I believe…sometimes there IS only one side

thumb_IMG_8034_1024

In my previous post I spoke of the need to find middle ground between ideological extremes. This is what dialogue is all about. But, what if there IS no middle ground? What if an ideology is not only wrong, but dangerous? What if there is nothing to dialogue about?

This past weekend’s events in Charlottesville, VA laid bare the ugly reality of racism and bigotry in America.

Nazi, white-supremacist, and racist ideology is WRONG. It is EVIL. There is no common ground on which to begin a dialogue.

Any decent person with a decent knowledge of history should shudder at the sight of swastikas and Hitler style salutes. The images dig up memories of one of the most horrific mass exterminations of human life, of hatred systematically acted out in the executions of millions of men, women and children.

And yet, there they were. Hitler’s ideological descendants.  Marching on the streets of small town America. Using their right to free speech to spew hatred of the “other”. Claiming that their own white, privileged lives were under attack. Flaunting the support of the man whom they helped to elect president. And, support them he did.

By claiming that “many sides” were at fault for the violence, Trump claimed a false equivalency between the alt-right, white supremacists and those who came to protest them in the name of basic human equality. Despite the back-pedalling of the White House, Trump had clearly shown where his loyalties lie. A man who based his political platform on name-calling, refused to call by name the evil of nazi, racist, white supremacy.

There are moments in history where dialogue is not the answer. When evil rears its ugly head, threatening the security of all, it must be fought. It is not the time for nice words. It is not the time for seeking middle ground.

After hearing Trump’s speech, hubby and I were both reminded of a dark chapter in our family history. One of our daughters and her friend were sexually harassed in high school. The harasser was obviously emotionally disturbed. We feared for the safety of the girls. We spoke to teachers, the principal, and the school superintendent. We went with the girls to the police to make a report. Nothing was done. The principal finally came back with a “solution”. Mediation! The perpetrator and his victims should sit down together and try to work together towards a solution.

We were gob-smacked. Mediation implies there are two sides to an issue. There WERE no two sides. The girls were innocent victims, whose school life had become a fearful hell of what might happen if this young man finally snapped.

Eventually, the perpetrator was removed from the school but our trust in the school system was broken. Any talk of respecting the safety and dignity of each student rang hollow. Words need to be backed with effective action, or they are worthless.

In his speech, Trump called Americans to unite. Unite with what? Hold hands with evil and join in a resounding chorus of Kumbaya? No. This is not a time for unity. It is a time to stand up, speak out, protest against, and do everything we can to ensure that NEVER AGAIN.

NEVER AGAIN, will good women and men sit back while madness and hatred is allowed to fester.

NEVER AGAIN, will a leader be allowed to shamelessly rally his minions to support a platform of “us and them”, a platform of supremacy for a few while millions of lives are deprived of basic rights and value.

NEVER AGAIN.  PLEASE, GOD. NEVER AGAIN.

 

 

power of political satire

I like political satire. No. I LOVE political satire. When the daily news overwhelms, I find blessed relief in the wit and biting analyses of Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers. I still miss my daily dose of Jon Stewart yet am filled with gratitude that he introduced us to John Oliver.

Some might dismiss these rants as angry, left-wing political commentary masquerading as a stand-up comedy routine. But it is more. So much more.

Bee, Colbert, Meyers, Stewart and Oliver (and, of course, their writers) all exhibit a depth of intelligence and masterful vocabulary that is often missing from the 24-7 news cycle; and even more absent in the superficial, double-speak of many politicians today. Want some serious fact-checking? Check out Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Want some serious analyses of issues often over-looked by the media? Tune in to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Comedy intertwined with solid journalism is a winning recipe for bringing a message to the masses.

And then there’s Saturday Night Live.

The current cast of SNL, after an understandable period of post-election mourning, has stepped up to the plate and double-downed on its critique of the Trump administration. This past Saturday’s episode was satiric brilliance and Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of press secretary Sean Spicer stole the show.

Trump is extremely thin skinned, a common characteristic of narcissists. He is known for ignoring more important issues of the day while spending time on Twitter attacking those who dare insult him. He is not a fan of SNL nor a fan of Alec Baldwin and his spot-on Trump impression. But, it seems, Trump watches SNL. Which gives SNL an enviable amount of power. They have the ear, the eye, and the attention of the president. Not too shabby!

