No one ever changed the world by asking nicely and listening to “both sides.”
We knew how this would end — or at least how it would get started. We sat in silence as the election map turned red on November 8, 2016, because we knew.
We didn’t know exactly how it would play out. Not then. Now we find ourselves watching children imprisoned, families torn apart, Muslims banned and bigotry excused. And it’s only Thursday.
Every day, every hour, it gets worse. Now we find ourselves staring down the inevitable collapse of civil rights and still we hear: This incivility gets us nowhere. Grow up. Stop exaggerating. It’s not that bad.
Make no mistake: It is that bad. Justice Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court replaced conservative nightmare Justice Scalia; Justice Kennedy’s successor replaces a justice who at least occasionally voted on the right side of morality.
It is that bad. And while Republicans shoulder much of that burden, so do Democrats. Democrats could have refused to come to the table until Mitch McConnell held hearings to confirm Merrick Garland. They could have fought with every weapon at their disposal to protect the integrity of the SCOTUS. But they didn’t. They played it safe. They waited for life to return to normal.
And now, while Rome burns, they remind us that incivility isn’t the answer. They distance themselves from protestors and business owners engaging in small acts of resistance that make high-ranking government officials a little uncomfortable. They demand we fight a war with decorum while our opponents have assault rifles.
I’d like to blame this mess on men, and there’s certainly something to be said for the sea of white men sitting around the table every time there’s a decision to be made about women’s health care. Even progressive savior Bernie Sanders told us not to let abortion rights keep us from electing pro-life candidates. Don’t get bogged down in silly details. Focus on what matters. It’s not that bad.
But it’s not just white men — 53% of white women voted for Trump.
Not all white women: I can hear the cries now. I can imagine the anger at the suggestion that white women are aligned with Trump because of the color of our skin. Yet Nancy Pelosi was one of the first to condemn Maxine Waters’ call for protests. They are putting children in cages and separating families and Pelosi decided the real problem is a black woman’s anger.
What have we become?
I used to advocate for civility. I believed Michelle Obama when she told us to go high. I’m a progressive who supported Hillary Clinton because I knew, or thought I knew, that compromise is how progress is made.
The Trump administration has taught me a valuable lesson: Progress isn’t made through compromise. It’s won by extremists. Sometimes the extremists are fighting for civil rights, sometimes they’re fighting for fascism. But no one ever changed the world by asking nicely and listening to “both sides.”
I used to be a newspaper reporter. Early in my career, I believed in the importance of objective reporting. I went to great lengths to present both sides of every issue. And then one day, I was writing an article breaking the news of a cover up in the local government and I realized I could change the tone of the piece simply by where I placed the quote from the official.
There’s plenty of science out there to support the conclusion I eventually came to as a writer: There’s no such thing as objectivity. How we perceive reality shapes our reality, and it shapes how we talk or write about it — whether we admit it or not.
The New York Times has come under fire recently, much like the Democrats, for normalizing everything from white supremacy to fascism. The articles they ran about Hitler in the 1930s bare an uncanny resemblance to the articles they run about Trump today. I wonder if anyone ever regretted not being more civil to Hitler.
There are many things to regret in life, but incivility to fascists isn’t one of them. Normalizing white supremacy, enabling fascism, and rolling over and playing dead instead of fighting for your constituents, on the other hand, is. And if Democrats want to keep their seats, they can start earning them or we can replace them with real progressives who understand that fighting far-right extremism with centrism moves doesn’t achieve compromise; it shifts policy to the right.
We all have a choice. Whether we’re elected officials, reporters or people who simply get to decide how to react to the news we read, we have the choice to keep playing it safe or start taking risks. Personal risks, professional risks, putting our bodies at risk. No more pink hats and fun signs and #resistance. The kind of risks that require all of us to dig deep and find ways to serve a cause that’s more important than any of us, using any means necessary.
The time for resistance is past. To hell with civility; it’s time for a revolution.