Reading time: 2:20; Viewing time – 4:00  .  .  .

I’ve been wrong. I’ve been short-sighted and reactionary and embarrassingly foolish. The embarrassment is because I know better.

Something didn’t feel right and then I read Nick Kristoff’s A 12-Step Program for Responding to President-Elect Trump and it was then – at step #3 – that I knew that I had tripped on the attitude diving board and done a belly flop onto the political pool deck.

Step 3. I WILL avoid demonizing people who don’t agree with me about this election, recognizing that it’s as wrong to stereotype Trump supporters as anybody else. I will avoid Hitler metaphors, recognizing that they stop conversations and rarely persuade. I’ll remind myself that no side has a monopoly on truth and that many Trump supporters are good people who want the best for the country. The left already has gotten into trouble for condescending to working-class people, and insulting all Trump supporters as racists simply magnifies that problem.

I know that Kristoff is right, that nobody has a monopoly on the truth and that having voted for Trump doesn’t mean that someone is a racist. Indeed, I’m wondering what percentage of Trump voters were simply so convinced of the evil of Clinton that they were willing to ignore Trump’s negatives – or the percentage of Americans who chose Trump because at least he was speaking to the suppressed rage they’ve carried in their gut for decades due to government having so consistently ignored and abused them.

I’ve been frustrated listening to righties who claim the high ground of patriotism and love of America, who imply or outright say that they have it right and others simply aren’t patriots. I often have imaginary conversations with them and explain that I love America every bit as much as they do and I very much want to excoriate them for their closed-mindedness. At this moment, though, my aforementioned embarrassment extends yet further, as I’ve realized that I’ve been thinking about them with a closed-mindedness of my own and it’s as harmful as theirs.

Flagrantly demonizing people is wrong no matter who does it. Stereotyping is wrong when I do it. On the other hand, calling out hate mongers is the right thing to do.

Kristoff advises letting go of Hitler metaphors, so let’s play with that a bit. “Alt-Right” includes Neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists, militias, the Posse Comitatus and likely other fringe hate groups. Trump has installed Alt-Right hater Steve Bannon as his chief strategist, and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as his attorney general and he’s bringing hyper-anti-immigrant hotheads like Mike Flynn and Kris Kobach into his cabinet. He has promised to round up Hispanics and to discriminate against Muslims and make them “register”. He stereotypes African-Americans as ghetto bums and continues to refuse to repudiate the hate mongers, including the seig heil morons. And Kristoff really wants me to let go of the Hitler metaphors? I don’t know if I can do that. I’m not confident that refusing to see a Hitler-like pattern is a good idea, because the hate induced catastrophes always begin this way. A key part of our answers moving forward lies in opposing the haters and stopping the bullies.

Meanwhile, we’re left with the rest of the question about what to do for our country, and I – perhaps you, too – need to take a step back and do a 12-step program – or maybe an 11.8-step program – and find some balance, accept that some don’t see it our way, but that doesn’t make them wrong or foolish or hateful or bad. Then perhaps we can all start finding some answers.


Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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7 Responses to Answers
  1. dominickpalella Reply

    Jack, if you want to know what take steps to take for your country, here’s my list.

    1. Stop arguing about political ideologies, when they are in conflict with your own. It only creates polarization and divisiveness. Instead, seek common ground that lets everyone hold on to his or her personal ideologies, and addresses the only issue that keeps us fighting and in fear of each other.

    2. Recognize the fact that you have no right to interfere with the decisions of politicians that you did, or did not support in an election. Whoever was elected has no obligation to listen or respond to us. This is their Constitutional right. This is the issue to pay attention to, unless you prefer being the servant of politicians and like protesting, petitioning and pleading with them with your First Amendment rights after they are elected to office.

    3. Take responsibility for your civic duties as a citizen. Use your critical thinking ability to stop accepting an irrational definition of “accountability”, now that you are living in the 21st century. Voting in elections for those you have not vetted for transparent accountability to you and your community of citizens is irresponsible.

    4. Apply what you learn from my web site to elect truly accountable representatives in your local communities. This is where grass roots movements can be effective, as corporate money has less influence on local election results. It doesn’t matter if candidates are members of the Republican or Democratic Party. The only thing that does matter is that they will listen and respond to you, after their election.

    Jack, I’ve yet to hear from you or your regular subscribers to consider what I am trying to accomplish. Whether you agree or disagree with my approach for political reform, give me a call or send an email. Let’s discuss among ourselves.

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      If you are a regular visitor to this site you know that I solicit your views with every post. My intention is for this to be a forum to help us all learn. Dominick Palella is a regular contributor with a very specific focus and he has something to say to us.

      Dominick thinks our elected officials should be accountable to us, not just during election season but for every vote they take in Congress or state legislature. It’s difficult for me to imagine you disagreeing with him about this. So, take a look at his website and read the proposed pledge he has constructed for elected officials. What do you think? While his site doesn’t offer a way to comment publicly, you can comment directly to him via his contact page and come back here and reply for all of us to benefit from your thinking.

