Getting over Trump and Hyper Posting on Facebook

My Facebook friends who saw my online persona thought I had flipped, but I actually figured out how to deal with my outrage.

Friends, I’m sorry (not) that you’ve been subjected to my political hyper-posting. I realize that for some it is an imposition, for others a nuisance and maybe for some a welcome expression of shared outrage.

This post is not to apologize, as I cannot remain silent where I see evil. At the same time, it’s hard to find the few, right words to make a point. So bear with me and read to the end when you have the time. Please don’t feel like you should respond on Facebook, or respond at all. If you want to tell me something, let’s go grab a coffee or have a call. I don’t expect to hear back from you through Facebook postings. I just hope you have the time to read this to the end, or jump to the final paragraph if not.

I’m glad I’ve taken a clear stand, on Facebook, other online presences and in person. Each post and the comments and messages of the recent past are absolutely meaningless and don’t de-facto represent an opinion or a call to action. The totality of the posts, however, is very significant, for they represent important opposition to an evil worldview that has emerged and already harmed people. My posts are from solid sources and are diverse and strong on facts. I’m glad I put them out there not to poke at others but to strongly place a personal stake in the ground in a climate where all too often opinions and beliefs are held up as truths or values that are parsed to win, and not to help or solve. Had I not done this I might still be equivocating around some of you on these issues. You know where I stand.

None of us can honestly say we are the ones who are right all the time or that our party or religion has the monopoly on righteousness. I should not strive to “win by arguing I’m correct so you cannot be”. The value of our democratic and inclusive systems is indeed that we benefit from being proven wrong, as then we learned something. This requires an open mind, give and take and willingness to listen and create room for others. Instead, our politicians (and also our Facebook political posts) have become broadcasts of extreme views so as to pull the people they represent over to “sides” or use other forms of subversive manipulation that actually divides us. These politicians after all want to keep their positions of power. Is that representation? Is that serving the public? Does that justify partisanship? Of course not. It’s destructive, not constructive.

But how does one protect one’s voice with all that noise, and not fall in the same traps? In my case I used Facebook as one of my voices and to fine tune my expression. I have also used other voices such as participating more in local politics and other platforms. I try not to argue individual points with people who disagree with me but neither did I feel comfortable having some sort of antiseptic and apolitical presence on Facebook and other social media during these times. I’m an outraged father, not a political operative, who needed to find ways to find his voice.

My views and values are my own and I try to come by them thoughtfully and gradually. I love diversity. I’ll never accept fear of the “other” whether gay or Koran worshipper. It’s ridiculous to me when people parse words and argue issues over slogans such as “Black Lives Matter” or tortuously justify flawed logic when they know a woman’s body is hers’ alone (contrary to Oklahoma lawmakers). Of course Black Lives Matter, and that’s why the slogan is worded that way. Don’t take that community’s voice away. It’s a slogan, a smart, peaceful expressions of opinion.

Are other’s opinions and views always nicely packaged so that I can agree with everything said? Of course not, but let them stand on their own merits. Of course we should not allow our new government to take down climate science in some sort of Orwellian control move. Of course we can’t accept that our leadership tries to hollow out others by branding them from the Bully Pulpit and distorting reality.

After Brexit, I was deeply concerned that Trump could win and sadly, this fear was well placed. At the same time, after the election, I was curious if he could be different in office. During the interim period, prior to his inauguration you may have noticed I stopped all Facebook activity. I wanted to be open-minded and listen, see what he was going to do. I still wanted to give Trump and his chosen advisors a chance. Would he step up and appeal to the better nature of Americans and people around the world? Would he return to a more sophisticated evolutionary approach to changing the global (but always flawed) mutlilateral institutions that we built and which have successfully kept the West out of wars for one of the longest peaceful periods in history and has reduced world hunger from over 40% to less than 15%?

