“Going low is easy, which is why people go to it. It’s easy to go low. It’s easy to lead by fear. It’s easy to be divisive. It’s easy to make people feel afraid. … what I learned from eight years in the White House, this life, this world, our responsibility in it is so much bigger than us. When I want to go low, it’s all about my own ego. It’s not about solving anything…. It’s about seeking revenge on the thing that happened to you.” ~Michelle Obama
Yesterday morning, a friend’s husband grabbed an early morning ride for the airport, and asked his Lyft driver to wear a mask.
The driver responded by pulling a gun on him.
I learned about the entire situation on Twitter – where my friend had gone when they realized the driver had cancelled the ride (therefore ensuring she would have no record of him – no name, car info, etc.).
As anyone who’s on Twitter has likely seen, customers often take to the platform to get the attention of companies that otherwise may take an excruciatingly long time to respond. Tagging a company in a thread nearly guarantees swift(er) social media response. She tagged Lyft so she could get the info that she needed to file a police report.
Again, because a driver pulled a gun on her husband for asking him to wear a mask.
As if that account is not horrifying enough, the replies to her Tweet trying to get help for the situation were … something else.
She’s a locally-elected official, and has been out in front on the importance of masks and public health and safety guidelines. But in this circumstance, I assumed there would be no partisan break – this was clearly criminal behavior.
Instead, her replies were filled with people who said they simply didn’t believe her. Something about it was “fishy” to them. Others insinuated it was a-ok with them that someone pulled a gun on her family, as though she “deserved it” for supporting masks.
A local perennial GOP candidate then took to his own social media to cast doubt on “her version” of the events, and called for his followers to help make sure the driver’s life is not “ruined” – presumably by attacking her on social media.
I’ve watched the local council meetings that she has to participate in – and have seen people viciously attack her during public comment, equating her to a monster for having the strength to support mask orders during a pandemic. She had a baby but continued appearing remotely; they attacked her for not having a babysitter and for breastfeeding (off camera). The nastier their comments towards her, the more applause the crowd showers them with.
And now, they not only shrug off and dismiss an armed assault against her husband – they actively attack her for “ruining” a driver’s life.
Friends, I fear a significant chunk of our population has lost its humanity.
What on earth has happened?
Perhaps we got a clue this past weekend when we learned (or, rather, confirmed) through the Facebook Papers reporting that Facebook has been spoon feeding conspiratorial content to millions of Americans. We know because in the course of its internal research, Facebook set up a fake account – creating out of thin air a 41 year old mom in North Carolina. “She” followed three or four conservative (but public/official) pages. Within a week she was being directed to Q-related pages. Within three weeks Facebook was directing her to Three Percenter content.
It’s no wonder that it feels like half of the country is living in an alternative reality.
I don’t think anymore that these things are separate – they all feel very related.
People are emboldened – even encouraged – to be their worst selves.
The people who jeer at my friend online are fed a steady diet of polarizing anger, resentment, and violence. They’re rewarded for repeating and emulating that content with more social shares, and likes, and follows.
Is it any wonder that is their default language?
Back in 2016, we all told ourselves we were going to “go high” when they went low. That felt good to say. Moral. Righteous. It still does.
I thought – perhaps you did, too, that by not stooping to their sticky level, we’d be an example of how civic discourse is supposed to be. We’d show them.
Well, turns out they showed us.
Because they’ve gone ever lower, and they’ve not put down their shovel.
They showed us the collective power of anger, and fear, and bitterness – especially when those already powerful emotions are amplified by an amoral algorithm. More and more people have been sucked into this trap.
Meanwhile, our “going high” has often meant not engaging at all – or deflecting, changing the subject, not “feeding the troll”.
But – and I ask this seriously, not knowing the answer: how can we protect ourselves and our society if we don’t engage with the monster that’s been lurking and growing? How do we come to terms with the fact that while we have waited for people to wake up to the lies they’ve been told, they’ve gotten further from reality?
How can we rise above all of this, and – more importantly at this point – should we? If “going high” means we don’t engage directly with the underbelly that’s infecting more and more people, shouldn’t we at least reimagine what “going high” means?
Because from where I’m sitting, at my computer witnessing people attack a public servant because someone pulled a gun on her husband, what we’re doing right now … isn’t working.
And to be clear, the stakes of this moment aren’t just hurt feelings. Entire swaths of our population are declaring laws that they don’t like void and elected leads that they don’t like illegitimate. We need to find a way to break through, or tamp down, or … something.