What to do with this power?

Considering Trump’s misogynistic history, having a woman impersonate one of the president’s men had a surprisingly powerful effect. A deliciously tempting suggestion is circulating online this morning, calling out for other women actors to join Melissa McCarthy’s Spicer role on SNL. Meryl Streep as Trump? Rosie O’Donnell as Steve Bannon? Ellen Degeneres as Mike Pence?

Now that would be must see TV!

Back in 2011, Melissa Musick Nussbaum wrote a wonderful article for the National Catholic Reporter titled We laugh because we know who we are. She describes perfectly the power of humour over ego.

The dictator’s goal is to be recognized as God, even if God over only this little house, that small nation, or the most modest parish. Dictators work hard at building and maintaining the illusion of godhood. Laughter destroys the illusion. (Melissa Musick Nussbaum)

 

trumpian truth

washington-cherry-treeWhen I was growing up, every Canadian kid knew the story of young George Washington and the cherry tree. Boy chops down tree. Dad asks him who did it. Boy, knowing he faced certain punishment, bravely admitted his guilt. Boy grows up to be the first president of the United States of America.

The moral of the story wasn’t difficult to grasp. Telling the truth, even if it might hurt you, is a sign of good character. It is the kind of good character that is not only exulted in famous leaders of the past, it’s an example for all of us in the present. Good countries are built on the good character of their leaders and their people.

Some truth is subjective. I live my life based on certain religious truths that aren’t shared by all, but there are moral truths that are generally accepted. Truths that are necessary for the common good, and are reflected in our laws. It is wrong to steal from your neighbour. It is wrong to kill each other. It is wrong to slander another. It is wrong to lie.

Our justice system is based on the premise that the truth must be told in courts of law. Oaths are taken as a sign of allegiance to a country, a government, or a group. Vows are a sign of fidelity and love in marriage. None of us are perfect, but we have to believe that the person speaking the words will act on them to the best of their ability. The basic belief and need for speaking truthfully is foundational in our governments, societies and in our families.

All good parents try to instill the importance of telling the truth to our children. One of my kiddies tried to get off the hook by saying, “I wasn’t lying. I was only kidding!” We stressed over and over the importance of honesty whether it was a pre-schooler’s spilled juice cup, or a teenager’s evening plans.

When trust is broken, it takes a lot of work to regain it. How can we trust a person if we can’t trust what they say? This was a basic lesson for all children to learn.

And yet, here we are. The first days of the new American administration are showing that President Trump feels no greater urgency to tell the truth than did Candidate Trump. His staff faces the media and unabashedly speak of “alternative facts” and how their boss’s opinion is based on what he believes is true.

Sadly, there is some truth to this. If I restricted my facts to alt-right news media, Trump’s speeches and twitter account, my view of what is true would be completely skewed from what it is now. I would believe that the USA is a dystopian wasteland, a carnage of poverty and violence. I would blame the “other” for all my misfortunes, and feel free expressing my fear and hatred of cultures that don’t mirror my own white, Christian world.

Trump’s “truth” is not my truth but it is, sadly, shared by many. Politicians are elected by people who agree with the agenda and platform that the politician presents; their truth. Trump is now acting on all the promises he made, promises that seemed so outlandish that saner minds were convinced they would never happen. So, in this sense, Trump was not lying.

Governing requires discerning for the common good, and good discernment requires careful exploration of all the facts at hand. And, here is the danger. As with his horrible “birtherism” movement, Trump’s truths are not based on objective facts. He isn’t a fan of intelligence briefings. He bypasses inconvenient statistics and makes up facts on the fly. He flings numbers around that can’t be proven, just to inflate his own ego. He bullies and threatens anyone who questions him, especially the media, and is already silencing federal employees and departments.

Put simply, Trump’s truths are based on lies. No amount of doublespeak, word spinning or doctoring can hide the simple fact that the man will unabashedly ignore objective facts if they are counter to his version of truth.

If Trump had chopped down the cherry tree, he would have probably pointed his finger at the kid next door, the one from the family with a questionable back-ground. You know, the ones who shouldn’t be here in the first place. All this while still holding the hatchet in his tiny hands.