"When They Go Low, We Go High": What Happened to That?

What Happened To 'When They Go Low, We Go High?'

The case against a politics of anger

207
views

The 2016 election was a traumatic experience for me but, looking back, there were a few moments where I felt inspired. Michelle Obama's 2016 DNC address was one of those moments. In acknowledging the racist attacks on her husband's faith and citizenship, she said "when someone is cruel or acts like a bully you don't stoop to their level. No, our motto is: when they go low, we go high."

These words were moving in the context of opposing Donald Trump, who throughout the campaign had coarsened public discourse with his vile and hateful rhetoric. Michelle Obama, instead of trying to out-Trump Trump himself, chose to take the high road.

For a moment, Michelle Obama's words were an animating force for progressives. But after Trump's inauguration, Michelle's words, and the ideas behind them were quickly abandoned by the left. And I mourn the loss of these higher ideals. Because I think there is a great danger in embracing a politics of anger.

Anger is an understandable reaction to have in politics. When we see things in the world that are unjust or oppressive, we should be angry about them. And we should use this anger to motivate us to enact change. This is what progressive activists have done throughout history. There are many things Trump has done that piss me off, too many to name. Yet we shouldn't let this anger consume us. Anger should not be the driving force behind the progressive movement.

Anger is dangerous because it so easily slips into hatred. And I have seen a tendency on the left to demonize our political rivals. This comes from a false premise. Conservatives are not bad people. They want what's best for our country, just as liberals do. They have a different vision but that doesn't make them evil. In the same vein, we should not look down upon Trump supporters. They are not our moral or intellectual inferiors. I have family friends who voted for Trump. I have known them my entire life. They are not deplorables. They are smart and kind and funny. They are fundamentally good people. This narrow-minded tribalism, this us vs. them mentality, is exactly the sort of divisiveness that Trump has exploited for his own political gain. But it not right, it is not moral, and it is deeply damaging to our country.

Liberals have shown a stunning lack of empathy for Trump supporters and this deeply concerns me. We should have all-encompassing empathy. And anger stops us from doing this. It feeds our worst human impulses. As Buddha said, "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."

There have been several instances of progressive activists disturbing members of the Trump Administration or Republican politicians at restaurants or harassing them in public. My question is: What are we really accomplishing besides ruining someone's night out? Clearly, these disturbances are not the same as the violence in bomb threats to prominent Democrats. But it is still wrong. I think our time would be better spent phone-banking or canvassing for progressive candidates instead of heckling people at restaurants. Liberals have really embraced the idea of resistance. But you know what's better than being in the opposition? Being in power.

Also, on GW freshman class Facebook page, there have been instances of conservatives posting about an upcoming event and liberals leaving snarky remarks in the comment section. This is rude and unnecessary. We aren't advancing any progressive cause; we're just being jerks. And that's not okay. Conservative should feel free to express their opinions and organize their own events without being harassed and ridiculed by the left. Marginalizing conservatives serves no legitimate purpose. We should respect conservatives for being passionate about what they believe in and putting their ideas into action. And we should do the same.

The old saying about sticks and stones is ridiculous. Any writer knows that words have tremendous power. Words can hurt, but they can also heal. Words can divide a nation but they can also bring one together. I think we have a moral obligation to use our words for good. I got involved in politics because I care about people. And in the battle for social justice and economic fairness, liberals should not let our compassion become collateral damage.

Popular Right Now

An Open Letter To Democrats From A Millennial Republican

Why being a Republican doesn't mean I'm inhuman.
57331
views

Dear Democrats,

I have a few things to say to you — all of you.

You probably don't know me. But you think you do. Because I am a Republican.

Gasp. Shock. Horror. The usual. I know it all. I hear it every time I come out of the conservative closet here at my liberal arts university.

SEE ALSO: What I Mean When I Say I'm A Young Republican

“You're a Republican?" people ask, saying the word in the same tone that Draco Malfoy says “Mudblood."

I know that not all Democrats feel about Republicans this way. Honestly, I can't even say for certain that most of them do. But in my experience, saying you're a Republican on a liberal college campus has the same effect as telling someone you're a child molester.

You see, in this day and age, with leaders of the Republican Party standing up and spouting unfortunately ridiculous phrases like “build a wall," and standing next to Kim Davis in Kentucky after her release, we Republicans are given an extreme stereotype. If you're a Republican, you're a bigot. You don't believe in marriage equality. You don't believe in racial equality. You don't believe in a woman's right to choose. You're extremely religious and want to impose it on everyone else.

