Equivalents, Civility and Fire

Reading time – 4:12; Viewing time – 5:47  .  .  .

There are a bunch of links in this post. None is long. All are worthwhile (that’s why they are included). Check ’em out. JA

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It’s been a continuous flow in the open sewer that is the law breaking, ethics spurning, morals smashing of Donald Trump and his mob of democracy destroyers. So, when I came across the picture at the top-right corner of this post, I knew it had to be included here. But am I making a mistake? Read on.

The assaults on the institutions we revere, the attacks on whole races of people, the calls for violence against protesters, the dissing of our allies, the refusal to stop a foreign power from attacking us and now the kidnapping and abuse of thousands of children have left millions of us enraged. And that’s a problem.

Human Being 101: When attacked, we either fight or flee. It’s the kind of fight that is going on now that’s the problem and it’s my contention that we may be shooting ourselves in the foot by the way we’re fighting.

For a long time people on the left have felt attacked, and rightly so, as far right thugs have spewed hatred and lies. My notion is that the modern day onslaught of this started with President Reagan’s run for the presidency in 1980, when he was famously bashing all welfare and he called out a “welfare queen” on the south side of Chicago. When challenged repeatedly, he finally had to concede that neither he nor anyone in his campaign could name a single example of a welfare queen in Chicago or anywhere else. Nevertheless, his lie demonized powerfully and nobody missed that dog whistle to racism that made lefties furious.

Since then there have been the lies and vitriol spewed by Fox News, Newt Gingrich, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Alex Jones and the Birther-In-Chief and likely you’re continuously angry about all of that. That’s the stuff that fires us into a fit of Human Being 101 attack mode, like Maxine Waters making herself the national cheerleader for public shaming.

Joe Wilson official congressional photo.jpg

“You lie!”

“Not true.”

Oddly enough, that’s the same kind of anger response that drove Tea Partier Joe Wilson to inappropriately yell, “You lie!” during President Obama’s address to Congress in September, 2009. It’s what drives all of Trump’s 27- 38%. The direction is polar opposite to that of lefties, but the shaming anger response is identical.

I abhor false equivalencies and other frauds, but this one, in principle, is no sham. Public shaming, humiliating, demonizing and hate spewing are wrong. It doesn’t matter who’s doing it. I get that we feel justified and powerful when we do that, but that’s just the hormones of rage in our veins. What’s really happening is that we are making things worse. That’s “worse” as in: counter-productive. We give righty hate mongers the justification to hate even more and we generate new recruits to their side as well.

Read Jonathan Martin’s article about this and be sure to see Michelle Goldberg’s brilliant piece to understand this better. Want to see how counter-productive this public shaming of righties really is for Democrats? Read this piece from the Wall Street Journal editorial board, because they’re spot-on. These essays make clear what being a slave to adrenaline and testosterone will do to us.

Just in case you don’t find the gun-to-foot picture above persuasive of the counter-productive nature of public shaming, read Frank Bruni’s piece, Public Shaming Feels Good. That’s No Reason to Do It.

if you want to honor your frustration and passion, read John Pavlovitz’s essay. Note that his anger is right there for all to see and feel; humiliation and shaming are not. Translation: Bring your anger, your frustration and your passion. But leave your hate and the need to hurt others far behind you. Maybe we can start to make things better.

So, maybe – no, for sure – I shouldn’t have included the White House picture above because all it does is to make things worse.

Public shaming is not only wrong; it’s politically stupid. Wise up, Democrats.

On the other hand  .  .  .

I’m every bit as incensed as you and not only won’t I allow bullies to beat me up and steal from me, I won’t allow them to do that to anyone else, either. That includes mothers with nursing infants in McAllen, Texas and poor people in North Carolina who want to vote. I still believe public shaming will likely be counter-productive, but maybe the real issue isn’t civility.

It’s all too easy to go too far on the high ground of civility, like this 1934 admonition to Jews to be civil with the Nazis. Get this: thugs only understand one thing: a harder punch in the nose.

So, let’s not be stupid about this. It’s not about civility. It’s about stopping the thugs who are destroying our country. It’s about setting things right again. It’s time to stop bringing spitballs to a gun fight. It’s time to fight back with equivalents plus one so that we hit back harder.

To Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and the rest of our tired septuagenarian leadership: Your sell-by date is long past. Give it up to someone with fire in their belly.

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Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
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One Response to Equivalents, Civility and Fire
  1. Dan Wallace Reply

    Jack, I will have something of my own to say about this, but for now . . . aggressive, angry “shaming” is counterproductive. But what the restaurant owner did, which I would call shunning is not. It is right, and is in fact necessary, for the likes of Sarah Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, Steven Miller, Sean Hannity, et al, to feel like the pariahs that they are to most of us. They can and should be told politely, consistently and firmly, “I’m sorry, but your words and actions conflict with my most deeply held values. As a result, you are not welcome here (in my home, my restaurant, my store or the back seat of my Uber), and I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” To attempt to engage them in rational conversation is, sadly, to legitimize what is not only illegitimate but evil. Yes, Germany 1934 is the model for this. Too early is much better than too late. To be clear, this is not – should not be – about right vs left. This isn’t the time for that. It’s about sane vs insane (Trump), good vs evil (Miller, McConnell), and truth vs propaganda (Sanders, Conway, Goebbels).

    We also need to see the press stand up and do their job in a way they aren’t. They legitimize. (People think Trump was made by Fox. He wasn’t. He was made by CNN. See March 2017 NYT Magazine article about how Jeff Zucker told the troops that whenever Trump got near a mic, to drop everything and cut to him because he drove ratings. Their fingerprints are on this.) The press needs to stand in front of administration officials and patiently ask for evidence to back up statements. “Everyone is saying, lots of people are saying” isn’t good enough. Can you give me a couple of names? The best example of this is NBC’s Peter Alexander calling Trump out at his first news conference on his claim of having the largest electoral college margin in history. He was prepared, polite and persistent. That needs to be the order of the day.