Yeah, I've been AWOL for almost two years. Why? Good question. Some of it is the usual but the biggest reason is that I didn't think I had anything new or unique to say. Of course, I could rant with the best of them about Trump's latest outrage or scandal, but what then? The last thing we need is another repetition of what you've heard a hundred times.
Then Justice Kennedy announced his retirement this week and I lost it. While I've gone through some pretty rough times, I've never had PTSD, but the way I felt Wednesday can't be far off. I sat on my couch and stared at the wall unable to comprehend what just happened, and what it means for my future, and much more importantly, for my kids' future. After a few hours, I had to get my mind off of it so I grabbed my running shoes and headed to the Central Park reservoir. I ran hard. Exercise has a way of clearing my head and focusing my thoughts so what came to me then is what you're reading now. It's missing most of the humor I (try to) put into my mosts, but bear with me - I haven't seen this expressed elsewhere, and I think it will be useful.
As you probably know I have two children, ages 8 and 11. The question I ask them most isn't "how are you?" or "what did you do in school today?" but some variation of "What are you hoping to accomplish?" It's useful when they start a project, do schoolwork, etc but I pull it out much more often when there's conflict. Like when they're yelling at each other over some perceived slight. Or when my daughter asks, for the 11th time, if she can have another cookie for dessert. I get down eye-to-eye with her, with a very specific quizzical look on my face, and ask
"Have you ever known me to say no the 10th time and yes the 11th?"
"No, Daddy" (she still calls me "daddy". I still can't get enough of it.)
"Then what are you hoping to accomplish? Will it get you what you want or will it get you in trouble?"
Not once has she asked that question a 12th time. It's to the point now I give them the quizzical look and rarely have to even ask the question.
Democrats, Liberals, Progressives, realists and everyone else who recognizes the shitshow that is the Trump presidency are tearing themselves apart trying to decide whether we should continue to take the high road with his followers and maintain decorum, or if we should fight fire with fire by yelling, screaming, lying, insulting and worse. I ask each of you the same question I ask my kids: "What are you hoping to accomplish?" You can roll around in the mud with a pig but you'll just get dirty and the pig will enjoy it.
If you're looking for a quick adrenaline hit and a round of accolades from the like-minded, then a "Fuck Trump!" a la Robert DeNiro is a good way to go.
What next? After the rush subsides and the applause are silent what have you accomplished? I'm not criticizing, I'm asking. In a room of other sane folks, I say let 'er rip.
But if you're in the public square, literally, figuratively or digitally, think about everyone around you. How's it going to look to them? Trump supporters will pass you off as a snowflake or otherwise whiny, limp-brained liberal. Who gives a damn? They're a lost cause. Basket of deplorables, indeed. What about the on-lookers? What will they see? As polarized as we are there may not be too many true independents left these days, but there are a few. How else would you explain a Democratic senator from ALABAMA? Yes, dedicated and energized Democrats (THANK YOU, black women!!) but also independents and even some conservatives disgusted by the TrumpOldParty.
A favorite blogger/tweeter of mine, Doc Bastard battles anti-vaxxers and other science deniers on a daily basis. (If you don't follow his tweets and blog you're really missing out.) When I was lucky enough to chat with him a few months ago I asked why he continues to beat his head against these very, very dead horses. He said he has little hope for the anti-vaxxer currently whose ass he's kicking at that moment. He does it for his followers, and more importantly, the anti-vaxxer's followers. He said he's received dozens, if not hundreds of emails from people who've watched him from the sidelines and been made to question their own anti-science beliefs, and a pleasantly surprising number of them have come around to reality. Best of all, that's just the people who've taken the time to email him, so perhaps 1% of the total? 10%?
We need to do the same thing in politics, especially those with a platform. If the undecided voter sees Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer ranting like Trump they'll be more justified in thinking "all politicians are alike, and they're all vile toddlers." But if you can maintain your dignity while pushing back against the tide of darkness maybe, just maybe, you'll show them there's a difference after all.
Don't think, for a second, I'm suggesting we roll over and let them steal the spotlight with their bullshit. But we need to find another way to push back. A better way. I have some ideas to toss out in my next post, which I promise will be out soon.
We absolutely must win in November and going forward. "What do you hope to accomplish?" is a powerful tool. Use it. Please pass along a link to this blog, and let me know your thoughts in the comments section here.
Every election cycle someone says "this is the most important election of our lifetime" but normally that's just hyperbole. This time it really is. We stand at a precipice. Do we back away carefully, or go over the edge "Thelma And Louise" style?
What are you hoping to accomplish?