      Dominick is a guy who cares about our country and his ideas deserve your consideration.

  2. Ed Reply

    Comparing Donald Trump to Hitler in your blog is, at best, counterproductive. During President Obama’s first term, I received a forwarded email describing Barack Obama as the “new Hitler.” I deleted it and never opened another email from the person who sent it to me. I suspect that anyone reading your blog who remotely respects Donald Trump would do the same if you used the names Hitler and Trump in the same sentence.

    So, following this line of thinking, I guess I should probably stop referring to the President-elect as misogynistic, racist, Islamophobic, xenophobic, and egomaniacal!

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      I do not expect to convert a Trump supporter to my views, so it’s probably impossible for Hitler-Trump references to be counterproductive. The potential value of such comparisons lies in shining a light on the truth of what is going on and putting it into an historical perspective for those willing to think beyond what is comfortable, including those resting in their passivity and denial.

      The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum released a statement this week which began, “The Holocaust didn’t begin with killing; it began with words.” We have had a lot of hateful words and actions already and they will continue if they are not called out.

      • Ed Reply

        It’s your blog – write what you want, but I firmly believe that extreme statements, such as” Hitler metaphors,” only serve to make many people stop reading. And I also firmly believe that most Americans still support the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. I am, however, very concerned that important Supreme Court rulings such as Plyler v. Doe and perhaps even Roe v. Wade may well be overturned once Donald Trump’s new Supreme Court appointee is confirmed.

  3. Jim Altschuler Reply

    I will not apologize to anyone for being an anti-bigot bigot. I have been an anti-bigot bigot for as far back as I can remember. I hate bigotry in all forms and at all levels, even minor bigotry like not buying certain clothing or household products because they were made in (fill in the blank).

    I will also not apologize for standing up to bullies, bigots, “Alt-Rights”, etc. or for calling them out for what they are and what they do. Others have the right to know who and what they are as well as what they do. How many of us (the American people) really knew about, or for some even heard of, the people that Trump is appointing to his Cabinet posts and advisory group? Who knew of their opinions and attitudes toward many of the American people? What can we expect them to do for, or about, questions regarding immigrants, religious freedom, etc. — sadly, I think many of us may know the answers to these questions.

    I’m not going to apologize for fighting against religious, national, sexual, or any other kind of injustice. It’s the only way that such injustice can be stopped. My concern today and for the foreseeable future is that the election of Trump to leadership of this country has just opened the doors of intolerance and injustice much wider than they have ever been before.

  4. Frank Levy Reply

    Jack – I agree, calling all Trump supporters racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic, xenophobic, assholes probably hampers, or totally shuts down, productive dialogue. But to ignore the reality that not a single Trump voter found his racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic, xenophobic, and anti-immigrant statements and associations deal breaker that would prevent them from voting for the Orange Man/Child, is unacceptable and dangerous. As history tells us, and you point out on your blog, ignoring Trump’s statements, his unwillingness to condemn his white Christian Nationalist and white supremacist supporters, and his recent staff and cabinet appointments is the first step to welcoming the rule of a Hitler-like dictator and tyrant into the White House.

    Are there problems in America? Yes. Are lots of Americans feeling left behind in wages, job security, and status? Yes. But for white Christians to blame everyone else that does not look, vote, talk, or vote like them for the problem, is racism.

    We do need to find better ways to talk with one another if we are ever to get past the problems that are killing America, but unless and until, conservatives own up to the racism and other phobias and -isms they have nurtured and promoted for decades, real conversation is simply not possible.

    My reading of Jonathan Haidt’s, The Righteous Mind – Why Good People Cannot Talk About Religion or Politics, clearly places the burden for starting the conversation on the shoulders of Progressives because Conservatives do not see any reason to have the conversation. So I ask, how do we have a conversation with people who are lousy winners, who are now very happy with the way things are (they get their white privilege back in spades), who think they are totally justified in their concerns about the destruction of America at the hands of “those people,” (Muslims and Jews), who see whole groups of POC [People Of Color] as a grotesque, inferior, “other”, and who have no interest in a fact-based discussion of how to cure America’s ills? How do you have a conversation with people who find facts an inconvenience, and who mistake opinion for fact?

    Calling Trump Hitler, and his pronouncements and appointees Hitler-like, is probably not productive. But we cannot ignore that much of what Trump says, the groups he fails to disavow, some of the appointments he has made, and especially Steve Bannon, look like, sound like, smell like things Hitler, Goebbels, Goering, others in Hitler’s inner circle said and did. And what looks like a racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic, xenophobic Nazi tyrant probably is.

    Beginning today, I pledge to never call Trump or one of his supporters Hitler or a Nazi, but I will not stop seeing them as the dangerous, first signs of a coming fascist dictatorship that will take over America if we do not stop them.