We cannot accept this president’s actions as normal.
THIS past weekend, the president responded with profane rage to citizens peacefully exercising their speech rights to protest injustices. To neo-Nazi violence and murder, he responded with equivocations and excuses. This is not normal.
The president has spoken in awful and objectifying terms about women, has — through words and actions — promoted a culture of misogyny and violence. We cannot accept this as normal.
The president continues to treat abuses of African-American people as acceptable. We cannot accept this as normal.
The president attacked Gold Star parents during his campaign. The president said U.S. Sen. John McCain was not a hero for getting captured. Now the president uses service members to attack mostly black athletes and divide America. We cannot accept this as normal.
The president has embraced an isolationist and nationalist agenda counter to the ethos upon which our country was built, even going so far as to have senior adviser Stephen Miller attack the importance of Emma Lazarus’ poem of welcome below the Statue of Liberty.
The president continues to cultivate fear and anxiety, utilizing aggressive rhetoric to threaten and make possible the unthinkable: possible nuclear war. Nuclear bombast is not normal.
The president devalues language, abuses truth and leeches the meaning from words. As Holocaust scholar Timothy Snyder reminds us, without agreed upon language there can be no shared truths. Without shared truths democracy fails.
Further, without shared understanding of language, we cannot have honest and open conversations about race and social justice, about economic inequities and health-care policy, about the history of discrimination in our country and the possible routes toward transcending mistreatment of any part of the population.
The president has continually engaged in campaign-like rallies during the first few months of serving the country, stoking division for the sake of stroking an impetuous ego and pitting people against one another. He has spent time shilling for applause and nationalist chants while so much important work remains undone, including simple appointments of people needed to keep the government functioning.
The abuse of language and the faux-Fascist party rallies: none of this is normal.
The president has promoted a culture of anger and division. And yes, it’s true: although many of the injustices I’ve mentioned are enmeshed in our historical moment, I believe that we, as a society, have begun to address them, to talk about them, to try to heal the pain such divisions have caused. Dismantling the work of those conversations, pushing against those attempts to empathize with others, to find common words: this behavior should not, cannot be normalized and, instead, should be understood as rekindling the ugliest fires of racism, sexism, and violence against some of the most vulnerable in our country and our world.
Striving to be aware of the privileges and power that allow me to write this, that have allowed me — so far — to escape the brunt impact of this president’s actions, and that have allowed many to avoid the immediate and horrific impact of these morally reprehensible actions and policies, I think that we should all “take a knee” and remember those who are not as fortunate, who find themselves immediately and consistently in the crosshairs of injustice.
Or, maybe, we should drop to both knees and ask whatever we regard as sacred for guidance and help and strength for all of us — football players and factory workers; politicians and poets — to remember what is normal, what is honorable, what is ethical, what we can and should be.