I misled you
And I knew better
I misled you.
It wasn’t intentional. It was through my silence, not by what I’ve said or written. I had my reasons.
I began biting my tongue when President Donald Trump began his term with painfully obvious lies about the size of his inauguration crowd. I continued to bite my tongue as Michigan Republicans in 2018 usurped the people’s power by adopting, castrating and passing bills on minimum wage and sick leave that citizens should have had the chance to vote on. They then went on to have a literally record-breaking “lame duck” session before the governorship was turned over to Gretchen Whitmer.
I bit my tongue while many of those same Republicans demanded that Governor Whitmer “work with them” on COVID-19 measures, while sitting on their hands in an imitation of their chosen Commander-in-Chief. I bit my tongue as, for years now, President Trump and other members of Congress assaulted even the very best in my profession, a profession widely recognized as vital to the health of a democracy. He lambasted them not for making mistakes (which we all do) but for telling the verifiable truth, again, and again, and again.
I held my silence as a local, young, hopeful Republican candidate, led by the example of his party leadership’s very public dismissal of political ethics throughout his teenage years, conspired in a threatening phone call to his incumbent, female competitor. And while the accused denies the call was meant to be threatening, it’s hard to accept a call from a stranger at that time of morning (1 a.m.) as intended to be anything but.
I let you think that the political situation in the United States may not be as dire as it really is. I kept quiet on all of these very important issues, and more, because I didn’t want to cause disharmony among my family, and some friends. I was worried that disharmony would become a wedge driven between us by the hammer of physical distance.
The problem is, that in denying myself that expression, and us that discussion, we still grow distant from each other.
If I am to have a close relationship with my family, my friends, anyone- I must be able to express myself to them. They have to know me. My thoughts, my hopes, and my fears.
And how are we, as a country, supposed to come to an agreeable peace if we can’t discuss these topics among our closest relations?
Now, as the Republican leadership is finalizing the greatest assault on elections, voters, and democracy itself, I can no longer stomach my own silence. I hope that my friends and family can find ways to respectfully disagree, discuss, and debate with me on these topics. Maintaining a democracy should not and cannot come at the cost of familial relationships, or vice versa.
While this is a denunciation of the Republican leadership, it isn’t really a defense of any Democrats. Nor is it a denunciation of the values many Republicans hold.
Abortion, police funding, 2nd Amendment rights, and so much more are things that we need to find a way to discuss without insulting or shouting over one another. Only then can we move past the infighting and develop a workable agreement about each of them. We need to find laws that we can all live with, even if we aren’t ecstatic about them. We will each have to sacrifice something for the sake of political unity. Because the alternative is continued division, instability, and failure as a people to govern ourselves.
I’ve long-decried party politics. George Washington himself vehemently warned against formation of parties in his farewell address. Among other issues is their potential for abuse by an individual.
"However [political parties] may now-and-then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion,” he said, in part.
Trump has done exactly that. He has used and abused the Republican party and American democracy to gain power and popularity, and now he is using every imaginable tactic to destroy those things that would take that power away. Much of the Republican party has decided to adopt the tactic.
And this is the crux of the problem. Those following in the footsteps of Donald Trump have abandoned the concept of responsible governance and rule of law (very different from ‘law and order’) to instead pursue power at all costs. It has already cost our country its reputation on the world stage, any kind of unified COVID-19 response, and more.
The next cost could be any form of “rule by the people” at all- democracy, republic or otherwise.
And to be clear, the people’s power is not unassailable. The constitution is not bedrock. The law can fail. It does not spring to life to defend itself. If we value it, we must take action to defend it.
And that is why I can no longer bite my tongue.