I’ve spent the months of the Trump presidency largely quiet. At first, it was because, well like most of you, I was in shock. I couldn’t believe that we had elected Donald Trump to be the President of the United States. But as the months went by, I continued my relative silence. I was disgusted yes and depressed for certain. I was worried. But more than that, I simply had nothing positive or in my mind, useful, to add to the conversation.
As a lifelong liberal, I was so excited to see truly extraordinary social progress happen in my lifetime. The first black President. Marriage Equality under law. DACA. The Affordable Care Act. While we are not living in the liberal paradise that I hoped the Obama administration would bring, we were definitely moving in the right direction.
That being said, I’m discouraged. And, a bit embarrassed. We have let President Trump sacrifice some of the values that we hold most dear. I’m not talking about legislatively. He’s been a complete failure in that regard. I’m talking about personally. I’m talking about how we choose to interact with each other on a daily basis.
I want to talk about a debate I had recently about the freedom of speech. The debate began over an Op-Ed in the Washington Post entitled A Chilling Study Shows How Hostile College Students Are To Free Speech.
The argument ranged back and forth touching on everything from whether or not hate speech should be protected by the 1st Amendment to the importance of student voice in the classroom. But the people having this conversation with me were NOT liberals. They were conservatives. The liberals who took part on the conversation took to calling the woman who posted the article “brainwashed” and a “propaganda machine for the right.” It wasn’t the liberals but the conservatives who listened and challenged and evoked. When the hell did that happen? When did we become the whiners and the cry babies?
I wish I could say that this was the only such childishness I had seen from people on the left side of the political spectrum. Having grown up in Rhode Island, I am a life long New England Patriots fan. When I wore my Tom Brady jersey the day after the Patriots won the Super Bowl, a colleague approached me and asked “How can you wear that jersey? He’s a Trump supporter!”
Not long ago I got into a debate with a proud member of the NRA. I don’t understand people like him. I didn’t grow up with guns and frankly, they make me incredibly uncomfortable. I think the answer to violent crime is to have a smaller supply of guns available. I think more regulation is the ONLY way to keep us safe. However, instead of debating the issues, I started attacking the person. He was an idiot. A barbarian. A fool. I didn’t wan’t to be friends with someone who believed that there should be more guns in the world. I haven’t spoken to this person since this interaction. While I wish I was somehow above the name calling and infantile responses, I am not. But I want to be.
There is something about being a liberal that I am so very proud of. It is about being open minded. It’s about acceptance. Its about having faith in humanity. It’s about fighting for what is right and what is good. For EVERYONE. Especially for those people with whom you disagree. Being liberal is about “and” rather than “or”. We could be about protecting the environment AND understanding that we can’t crash our economic system in order to accomplish it. We could be for reforming education in a way that actually works for teachers, administration, students AND communities. We could do that.
Let’s have a debate about race that doesn’t result in being called a racist if you disagree with the opinion of a person of color. Let’s talk about health care as a right without calling those who think differently “fascists.” Let’s take the time to see life from another’s perspective. Finally, let’s stop acting like children.
I know, I know… this isn’t a perfect vision. We have a long way to go and so many real issues that we have to address. There are many reasons why we can’t make this a reality. But being liberal has always been about being a dreamer. We are the ones with our heads in the clouds and the ones who see the silver lining. I hope we can get back to that world.