I wish I had identified the perfect tone, and pitch, and content, and could share it with you like some magic spell. The fact is, I haven’t and I can’t. And from what I’ve seen, nobody else can either.
Perhaps the middle ground we can channel is righteous indignation – that marries our desire to go high with the urgency of the moment. Perhaps in coming weeks we’ll see more people sour to the ultra-right’s divisive messaging. Perhaps the reporting of the Facebook Papers will cause more people to ask questions.
Know that in the coming weeks and months I’ll be paying close attention, trying to identify ways we can – consistently with our moral compasses – engage and disarm the rhetoric we see from the ultra-right. I hope you’ll do the same, and that you’ll share. Perhaps together we can crack this code.
Let’s get to work.
Actions for the Week of October 26, 2021
Actions Demand Consequences: Congress
No doubt you’ve seen the Rolling Stone article, which alleges that members of Congress were in contact with January 6 rally/protest organizers. Let’s be clear, though, that the article does not say the Congressmembers were part of the insurrection planning. Even so, their involvement needs to be investigated and, if they did have any involvement, prosecuted.
There also need to be consequences, and thus far there have been none.
Back in January, Rep. Cori Bush introduced a resolution calling for the House Ethics Committee to investigate and report on the actions of members who sought to overturn the election and determine whether they violated their oath of office (read it HERE)
It was cosponsored by 47 Members, including Alma Adams (NC-12), Nanette Barragán (CA-44) Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Judy Chu (CA-27), David Cicilline (RI-01) Jim Cooper (TN-05), Gerry Connolly (VA-11), Danny Davis (IL-06), Val B. Demings (FL-10), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Jesús García (IL-04), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Steven Horsford (NV-04), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., (GA-04), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Kai Kahele (HI-02), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-02), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Marie Newman (IL-03), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Bill Pascrell (NJ-09), Donald Payne (NY-10), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Bobby Rush (IL-01), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Mark Takano (CA-41), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Juan Vargas (CA-52), Nydia Velazquez (NY-07), Nikema Williams (GA-05), Frederica Wilson (FL-24).
I’ve not heart one peep about it since, and reached out to Congresswoman Bush’s office (she’s my rep) and I’m waiting to hear back on what actions they’re taking now due to the Rolling Stone article. I’ve no doubt they’ll get back to me, but in the meantime check the list above for your rep, and give them a call to find out what pressure they are bringing to bear on this issue.
Hi, my name is _____ and I’m a constituent from ______.
I’m calling to follow up on a resolution that the Congress(wo)man cosponsored back in January calling for the Ethics Committee to investigate whether lawmakers who participated in the dishonest attempt to overturn the election violated their oath of office. I think they should face real consequences, starting with censure and removal from committee assignments, up to and including removal from Congress. I’ve not heard a status update on whether the ethics committee has taken this up. What is the Congress(wo)man doing to make sure this is given the attention it deserves?
Protect Paid Family Leave:
As you have likely heard, the proposal for paid family leave – long, long overdue – is being “renegotiated.” Because Manchin wants to trim the costs of the bill overall, there’s talk in taking the 12 weeks of leave, which was already a compromise, down to four. To say I am frustrated by this is an understatement. You can read this article to get a sense for how far behind the US is in providing family leave. Twelve weeks is already a compromise.
Caregivers have propped this country up during the pandemic. This is not the place to cut corners.
Get out your phone! Call your Senators here. Hat tip to Jessica Craven of Chop Wood, Carry Water for excellent script: It is unconscionable that there is any risk to paid leave in the Build Back Better package. We are in a pandemic, as well as a jobs and care crisis. I want Paid Leave kept in the package on behalf of caregivers, COVID survivors, small businesses, women, military families, and every working family in America. You can pay for it by passing the Billionaires Tax, which I also support. Thanks.
Last Chance to Pitch in: Virginia
We are now one week away from Virginia’s election, and it’s going to be a nail-biter. That’s why I was glad to see Swing Left’s tool that helps you get involved – even remotely – through a number of actions going on through the weekend. You should check it out here: https://swingleft.org/take-action?s=u
Check Out The Newest Navigator Polling:
It’s been a while since I’ve just provided a resource, and there are two this week that I think are really critical. The first is new Navigator polling, which shows the status of the political messaging. I think it’s really important for anyone who is working in/around/among democratic messaging to take a look at this. https://navigatorresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Navigator-Update-10.21.21.pdf?emci=780978b4-d931-ec11-9820-c896653b26c8&emdi=a5046591-5332-ec11-9820-c896653b26c8&ceid=1389603
WHEW! GO TEAM!
P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.
If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!
Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.