Mr. President, If You Were a True Leader…

  Image: ABC News

Mr. President,

I spent your first day in office, among tens of thousands assembled here in the streets of my home city of Raleigh, along with millions in similar gatherings all around the country and the world.

We came together to affirm the rights and intrinsic value of women and to celebrate our love for one another and for this nation. We came together as a visible expression of the beautiful diversity of humanity.  We came together to remind you that we are among the overwhelming majority of American citizens who did not vote for you in November, and who question your commitment to us.

We marched, we sang, we laughed, we hugged strangers, and we saw the very best of our country. We made a massive, clear, bold, nonviolent declaration. I walked with my wife, my two young children and good friends from our church, and we all felt hope in the joyful exuberance of the moment.

This is how I spent your first day in office. Mr. President.

I also know how you spent your first day in office. You spent it angrily Tweeting and hastily arranging press conferences. You spent it shutting down websites and pasting up photo boards. You spent it dispatching your apologists and cronies to try and discredit us. You spent it verbally assaulting the very people you are charged with caring for. You spent it spitting venom at millions of Americans who were being America, and by doing so— you proved us right.

You did this because you’re simply not a true leader, Mr. President.

If you were a leader, you would have found some humility, some dignity, some grace.

If you were a leader you would have checked that eggshell ego and that paper-thin skin and you would have paid attention.

If you were a leader you would have shut your mouth and listened, instead of responding like an embarrassed middle schooler who’d just been jilted by a crush in the cafeteria.

If you were a leader you would have realized the incredible healing that might have taken place in our country, if you had said to the millions marching and the millions more who love and support them: “I see you, and I want you to know that I want to be your President too. I want to protect you and to advocate for you and your families. I hear you and I am listening, and I will prove to you that I am deserving of your trust. We’re in this together.”

But you didn’t say any of that, Mr. President.

Instead, you argued that we didn’t exist in the numbers we did, you minimized our voices, and you publicly called the Press and people with working eyes—liars. You made your Press Secretary parrot your incendiary, nonsensical words to try and make you out to be both the victim and the hero, which is your way. You gave your rabid supporters the fuel to be horrible in response to us. You turned peaceful protest against you, into bitter war with one another.

On your first day in office you showed us the leader, the man, the Christian, the decent human being that you are not.

You showed us that you are that petty, that shallow, that insecure; that you would attempt to make people believe they weren’t seeing what they were seeing, that you would seek to alter and redefine truth, simply to bolster your very delicate vanity.

You showed the millions of us marching that we are right to be terrified of you and correct in believing that you do not care about the rights of all Americans, and that you are a danger to us because you are not mature enough to sit in the seat that Jefferson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Obama have occupied with such wisdom and humanity.

Yesterday you claimed you have an “ongoing war with the media.” This is inaccurate.

You have an ongoing war with The Truth and with Reality, and because of that—with the 65 million plus who don’t buy your shtick and will not be gaslighted into thinking we’re out of our minds or that we’re the problem here.

The problem, is that America has just installed a fraud in the White House. We have just entrusted our nation to a petulant bully. We have given the keys of our future to an easily baited coward. We have elected a grown-up baby who can’t control himself when faced with the slightest adversity—and that’s the thing that will prevent America from being as great as it could and should be.

Your supporters keep telling me to “give you a chance”. I do and you keep blowing it. You blew it again, this weekend—bigly. You squander every conceivable opportunity to show that you are for us.

If you were a true leader, you would have stepped up and met those of us marching right where we were and led us to a place of redemptive conversation and measured compromise. You would have validated and reassured and acknowledged us—but you didn’t. Instead you condemned us and attacked us and diminished us. 

And this is why we’ll keep resisting you every single hour of every single day until you’re no longer here, or until you prove to all of us that you can be the leader this great nation deserves.

We aren’t going anywhere. These marches were not a landing pad they were a launching pad.

We have eyes, Mr. President and we see you clearly.

You had a golden moment this weekend to bring healing to the people of this country—and you missed it.

 

 

 

 

 

Let the Record Show

Let the record show that I did not consent to this.

Let it show that I did not vote for this man, that he did not represent me, that I did not believe he was deserving of being here, that I grieved his ascension.

Let History record my objection to him, to the ways he humiliated women and vilified Muslims and threatened protestors and disregarded people of color.

Let it record my repulsion at his tremendous cruelty, his lack of compassion, his contempt for dissension, his absence of simple decency.

Let witnesses mark down my disgust at the way he boasted of infidelity, at how he ridiculed a disabled reporter, at the way he attacked female opponents for their appearance, at the way he marginalized immigrants.

Let it be remembered that I did not look the other way when women accused him of assault, when the reality of his Russian alliances came to light, when he refused to share his tax records—though large portions of the American media and its people chose to.  

Let it be remembered that I did not buy into the fear that he perpetuated of those with brown skin or hijabs or foreign birthplaces. 

