Yearning for Real Leadership, Compassion and Respect

by | Feb 28, 2017 | Other

Cross-posted from Huffington Post.

Related:An Agenda the Nation Rejects,” statement of Debra Ness, in response to President Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, 2017.

Not another victory lap.

Not another stump speech designed to rev up the minority of voters who cast their ballots for him, and the even smaller minority who feel good about that vote today.

Not another tone-deaf vow to make good on campaign promises the vast majority of the country fervently hopes never will be kept.

Not another delusional rant about how his administration is off to the most flawless of starts.

Less than six weeks into the Trump administration, our nation is reeling from a series of cruel, reckless executive actions. From the Global Gag Rule, which denies essential health care to some of the world’s poorest women – to actions that put a bull’s eye on the backs of vulnerable transgender students – from the Muslim ban, which sent a message to desperate refugees around the globe that our country’s promise of safe haven is no more – to the war on immigrants that is stoking fear and turning communities into police states – this president has demonstrated a breathtaking propensity for harsh actions that punish the powerless and create deep, damaging divides.

And the country has recoiled.

So tonight, when President Trump speaks to a joint session of Congress, he will face a country that is yearning for real leadership, candor, humility, compassion and respect. Whether he delivers any of that – whether he finally shows some regard for the majority in this country who reject his values and oppose his policies – may provide a clue about whether he has taken any lessons at all from the turmoil and fear he has generated during these last few weeks.

But whatever the president says tonight, and whatever he does in coming weeks and months, we should remember that the future is in our hands.

So just as President Trump sends a message to us tonight, we need to send a message back to him: This is our country and you will not take us backward.

That means we won’t let you take away our health insurance or cut coverage for birth control and maternity care.

We won’t let you thwart progress toward giving all workers the right to earn paid sick days and making paid family and medical leave available to all working people.

We won’t let you deny women’s access to abortion care.

We won’t let you undermine efforts to promote racial justice or turn back the clock on our work to root out discrimination of all kinds.

We won’t let you roll back the expansion of Medicaid and cut funding for the program, which provides health coverage to millions of people.

We won’t let you punish low-wage workers by denying them overtime pay, fair schedules and a higher minimum wage.

We won’t let you tear families and communities apart with inhumane immigration policies.

We won’t let you reduce or end funding to prevent violence against women and support survivors.

We won’t let you put in place a Supreme Court that will fail to protect our fundamental rights and freedoms.

This is beyond Democrats vs. Republicans, liberals vs. conservatives. It’s about who we are as a country. It’s about refusing to be silenced or denied.

From the president, himself, to his spokespeople and top officials, the administration has disparaged the protests. But we are not paid protestors. We are people who care about our country and we intend to shape its agenda and its future.

It isn’t going to be easy. Winning will take engagement that is sustained over time. It will take recognition that our rights are indivisible, that we are stronger together, and that an attack on any one of us is an attack on us all.

So as you watch the speech tonight, I suggest resisting the impulse to drown your sorrows and taking action instead. Put down the glass of wine and instead, pick up a pad of paper, your phone, laptop or tablet and use it to count the number of times President Trump says something that threatens your rights or well-being – or the rights or well-being of anyone at all. For every time he makes a divisive, thoughtless, misleading or wrong-headed comment, make a promise to take action by calling your representatives in Congress, speaking out at a town hall meeting, making a donation to a nonprofit that works for equality and justice, joining a march or protest, or doing something else – all during President Trump’s first 100 days in office. If the president makes 20 ugly remarks tonight, you’re going to be busy … but this is what we have to do to take our country back.

Some days, it feels a little bit like we’re Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” Our country is being led by scarecrows, tinmen and cowardly lions too fearful to value diversity or respect dissent. And just as in Oz, there’s no Wizard waiting to save us. So we have to find the heart, the courage, the solutions in ourselves. Let’s begin tonight.