Calls For Civility Ring Hollow In The Face Of Trump’s Human Rights Abuses

Civil disobedience in an uncivil era

A Trump supporter and an anti-Trump demonstrator exchange words as the crowd that attended the campaign rally with President Donald Trump exited Amsoil Arena Wednesday evening, June 20, 2018, in Duluth, Minn. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP)

A Trump supporter and an anti-Trump demonstrator exchange words as the crowd that attended the campaign rally with President Donald Trump exited Amsoil Arena Wednesday evening, June 20, 2018, in Duluth, Minn. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP)

Civility in conjunction with honest discourse is oft heralded as foundational for the function of all democracies and our American experiment in particular. Time and again our public figures stress the need for mutual respect and compromise in our political and social discourse. In these exhortations, they find themselves in the role of Prince Escalus, earnestly pleading with the Montagues and Capulets to cease this hot-headed bickering which is sure to end in tragedy.

The last week offered plenty of ammunition to those who wish to lament the decline and coarsening of America. Kirstjen Nielsen and Stephen Miller, both Trump appointees involved in Trump’s policy of family separation, were confronted publically in restaurants. Later in the week, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant by a management who felt it was immoral to serve her in light of this same policy. Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) then commented on such actions in a rally Saturday saying,

“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.”

It was in response to these comments and actions that the media and public intellectuals began to lecture us on the importance of civility. From the point of view of the Joe Scarboroughs and Washington Post Editorial Boards, they are compelled to speak by the historically bittersweet knowledge that calls for conversation and compromise are never headed and yet must be uttered anyway. By the knowledge that conflict leads to suffering and that neither side will relent until the tragic price has grown beyond what can be borne. To these public figures, looking back into history, where we find ourselves must seem all too familiar, our respect for our institutions crumbling while our Constitution frays at the edges, rent and torn by the careless passions of an uncaring and sightless citizenry.

These public figures and institutions learned well the stories of the fall of Rome and Britain and fear now it is our turn, fear the decline and fall of the American empire. They know that Lincoln was right when he said, “No if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.” and in our incivility, they see our country’s finger on the trigger.

These self-appointed guardians of public discourse are incorrect in their calls for civility and characterizations of our efforts. Our incivility is not the passion of the mob, nor is it knee-jerk tribalism. It is the result of a patient sufferance stretched too thin by injuries and abuses that makes necessary our resistance. Experience and prudence teach us that such direct action should not be undertaken lightly nor for transient causes. We are not easily moved yet the actions perpetrated by our government on others in our name demands it.

Where we find ourselves requires a response that will not sink to the level of violence and yet is less comfortable than polite and civil discourse. We are not afraid of sinking into incivility, we are terrified of failing our sacred duty to our fellow people and the spirit of our nation that has been entrusted to us for safekeeping. “History will not be kind to us as a nation and as a people if we continue down this road.” Out of respect for the opinions of a wider world and our posterity, we feel obliged to offer the causes that have impelled us to this point. To this end we submit the following facts:

They have shown themselves to be incapable of telling the truth, a trait inimical to the function of a decent and good democracy.

They have implemented a most cruel policy that those who come to our shores seeking refuge will be separated from their children.

They have denied a sitting President his Constitutionally appointed authority to appoint a Supreme Court Justice.

They have stoked the fires of hate and bigotry, forces intertwined with the most shameful periods in our history.

They have perpetuated a heist on our working people, transferring trillions to those least in need.

They have judged our fellow Americans, not by the content of their character, but by the color of their skin.

They have refused to uphold or enforce the laws of our country sabotaging the healthcare of millions while twisting others to justify cruelty and suffering.

Some proudly fly the flags of our enemies whose defeat was paid for by countless sacrifices of our ancestors.

They have demeaned and sought to bar an entire group of citizens from serving their country.

They have abdicated the role of public servants, using their offices to enrich themselves or standing by while others do so.

They have assaulted our free press attempting at every turn to control our access to information with lies, manipulation, and threats.

They allowed a foreign power to violate the sanctity of our elections and have obstructed any investigation or response.

They have perpetuated and enabled a culture of harassment and sexism sheltering wife beaters and abusers of all types.

They have stood by and embraced an accused pedophile merely for political gain.

They have elected and stood by a man whose vulgarity and lack of empathy make him unfit to hold our highest office.

They have abandoned their obligation to help keep our children safe while gunmen haunt our schools.

They have violated our laws and sacred principles by targeting group of refugees based solely on their religion.

Again and again, we have sought civil discourse and understanding in response to these provocations to no avail. Yet they continue to accuse us of the very transgressions they themselves are guilty of, engaging in the most rank and vile hypocrisy. Such a party as this, whose rulers act in bad faith, is unworthy to lead a free people. In light of this, we no longer dare to be silent, lest our silence be taken for consent and used as further justification for these policies and trespasses. As Dr. King reminds us “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

Opinion // Democracy / Donald Trump / Immigration