I understand how invested in the outcomes of political contests you’ve become. After all for the last eleventy years or so, we’ve all been told that ‘THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR LIVES!’ The government controls so many things, that it matters more than ever who controls the levers of power. People fight fiercely to be sure their side is in the driver’s seat because we’ve all let these high offices accumulate so much power. It makes sense that folks would spend time and money and effort and energy backing their side. You did that too, because you believe that your side should be on top, that that would be better for the country.
But you know what? It’s also turned you into a jerk.
I know this because I see you likening Michelle Obama to ‘an ape in heels’ or other monkeys. I’ve seen you call Melania Trump ‘Melania Tramp’ and a ‘cock-juggling thunder cunt’ and a ‘whore d’oeuvre’. I’ve seen you belittle people who didn’t agree with you, calling them stupid hicks, or dumb millennials, or commies, or sluts, or any number of other insulting and degrading terms. I’ve seen you mock the poor, and I’ve seen you ridicule religious people, Christians and Muslims and Jews alike.
You might not have done all of these things, but you’re very much a jackwagon because you think this is acceptable behavior. But I want you to understand me very clearly here:
THE REST OF US ARE DISGUSTED WITH YOU.
The rest of us are remembering how we were raised, and that our mommas would be all over us for the language and crudity you display.
The rest of us are able to keep our political engagement from becoming nasty and vitriolic.
The rest of us aren’t secretly admiring you for ‘having the balls to speak out’ or ‘putting those people in their place.’
No, the rest of us are embarrassed to be seen on the same side as you.
Oh, we hear your excuses. That we’re hyperventilating about words when there are real threats out there. That this election was SO IMPORTANT that we had to be willing to do ANYTHING to win. That we shouldn’t be so dainty, that we shouldn’t take to our fainting couches over a little name-calling. That people who don’t fight fire with fire are stupid.
But you know what?
There were millions of people engaged in this election cycle who DIDN’T do that. They didn’t entertain the idea that people who disagreed with them were evil. They didn’t cut off family members from their social media accounts, or become so obnoxious that their friends had to block them. There were millions of us who tried really hard to have conversations and explain how we saw things, and agreed to disagree when we needed to. There were millions of us who were worried about the direction the country could go in, but who were also concerned about preserving and strengthening our networks of people we know in real life.
But it’s you guys – the ones who politicize everything, who are enormously ugly and nasty and mean about it, who interpret disagreement as a sign of disloyalty – who might be the worst threat we face at the present time. Your rancor and enmity can be contagious, and your determination to divide people is poisonous. You treat this country like a territory to conquer and dominate, not a nation to build and strengthen.
What’s worse, you have completely given up on persuasion to forward your ideas. Your behavior shows the rest of us that you don’t care IF your ideas actually get implemented, because you aren’t actively trying to advance them. You’re just shouting them at everyone, and bullying people who dare to disagree with you.
And when you do interact with others, you use the positions they take on your issues as a litmus test of their acceptability, of their humanity even, and refuse to listen to those who fall on the opposite side. Anyone who deviates from your position, which you cast as The Only Acceptable Position, compels you to label a person as wrong, evil, and at times even subhuman. That shrinks the number of people on your side, as more people you thought were ‘with you’ show themselves to be traitorous scum in your worldview.
We see you.
We see you on the right.
We see you on the left.
We want no part of your nastiness, your insults, your unkindness, your tribalism, your divisiveness.
We want our country to be better, to do better. We recognize that this is a nation that is diverse in so many ways, including intellectual diversity. We were raised to respect each other, to tolerate other viewpoints, to recognize the basic human dignity that each person deserves. We might slip once in a while, and we might need reminding now and then, but we see your attempts to dehumanize and otherize people who don’t agree with you, and we reject it.
The rest of us know we are better than that. And we hope you’re better than that, too.