Let the record show that I looked on with disbelief as he spent countless early morning and middle-of-the-night hours following the election on social media, broadcasting a steady stream of petulant, insecure, incoherent messages instead of preparing to do a job he was ill-equipped for and seemingly not all that interested in.

Let the record show that I watched him assemble a Cabinet of billionaires and bigots, of people woefully unqualified to steward our children, our safety, our healthcare, our financial stability—and that I was horrified by it all.

Let it be remembered that my faith would not allow me to fall in line behind this man while so many professed religious people did; that I saw nothing resembling Jesus in him, and that to declare him Christian would have been to toss aside everything I grew up believing faith in Christ manifested in a life.  

Let History record my grieving at the racism and bigotry and homophobia that characterized his campaign, marked his supporters, and is evident in his assembling Administration.

Let it be known that I was one of the more than 65 million people who voted for Hillary Clinton; who understood that though not perfect, she was an intelligent, experienced, passionate public servant with the temperament, commitment, and qualifications to lead and lead well. 

Let the record show that I greatly lamented the day of his inauguration, and that I promised to join together with other good people to loudly resist and oppose every unscrupulous, dangerous, unjust and dishonest act this new Administration engages in. 

History has been littered with horrible people who did terrible things with power, because too many good people remained silent. And since my fear is that we are surely entering one of those periods in our story, I wanted to make sure that I was recorded for posterity:

I do not believe this man’s actions are normal.
I do not believe he is emotionally stable.

I do not believe he cares about the full, beautiful diversity of America.
I do not believe he respects women.
I do not believe he is pro-life other than his own.
I do not believe the sick and the poor and the hurting matter to him in the slightest.

I do not believe he is a man of faith or integrity or nobility.
I do not believe his concern is for anything outside his reflection in the mirror.

I believe he is a danger to our children.
I believe he is a threat to our safety.
I believe he is careless with our people.
I believe he is reckless with his power.
I believe America will be less secure, less diverse, less compassionate, and less decent under his leadership.

And if I prove to be wrong, it will be one of the most joyful errors of my life. I will own these words and if necessary, willingly and gladly admit my misjudgment because it will mean that America is a better and stronger nation, and the world a more peaceful place.

But right now I don’t see that happening. 

Right now I am worried for my country, concerned for our planet, scared for the future of my children, and greatly saddened that 62 million Americans seem okay with all of this.

Let the record show that I was not okay with it.

Not at all.

 

Get John’s Email Newsletter

Receive regular updates with speaking dates, media links, book launches, shareable graphics, and regular content regarding stuff that needs to be said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Acts of Resistance on Inauguration Day and Beyond

On the 20th of January, over 65 million people (well more than half of those who voted in America’s election) will be grieving.

We will be lamenting the elevation to the highest level of our Government, a man who is simply unqualified for and undeserving of it; a man who has already shown himself unable to respect the gravity of the moment and unwilling to act in the interest of the whole of the American people.

And so for us, this Inauguration day is indeed a funeral; a mourning over the country we might have had, the future we could have been building—the President we should have been welcoming.

And the question is, what do we do with this day that might be redemptive, that might bring life? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Serve someone. Step out into your neighborhoods, alone or with other-like hearted people and perform acts of service today, especially for those who are often overlooked or excluded. These will be the same communities ignored by the coming Administration and we will need to make sure that no one is rendered invisible, that everyone is cared for. With a President-Elect whose life, career, and campaign have been marked by such greed and ego—compassion and kindness will now be acts of bold resistance.

2) Engage in financial activism. Money does indeed talk. It advocates. It protests. In fact, our financial resources can and should be a tangible form of activism. Do some research today and make a contribution to an organization you believe is doing great work fighting the kind of discrimination, bigotry, and injustice already evident in the coming Administration. Give generously today to sustain and encourage those already pushing upstream.

3) Get your hands dirty. There are countless opportunities to come alongside people already in the trenches fighting for equality and diversity locally, state-wide, and across the country. Make a commitment today to come alongside them by joining a nonprofit, community organization, faith-based group, or grass-roots movement. Leverage the powerful resource of your presence and participate in work that moves you. Resist the apathy around you today by gracing enough to move.

4) Reach across a divide. Exclusion has been one of the hallmarks of the President-Elect’s campaign, seeking to divide people along lines of color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, place of birth, and yes, political affiliation. Today, do something that intentionally builds a bridge to a community you may have little interaction with or knowledge of, or to an individual you may feel opposition to. It might mean picking up the phone or inviting someone for coffee or visiting an unfamiliar house of worship or attending a community gathering. Resist the wall-builder today by breaking down walls.

5) Read. The Internet gives us limitless opportunities to learn and to grow in our understanding of others, yet we often use it primarily to exchange passive aggressive status updates and oversimplified memes. We have a President-Elect who has boasted that he does not read, and we can see the kind of person such intolerance to knowledge yields. Today, read something edifying or challenging; something that pushes you or educates you or tells you a story you didn’t know—and use it to spur you on. In this coming Administration, intelligence and knowledge are forms of resistance.