Unfortunately, stereotypes are rooted in truth. There are some people out there who really do think these things and feel this way. And it makes me mad. The far right is so far right that they make the rest of us look bad. They make sure we aren't heard. Plenty of us are fed up with their theatrics and extremism.

For those of us brave enough to wear the title “Republican" in this day and age, as millennials, it's different. Many of us don't agree with these brash ideas. I'd even go as far as to say that most of us don't feel this way.

For me personally, being a Republican doesn't even mean that I automatically vote red.

When people ask me to describe my political views, I usually put it pretty simply. “Conservative, but with liberal social views."

“Oh," they say, “so you're a libertarian."

“Sure," I say. But that's the thing. I'm not really a libertarian.

Here's what I believe:

I believe in marriage equality. I believe in feminism. I believe in racial equality. I don't want to defund Planned Parenthood. I believe in birth control. I believe in a woman's right to choose. I believe in welfare. I believe more funds should be allocated to the public school system.

Then what's the problem? Obviously, I'm a Democrat then, right?

Wrong. Because I have other beliefs too.

Yes, I believe in the right to choose — but I'd always hope that unless a pregnancy would result in the bodily harm of the woman, that she would choose life. I believe in welfare, but I also believe that our current system is broken — there are people who don't need it receiving it, and others who need it that cannot access it.

I believe in capitalism. I believe in the right to keep and bear arms, because I believe we have a people crisis on our hands, not a gun crisis. Contrary to popular opinion, I do believe in science. I don't believe in charter schools. I believe in privatizing as many things as possible. I don't believe in Obamacare.

Obviously, there are other topics on the table. But, generally speaking, these are the types of things we millennial Republicans get flack for. And while it is OK to disagree on political beliefs, and even healthy, it is NOT OK to make snap judgments about me as a person. Identifying as a Republican does not mean I am the same as Donald Trump.

Just because I am a Republican, does not mean you know everything about me. That does not give you the right to make assumptions about who I am as a person. It is not OK for you to group me with my stereotype or condemn me for what I feel and believe. And for a party that prides itself on being so open-minded, it shocks me that many of you would be so judgmental.

So I ask you to please, please, please reexamine how you view Republicans. Chances are, you're missing some extremely important details. If you only hang out with people who belong to your own party, chances are you're missing out on great people. Because, despite what everyone believes, we are not our stereotype.

Sincerely,

A millennial Republican

Cover Image Credit: NEWSWORK.ORG

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Why The Idea Of 'No Politics At The Dinner Table' Takes Place And Why We Should Avoid It

When did having a dialogue become so rare?

435
views

Why has the art of civilized debate and conversation become unheard of in daily life? Why is it considered impolite to talk politics with coworkers and friends? Expressing ideas and discussing different opinions should not be looked down upon.

I have a few ideas as to why this is our current societal norm.

1. Politics is personal.

Your politics can reveal a lot about who you are. Expressing these (sometimes controversial) opinions may put you in a vulnerable position. It is possible for people to draw unfair conclusions from one viewpoint you hold. This fosters a fear of judgment when it comes to our political beliefs.

Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum of political belief, there is a world of assumption that goes along with any opinion. People have a growing concern that others won't hear them out based on one belief.

As if a single opinion could tell you all that you should know about someone. Do your political opinions reflect who you are as a person? Does it reflect your hobbies? Your past?

The question becomes "are your politics indicative enough of who you are as a person to warrant a complete judgment?"

Personally, I do not think you would even scratch the surface of who I am just from knowing my political identification.

2. People are impolite.

The politics themselves are not impolite. But many people who wield passionate, political opinion act impolite and rude when it comes to those who disagree.

The avoidance of this topic among friends, family, acquaintances and just in general, is out of a desire to 'keep the peace'. Many people have friends who disagree with them and even family who disagree with them. We justify our silence out of a desire to avoid unpleasant situations.

I will offer this: It might even be better to argue with the ones you love and care about, because they already know who you are aside from your politics, and they love you unconditionally (or at least I would hope).

We should be having these unpleasant conversations. And you know what? They don't even need to be unpleasant! Shouldn't we be capable of debating in a civilized manner? Can't we find common ground?

I attribute the loss of political conversation in daily life to these factors. 'Keeping the peace' isn't an excuse. We should be discussing our opinions constantly and we should be discussing them with those who think differently.

Instead of discouraging political conversation, we should be encouraging kindness and understanding. That's how we will avoid the unpleasantness that these conversations sometimes bring.

By avoiding them altogether, we are doing our youth a disservice because they are not being exposed to government, law, and politics, and they are not learning to deal with people and ideas that they don't agree with.

Next Thanksgiving, talk politics at the table.

Related Content

Facebook Comments