to ask me how I can justify liberal incivility, I would say, "As soon as I hear you criticize Donald Trump for separating children from their parents, as soon as you condemn his decency-destroying Twitter tirades and criticize his policies that amount to thinly disguised discrimination, then I would be happy to have a conversation about liberals occasionally straying from the high road and being merely "impolite."
In other words, with all due respect and sincerity, I would ask them to "Shut the Trump up."
Answer Book 2019
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