The 2022 Election is (mostly) behind us. Politically speaking, things largely went my way. But I don’t feel any better than I did on November 7th. Ok, maybe a little better. But I still have a deep wresting in my spirit.
You see, today I stumbled on something on the Twitter machine. It was a video of Marjorie Taylor Greene at the gym, and all she said was “Joe Biden, you’re not a president, you’re a piece of shit” (I figure if presidents and congresspersons can use that word in public mediums, so can I). At first I was enraged. In the immortal words of Kelly Kapur on The Office, I thought, “how dare you?” Then two things occurred to me:
- I had zero context for that video, which is a huge problem with just about anything you see on social media. That said, I think she said what she appeared to say. I highly doubt it was “some people said that I said, ‘Joe Biden….'” But it doesn’t matter. Be careful, Paul. You have zero context.
- More importantly, as an unabashed progressive, if I’m going to go after MTG for “…you’re a piece of shit”, why did I not go after Rep Rashida Tlaib for “let’s impeach the motherfucker” and any number of other things progressives have said (I figure if congresspersons can use that word in public mediums so can I).
Now before my fellow progressives jump on me with “yeah, but…”, let me explain. There simply is no functional difference between the two. There just isn’t. We can argue about whether Trump is “more deserving” than Biden for such rhetoric, but on its face, there is no functional difference. And do we realize that both sides of the aisle are guilty of dangerous behavior because of the way in which this rhetoric contributes to political violence? The threats on Gretchen Whitmer were terrifying and the attack on Paul Pelosi more so, but why was I so silent about the threats on Brett Kavanaugh? And while I think he has no business being on the court, what led to those threats? We have to as ourselves these questions.
Are we ok with this?
I, for one, am not. And it’s not about the swearing. I don’t give a shit about the swearing. It’s the raw vitriol, demonization, and destruction it represents. No matter the rationale behind it, I firmly believe that this rhetoric that has now become common culture in our political discourse is eroding our system to the degree that we have little to no chance of getting Congress, the White House, or even the Supreme Court from being able to close this widening chasm between us. And the more we turn a blind eye to it or even empower it, we erode our ability simply to coexist.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for deconstruction, and I understand the way this system is fraught with real problems that harm and disenfranchise the most marginalized among us. It needs massive reform, if not total deconstruction, which would necessarily include a period of chaos and unrest. I get that. But is this kind of rhetoric and way of being the means to that? I don’t think so. I think it does more harm than good to the cause of justice, equity, and peace.
But let me also say this. There is a big difference between “she’s a racist transphobe” and “let’s impeach the motherfucker.” We need to be able to call out the racists, the islamaphobes, the antisemites, the transphobes, etc. But that’s not the same as “you are a piece of shit”. Let’s call those things out, and then, as the opposition is willing, let’s argue out why I think Lauren Boebert is Islamaphobic and xenophobic. Let’s argue out why I think Ted Cruz and Gregg Abbott are transphobic. Let’s argue out why I think John Mastriano is an antisemite, and why I think Ron DeSantis is a threat to trans kids and their families and LGBTQ identifying teachers. I could go on.
And you know what? If you think I’m a socialist, ok, let’s argue that out. There is a big difference between a specific accusation about our opposition who may racist, or socialist, or whatever and easily calling them a “piece of shit” and “motherfucker”. Friends, it may seem trivial, and may be just for hits and retweets, but we need to come to see the way in which this is leading us down a road from which there may be no return that will harm us all.
I don’t want to go back to 1980 when racism, sexism, homophobia and the like went unchecked. Hell, no. But there must be another path than the one we’re on now. Because I’m not sure we all understand where the one we’re on now is headed. It’s a place where nobody wins.
So, on these matters, hear me loud and clear as I borrow from and adapt Shakespeare: “A plague o’ both our houses”. Let’s start calling this garbage out, beginning in our own house. Let’s start holding our elected officials accountable to it, especially the ones we support (yes, I have written Ilhan Omar about this. I have not heard back).
We must do better than this. And if we, the people, the common folk, don’t do it, we’re just going to keep snowballing down this self destructive hill. There is another path, friends. There must be. Let’s find it.