The unrestrained hatred and rage from the White House, especially from our president, has opened the floodgates. People of all political affiliations are finding themselves unleashed, speaking and posting in ways that should be deeply offensive to us all. Democrats tend to excuse Democrats and condemn Republicans for bad behavior; Republicans tend to excuse Republicans and condemn Democrats for bad behavior. My opinion: bad behavior is bad behavior, and should not be excused or tolerated by anyone. To take it one step further, remaining thoughtful and decent in the face of our president’s hatred and rage is actually a form of resistance. And to take it two steps further — it’s essential to winning the 2020 presidential election.
First, middle, and last — we’re all human. We carry primitive pieces within our selves. Each of us holds a beast hiding deep in our core, ready to pounce. But being human also means we have the capacity to reroute the beast, channel our most primal instincts in directions that are not only acceptable, but also for the greater good.
Non-violent resistance means fighting with civility. If we’re fighting for decency, then we have to commit to decent values, reflected in our speech and behavior, both political and personal. When our president throws a tantrum, hurls an insult, aligns himself with a shamelessly awful act, it’s hard to resist the urge to fight fire with fire, tantrum with tantrum, rage with rage, hatred with hatred. The problem: choosing to respond in kind turns our president into a role model.
Last night, at an event in Iowa for Bernie Sanders, Rashida Tlaib raised her voice — not for decency, not for Democracy, but to boo Hillary Clinton. She has since posted an apology on Twitter. While I appreciate her apology, I don’t want to move on too quickly, because this mistake is important to understand.
Rep.Tlaib wasn’t the only one who needs to own her mistake and apologize. The other three women on stage were with her, stride for stride. The crowd jumped on board without a moment’s hesitation.
What went wrong?
During my 2+ decades as a psychologist, whenever a new patient entered my office with a problem, I always looked for “the precipitating event.” What caused a spike in emotional turmoil, compromised judgment, bad behavior? How could I use the trigger to help the person find their way back on track?
In this case, the precipitating event is obvious: the Senate voted to block witnesses in Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing.
When people in power act in a way that makes us feel angry, scared, despairing, hopeless — we tend to lash out, to relieve our own stress. And since we’re only human, we tend to lash out in the wrong way, at the wrong time, targeting the wrong people. My guess is that if Rep. Tlaib takes an honest look in the mirror, she’ll realize that Hillary Clinton wasn’t the person she really wanted to boo.
It’s easy — too easy — for any of us to react to the continuous onslaught of the Trump Regime by matching their behavior — bullying, mocking, cruel, uncaring. Aside from lowering ourselves to his level, there’s a bigger problem now: The Democrats Will Lose The 2020 Election If We Use Donald Trump’s Behavior As Our Role Model. We have a long, hard fight ahead. We need to make sure we’re fighting the right person. For the love of Democracy, let’s not turn our worst selves against each other.
Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Amy’s first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, in a school with over forty languages spoken among the students. The story deals with homophobic bullying, racial and economic diversity, and the power of friendship. Amy’s second novel, Tightwire, follows a fictional psychotherapy from three perspectives — the rookie therapist scrambling to build a treatment — the patient struggling to heal — the supervisor guiding the young therapist through the complex emotional terrain of her first case. This novel was written in support of same-sex parents, to fight the stigma of mental issues, and with deep respect for the human capacity to heal.
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