COMMENTARY: For the last five months I’ve woken up furious every morning as the news comes on describing Donald Trump’s failures. Taking basic health care away from millions. Insulting our nation’s friends while siding with dictators. Ripping immigrant families apart for no reason. Discriminating against people for how they pray. His tweets. Words fail to describe how outraged and embarrassed I am by this. Seriously.
It leaves me and many others wanting to fight. But to do it effectively, we need to do it right. What does that mean?
First, and most importantly, participate. In a democracy we bear the responsibility of choosing our officials. So if you are angry, channel that not only into presidential elections but also by voting, going door to door, and giving financially to those running for governor, state legislature, city council, county commission, and school board, as all of these are important in resisting Trump. Or, run yourself, as we always need great people in public office.
Communicating, in strong but respectful terms, our feelings on issues is also vital. Personal stories are a powerful way to influence the world, so if you are going to lose your health insurance under Trumpcare, know someone being deported whose only crime is wanting to be with their family, understand the science affecting the natural world, or other important information, share it by writing to newspapers, websites, and our elected officials; participating in protests (and even non-violent civil disobedience); and expressing yourself civilly on social media.
Furthermore, all of us need to listen better. It is undeniable that racism and sexism contributed to Trump’s victory. However, many of his voters have real, important concerns. White Americans without college degrees have higher rates of suicide, drug addiction, and alcohol abuse than at any other time in recent memory. Many feel left behind by a globalized economy, still aren’t getting the health care they need, and feel politicians don’t care.
These folks overwhelmingly supported Trump, some doing so out of desperation. We need to hear them, understanding that society has to address their needs effectively in order to avoid elections like the last one.
Knowing all this, we also have to see that Trump’s biggest offense is getting us to act like him. When we post vile social media messages, protest violently, or excuse assassination attempts on politicians we disagree with, he wins.
These actions take us away from the values that let us coexist as a peaceful country of differing opinions, and distract us from Trump’s terrible failures. Mark Twain once said that fighting people like Trump on his terms was a always a bad idea, because when dragged down to their level they will always beat us with experience.
Instead, let’s channel our inner Barack and Michelle Obama. Racist taunts were constantly hurled at both while he was president. Lies about where he was born were constantly told on nationwide news networks. Michelle was regularly compared to a gorilla. People even publicly said they they wanted the Obama daughters to die of “cancer, AIDS or one of those colored diseases.”
Not once did they ever respond with anger, threats or childish insults. Instead, they fought for things like climate change, education, health care, and growing an economy that works for everyone with passion and intelligence. Their dignity and grace, even after those terrible insults, should give us a roadmap to winning in a way we can be proud of.
So remember, when someone is cruel or acts like a bully we shouldn’t stoop to their level. Instead our motto should always be, when they go low, we go high.
Bill McCamley, a Democrat, is the state representative for the Las Cruces-area District 33.