If I learned anything from four years working as a trainer for the Anti-Defamation League, it was this: Be an ally, not a bystander. It’s not easy to be an ally and at times it can even be dangerous. But right now, I have done all the bystanding I can bear in the current political season and I think I have to say some things.
The other day I caught the tail-end of a show on my local NPR station. The topic was to imagine a Donald Trump presidency and I assume the guests I missed weighed in on the problems that would bring (because I can’t imagine successes with such a scenario). To his final guest, a UConn philosophy professor, the host proposed a hypothetical scene on campus three years into such a term. He suggested a far different climate than exists today, with limited freedoms and a police presence. He asked his guest, “What do philosophers do [about this state of affairs]?” The professor replied: “The same thing, I hope, that radio hosts do–speak out. Stand up, write what you think is true. Let’s hope that we all have the courage to do that.”
I am compelled to do that. Typically, I lean towards the Democratic side of politics, but in the past, I’ve never minded a good, spirited political campaign. John McCain’s campaign interested me until he made the head-scratching move of naming Sarah Palin as his running mate. (Some staffer clearly dropped the ball on vetting her.) Currently, I am not crazy about either of the Republican candidates, Cruz or Kasich, and for now, although I like Sanders’ ideas, I am pretty much a Hillary Clinton supporter. What I won’t consider is Donald Trump in any way as a contender for the office of the president of the United States. If it is within my abilities to do so, I will act against that. Writing, talking, marching, protesting. Whatever it takes.
Many people I know, both friends and relatives, are Trump supporters and I am really interested in what these people see in such a bullying, xenophobic, misogynistic man. “It’s his financial expertise,” my friends say. But that reason is beginning to sound lame. Donald Trump takes every opportunity to shame and intimidate in his speech, his media appearances … even his Tweets. He appears ready for a fight at every turn. He generates conflict and violence at his appearances, which he doesn’t condemn, but, alarmingly, appears to relish.
Many conflicting concerns pushed at me as I made this decision. As a writer, who depends on an approving readership to make a living, I have been advised to stay away from political stands or commentary. I did not have a problem with this. I have already experienced backlash in the form of negative reviews and book sales due to my musings about a certain president’s lack of intelligence. (Think shrubbery.) Another concern is bystander anxiety–the fear that if you say something against a bully, you yourself will be attacked. That is a real thing and it prevents many people from action. Sometimes me, for one. I can’t even post my benign political support (Obama, Hilary) on my Facebook page without the threat of my friends responding with negativity and hate. Who needs that?
The U.S. is a member of a global community. Our president is required to think on that level. Intelligence and diplomacy are essentials of the office, not browbeating and threats. Donald Trump’s rise in popularity is not an indication that his brand of so-called leadership is what we need, but an indication of what we have become. Our collective fears have been suppressed and they manifest in rallying behind a brash and oblivious impostor who thrives on such fear. Who else would make such bold promises as building a wall around the country or deporting people because of their religion? He is nothing but a playground bully, the kind the insecure kids rally behind because they are afraid. The only thing I am afraid of is that he will cause real harm to real people, people who are putting their faith and their money behind him, because he is no more going to lead this country than I am.
I envision a world in which borders are open and peace prevails. A world that moves forward to care for all its citizens; a world in which love trounces fear. To do so, I will stand up and speak out. I will write the truth as I see it or as others help me to see it. I am not saying that there is no room in this world for Donald Trump; he gets to be whoever he wants to be. Just not my president.
Cindy Eastman is an award-winning author whose first book, a collection of essays entitled Flip-Flops After 50: And Other Thoughts On Aging I Remembered To Write Down. She teaches writing classes to students from ages 5 to 85 and will be a presenter at Story Circle Network 8thWomen’s Writing Conference in April 2016. Check out additional information at cindyeastman.com and follow her on Twitter at @CLEastman .