I was prepared to make an effort and give a second chance to a man even though he kindled the far right, the racists and the Nazi sympathizers (so much that we even had a school in Texas where 70 kids, high school seniors, raised their hands and chanted “Zieg Heil” as some sort of sick joke. This is really not representative of Houston or Texas by the way). Here was a man who had lied and conned people so that they could put blind faith in him to solve their grievances. This man, with a pathological inability to tell the truth has already betrayed his poorer voters. He hijacked the US’s world leadership and hard earned admiration with his Mussolini style strong man and outsize narcissistic persona. I chose to become a US citizen because of American ideals, and Trump betrayed America and me this election cycle. Here was a man who repulsed me on so many levels, including his cozying up to Putin, a strong man accused of war crimes and self enrichment who is known to have silenced opposition through murder, having returned Russia to an oppressive autocratic state and recklessly shot down a civilian airliner over the Ukraine. This man Trump surrounded himself with the darkest people. Still, I reluctantly gave him a chance.

Then came that horrible inauguration. As Trump opened his mouth and started in on that terrible speech my fears were re-ignited. I saw threats and evil like I never had lived under before, an evil potentially similar to that which my parents faced first hand as teenagers during the Second World War. Trump’s closest advisor apocalyptically thinks he is in the “modern crusades” and believes war with China is inevitable. There were too many red flags to stay silent.

Had I stayed silent and played nice I would have felt a coward. Clearly, this is a personal reaction and how I felt my responsibility to act. These are my feelings alone. Silence about such an important assault on my values and worldview was unimaginable and untenable. Please do not interpret this as a judgment or criticism of any of my friends. Others are coping with these issues in their own way. Yet had I stayed silent to the potential of a Trump I would have failed to respect our family history, the lessons my parents learned and instilled in me in addition to how my life experiences formed my views. Now is the time for me to be loud, to hold these threatening people accountable as best I can.

I don’t know where this is going to go, with Trump and Co or in the upcoming European elections for that matter, for this is a global phenomenon now led by the incompetent Trump cohort. Who would have thought, for example, that a mass murderer would be at the head of The Philippines (admittedly an extreme case). We are no longer in traditional Republican and Democratic Party affiliations. We now need to stand against apocalyptic views, religious narrow mindedness and fear of the “other” and encompasses a global vision. The scope of the evil that has surfaced under Trump and others is breathtaking and must be challenged vigorously.

Yet, I plan to reduce my political postings significantly, as this was never going to be long term. I’m in for the fight over the long haul and this is not what Facebook is ultimately for (to me or you). To stay the course with this outrageous administration and in upcoming difficult times, I need to manage my outrage. Yet I can’t hide how I feel and get to some phony “sanitized” feel good place while ignoring what’s happening around me. I want to continue embracing the “other” and am bound by no single religion or philosophy.

I feel stronger for putting good information out there, along with my opinions and no longer glossing over how I’m affected by this Trump storm. I am in great company for my fears and revulsion, including thoughtful conservatives (like David Brooks, David Frum, Andrew Sullivan and even Elliott Abrams, David French and Bret Stephens — examples of conservative Republican thought leaders), academics of all stripes (like Tobias Stone who has been very eloquent on Medium), progressives, comedians of course (like John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Seth Myers), and others who are simply thoughtful fellow citizens who can’t stand by as a small cohort trashes our social fabric. I think and hope the tide is turning. Maybe not yet in France with Marine LePenn (who is worryingly a strong candidate) but with ordinary people and press that seems to be rediscovering it’s mission. We are aided by Trump and his kakistocracy as they have shown their colors these first 3-4 weeks in power.

Therefore, going forward, my reduced political posting on Facebook does not mean I condone any normalization of the terrible Trump and his awful entourage. I felt I owed my dear friends on Facebook, a brief partial explanation for my online persona and why this burst of activity.

Finally, importantly, I’m unashamedly glad for my unrestrained hyper-posting on Facebook, and here’s ultimately why. I have many friends who disagree with me and hold different views. I have been selective in the past for accepting Facebook requests and love using the platform to see the pictures of my nieces and nephews, children and parents of my friends and to share my own life events with important people such as my family overseas. The best news is that during this time of blunt and direct online postings in a society and world with a propensity toward conflict, not a single one of my friends has disappointed me. Not one of those who disagreed with me has rejected our friendship. Not one of those sometimes angry, pained posts of mine have been used against me. I feel great because when we get together, the conversation is no longer disagreements over political lunacies. I love my friends of all persuasions and they know I will stand up strongly for my beliefs. I hope this helps everyone have some faith that we will get through this divided time in one piece. Thanks for being my friend on Facebook. See you over a glass of wine or a beer, and not in Facebook political comments.