cowards, the lot of them

I’m sorry, what did you cowards say about Maxine Waters?

Every single person with a public platform who opposes the current president’s agenda, yet has jumped on the bandwagon to criticize her is a coward.

I learned as a child that the only way to stop a bully is confrontation. If you don’t let them know that you see what they are doing and you will not tolerate it, they will take your silence, your kindness, your patience, your civility, for not just weakness, but permission to continue to abuse you. I also learned that witnesses who don’t stand up to bullies are the worst kind of enablers.

We should stand for righteousness. We should stand with the people who speak out for the weak and the troubled. We should protect the targeted. Even at cost to our own well being. And every time that Maxine Waters criticizes this administration or the people who do its dirty work, she does the work of a hero. She speaks truth to power, constantly putting herself in the crosshairs of those people who are destroying labor rights, human rights, women’s rights, gender rights, civil rights, and voting rights right before our eyes. It is not entirely thankless work – many people have been very thankful for her presence in Congress and the way that she uses her public platform. She often amplifies the unspoken or unheard thoughts of Americans who disagree with the current federal administration.

And this is why it is shameful that people like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have condemned her. After the press secretary was publicly shamed at a Virginia restaurant, Rep. Waters said that in response to this administration’s separation of families at the border, “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” No matter how you feel about what happened to the press secretary, what Rep. Waters’ remarks called for is peaceful public dissent, like the kind that happened there – not violence – dissent.

Peaceful public dissent is what makes our country worth salvaging. On any day, at any time, on any issue, if an American has a problem with their government, they can use their speech, they can assemble, they can alert the press, they can start a blog, they can make a banner, and they can speak truth to power to lobby for the changes they want to see. Peaceful public dissent is a world better than coerced private fear. We have a federal administration that is led by a shameless bully – a man who advertised his desire to kill innocent children whose guilt had not been proven, a man who tries to use intimidation and threats to “govern,” a man who regularly threatens the integrity of the First Amendment by using his administration to undermine freedom of the press, a man who gained popularity during his campaign by encouraging his devotees to literally be violent against political opponents. Coerced private fear is what he would prefer from the American people. His people are purposely trying to discourage immigration by separating families with no intelligible plans to reunite them. That is bigger than bullying, and it is being carried out at this administration’s orders.

Rep. Waters’ point is that people who are carrying out these orders and supporting these actions should be told that this is wrong and Americans don’t want this. These are human rights abuses, and we should not sit idly by and let them happen. We can donate money for their legal representation, we can call our senators and congressional representatives (unless yours, like mine, resigned in disgrace under the heat of a “me too” scandal), we can write letters, attend rallies… and we also have the right to tell these people what we think about what they’re doing when we see them out and about.

Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and other spineless Democrats are afraid that if we open the door to on-the-street criticism , we’re also inviting that kind of criticism upon them. They know the door swings both ways, and they don’t want anti-abortion activists surrounding their cars in the drug store parking lot. I can’t imagine how scary that possibility must be for them, but I don’t sympathize with them. They were brave enough to run for office. They need to be brave enough to be accountable for their political convictions everywhere they go. Because while they were rigging the primaries, ignoring Russian interference, and trying to play nice during the 2016 election, they allowed an aspiring authoritarian strongman with crass mannerisms and knuckle-dragging ideas of how to treat people to drag down the civility and respectability of the presidential office and everything connected to it. If they thought that intimidation would only be limited to his presidential campaign rallies, that’s their fault for not reacting appropriately to an alarming rise in confrontational behavior. Don’t pin the decline in American civility on Rep. Waters – she is reacting to the radically changed environment, which civility left a long time ago. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Or better yet, govern with courage in order to change the game.

These Democrats didn’t even have to publicly agree with her statements. They could have said that although they would not choose to do the same, they understand her comments to mean that Americans should express their opinions about their government to their government. But if they couldn’t say that, they could have said nothing. Instead, they are all but publicly shaming their colleague. People are saying that she is inciting violence. There is talk of making her resign over this. And these cowards are sitting idly by, letting the bullies run roughshod over one of the few people brave enough to do what they all should be doing.

“When they go low, we go high,” does not mean to appease your bullies by being sweet and hiding behind notions of civility. It means that you can do the right thing without disrespecting others’ humanity. Had Rep. Waters endorsed violence, I wouldn’t be on her side on this one, but she didn’t. Anyone who pretends that her comments were beyond the pale is compromising themselves to meet the bully in a middle ground that hasn’t existed in a long time, paving the way for more abuse. Giving an inch, ceding a mile. Rep. Waters deserves better. If she goes for incivility, the president should go for that and more, too.

2 thoughts on “cowards, the lot of them”

  1. Weren’t people complaining that President Obama needed to get with the program and stop expecting goodness from the GOP? He never. People were hot. So here we are when we truly need to recognize what we dealing with, someone is doing it, and there are problems?

    She calling for peaceful protests yet people see in their head things going bad. I think that as well as things you mentioned plays into this situation. And she black. And a woman. And people can’t just not comment.

    Co-sign on everything you said.

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