Yesterday morning, I had a rather embarrassing realization while climbing up a hill during a weekly nature walk with a group I’ve been leading. A few days ago, after a long day at work, I saw something on Facebook that struck me as funny. For a moment. Before I thought, before I pondered, I hit the “share” button.
It was a post that was poking fun at Donald Trump and his vie for the Republican presidential nomination. The post said something like “after America’s first black president, it may now have it’s first orange president”. It was the orange part that struck me as funny…for a moment. But by then, I had punched ‘Share’ and it was too late. The nagging inner prompt immediately alerted me to the sense that I had acted without skill, but like the post, it quickly faded into the night.
Pondering on the climb, it reappeared. I was humbled and silenced by my knee-jerk reaction to something that is in fact not at all funny. America having a black president is not funny. I voted for Mr. Obama. America having a brown or a blue or an orange president, a woman, a Catholic, a Jew, a homosexual, a minority member president is not funny. A president with a big nose or a little one, an accent or a birthmark is not funny.
What struck me at the top of that hill is how quickly, how very quickly I had been lured into perpetuating exactly the kind of behaviour I feel Mr. Trump has inflicted on America and the rest of the world and is trying to set up as the new standard operating procedure.
Mockery and bullying is no more acceptable to me in the political arena than it is in the schoolyard, the boardroom or the war room. Bullying the bully or mocking the mocker is no more defensible than remaining silent when bullies bully.
Nice old me had been tricked into ugly old me.
I fell into the trap hook, line and sinker.
That realization was sobering.
Mockery and bullying dis-enables our faculty as humans to consider the person, the idea, or the situation in front of us fairly. It is disingenuous.
While the dictionary explains that this is typically by pretending that one knows less about a situation than what one actually knows, the reverse is also true. We can pretend to know more than we actually know, and that disregard for the truth, the lack of intellectual or moral curiosity it takes to admit our ignorance and ask for information so we can learn, will often seek mean-spirited strategies to camouflage ignorance.
I fear that under the types of withering comments that I have heard Mr. Trump make, he dodges and undercuts critical issues by simply changing the topic and hitting below the belt, a kind of political 3-card Monty. All you have to do is distract the audience and run off with the cash.
Mockery and bullying have a gruesome history in the world. These practices create victims, and a seething pool of anger that will one day lash back, often, at least in America, with firearms.
I don’t think democracy as I know it will be able to survive this curse if the very process it values is pummelled in a street brawl. It will turn into tyranny, dictatorship and a quick tour of the planet will give you an idea of how well that policy has worked.
It is not because Mr. Trump is orange that I will not vote for him or that I disqualify him as a candidate able to express the diversity of a country like the United States of America.
Mockery and bullying should not become a political party or the modus operandi in the USA or anywhere else.
This is a formal apology, then, to Mr. Obama and his wife, who I greatly admire, and to Mr. Trump, who I do not admire, and to all my Facebook friends.
I had no business perpetuating such foolishness.
I’m all for laughing and jokes, but not at the expense of what makes a human human.
In the future, I’ll think more carefully and hope that if ever you are goaded by a knee-jerk response to a campaign that seems laden with ticking bombs, you’ll think about conjugating mockery into the past, present and future, and what each has to say about the necessity of fair-mindedness in our lives.
Thank you, Mr. Trump, for teaching me an invaluable lesson.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.