In Portland, Oregon, I am surrounded by people who are still feeling devastated by the election of President Trump. These aren’t the ones you see on FOX News who are breaking windows or lighting cars on fire. They are civilized, successful individuals who refuse to turn a blind eye to the injustices happening around them. Conservatives are asking, “Why are these people coming out of the woodwork now?” Here’s where they’ve been.
The Obama administration created a perceived sense of safety for many Americans. If we witnessed a heated argument, we’d watch it happen while recording it on our phones. If a racial or homophobic slur was made, it would be shrugged off because most people don’t want to merge with “the negative.” If a person was bullied at work, we would stay silent out of fear of retribution. If we saw a person struggling on the street, we’d send them prayers, instead of lending our time and resources. These people have kept a quiet air of complacency.
But now, we have a president who uses his Twitter account to spread verbal abuse. This has launched debates on how to diagnose Trump’s condition. Is he a sociopath, narcissist, or just a bully? The bottom line is, he’s verbally abusive. This is the first openly abusive president we’ve ever had. That’s not “fake news.” It’s available for all to see on Trump’s personal Twitter account.
The Obama era created a passive aggressive tone around injustice. Today, the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme and the aggression is wildly apparent. I’m not suggesting we go back to passive aggressive communication. Instead, I’m saying we need to find balance in how we talk to each other and what we can expect from our leaders.
Verbal abusers are masters at distorting reality, and they’re often quite believable. We think of verbal abuse as just being mean to someone, but it’s more calculated than that. It minimizes a person’s value, it’s accusatory, it tells blatant lies, it turns the tables, and it categorizes people into unfair stereotypes. It’s a very strategic approach that’s being demonstrated by Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer, as well as President Trump.
Here are few lies from the White House:
Trump’s election victory was a landslide.
He had the largest inauguration crowds in United States history.
Three million to five million undocumented immigrants voted illegally.
Climate change is a hoax.
Vaccines cause autism.
Immigrants are carriers of “tremendous infectious disease.”
The election was rigged—until it wasn’t.
Torture is effective.
Mexico will pay for the wall.
Conspiracy theories are fact. Scientific facts are conspiracies.
America will be great again.
The New York Times keeps a running list of Trump’s insults on Twitter. When you view his statements, ask yourself, “Would you allow your kids to talk like that?” What if you were being discredited, minimized, and labeled a “disgrace,” “loser,” or “bitch?” Is this what you call leadership?
If you’re upset about President Trump’s communication style, perhaps you have made an assumption that everyone defines leadership the same way. Compassion, kindness, and emotional intelligence are important for everyday leaders, yet when you get to a level of power, like the Presidency, those rules get thrown out the window.
Same thing happens in corporate leadership and even celebrity culture. For instance, why did Madonna think it was okay to say that she thought about “blowing up the White House?” The more money you make and the higher up you go, the more leadership rules don’t apply. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, and it’s also the truth. Accepting this reality helps us to understand why we’re at war with each other. A ruthless president is what some people feel we need, while others do not agree. That’s why their voices have become enraged. That’s why we refuse to come together.
This new administration creates a powerful opportunity for Americans to learn about healthy confrontation, gaslighting, abuse of power, and how to practice considerate communication with your fellow citizens. We are all responsible for the intensity of this time, and we can all play a role in making this country secure and connected.
If you want to mend the political divide, here’s a starting point: State your political opinions without calling people names and don’t show your support for those who do. With that simple step, you build a space where injustice can be revealed and constructive, political dialogue has a chance to occur.