6) Pray. If you’re a person of faith, spend time today away in prayer or meditation, and if you’re not, simply spend some time in quiet reflection or in nature. Avoid the bombast and volume of this day, and all the noise of social media that it will certainly bring. Find places of silence and solitude to recover your center. Find peace there, and allow that peace to strengthen and prepare you for the difficult work ahead.

7) Reassure your children. If you have kids over the age of 10 or so, they’ve likely heard too much during the campaign and they might be feeling a great deal of fear and worry today. Take some time to gather as a family and talk to your kids, not about the Inauguration or the President-Elect, but about the good things and good people they see in the world, and make some plans with them to do something as a family that affirms this goodness. Help your kids resist by nurturing their hope.

8) Cultivate gratitude. With the heavy deluge of bad news in recent weeks, with the relentless flood of reckless Tweets, disturbing Cabinet appointments, and the seemingly limitless capacity for cruelty we’ve been exposed to, it can be easy to lose sight of all that is good and beautiful and right in our lives and in this world. There will be plenty of time to lament all that is not wrong and to work in opposition to it, but today as a willing act of defiant resistance, perhaps look around and find reason to be grateful. Celebrate these things.

9) Be visible. All across the country, there are protests, rallies, and marches where disparate people will gather today to be a physical, tangible reminder that the majority of American voters did not consent to this President-Elect and do not share his vision for our nation. Go and stand shoulder to shoulder with people in your community and make a declaration of resistance to the divisions and hatred on display in this Administration.

10) Create. Spend time today doing something that gives you life: paint, play music, write, dance, cook. Use the gifts you have been given as a direct, creative response to this day. Remind yourself that even though there is real ugliness grabbing the spotlight and the headlines, that things of great beauty are being born too. Let your art be your defiant resistance.

Bonus 11) Rest.
Grief is exhausting, and chances are if you’re still reading this you care deeply about what’s happening in this country—and you’re really tired. And regardless of the virtues of anything you’ve read so far, today your greatest act of resistance may be to take a nap. Unplug, logout, shutdown, and allow yourself to breathe slowly and to sleep. You will have time over the next four years to address the other things on this list that compel you. For now, rest well.

So yes, January 20th could easily be a day of grief, but it can also be a day where you and I refuse to give attention, time, or emotional bandwidth to a man who does not deserve it; a day where together we affirm the truth that America is already great, not because of him—but despite him.

We the people…

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, My Diversity Doesn’t Have to Include Your Bigotry

   Photo credit: Reuters

Some days I think people choose to miss the point.   

In the weeks following the election, those of us opposing the coming Administration and protesting what we see as very problematic Cabinet appointments and flag-raising political maneuvering, have received a similar scolding from Conservatives as we engage in debate on the issues. It’s an attempt to call us out for our alleged hypocrisy:

“I see, you’re all for diversity unless someone disagrees with you! Apparently we don’t get included in that! You Liberals are so tolerant!” 

Well, they’re partially right. 

The commitment to diversity and equality means demanding that everyone gets a seat at the table; that each person’s inherent worth is recognized there, that no one is devalued or excluded based on a fixed and fundamental part of their identity: skin color, gender, nation of origin, sexual orientation, religion, etc.

This means that we declare every human being equally valuable. It does not mean we treat all opinions and all behavior equally:

If your opinion directly endangers people based on those essential parts of who they are—we’ll pushback.
If you’re worldview permits you to treat someone as less deserving of civil rights or it discards their basic humanity—your worldview is a threat to true diversity.
If your evaluation of another makes you more tolerant of their mistreatment or less outraged by hate crimes against them, that’s a fundamental problem.

Active discrimination and violence don’t get a seat at the table. They don’t get proximity to do further damage.

For example, a gay teenager and a Baptist preacher are both invited into genuine community and both welcomed into conversation, but if the preacher insists on the inherent depravity of the teenager, if he or she cannot see the teenager as fully equal to them in the eyes of God or the Law, this is a barrier to diverse community and an assault on the teenager’s very identity. The teenager’s place at the table is terribly altered by the preacher, not the other way around.

Diversity will always err on the side of the marginalized and always be an inconvenience to the privileged because diversity seeks justice. It demands benevolence.

The contention for the past year has been that all political perspectives are valid, but I won’t consent to that and it’s a matter of personal safety. No individual groups of white people are explicitly, measurably endangered by a Progressive platform, they receive the same consideration. But I can illustrate the specific ways people of color, immigrants, Muslims, women, and the LGBTQ community are less safe and less represented by the coming Administration, which is already by its conduct, a movement of exclusion. 

Friend, I can respect you and seek to understand you, while declaring your actions or those of politicians you support, completely reprehensible. I can criticize your conduct or the results of your behavior without not attacking your worth. That’s how this works.

If you believe people of color are simply inferior to white people, you’re going to have to work hard to stay at the table.
If you claim LGBTQ people to be abominations, you’ll have to do better.
If you believe Muslims are likely terrorists, you probably won’t feel welcome at the table for long.

And so no, it isn’t at all hypocritical to champion diversity and to confront injustice simultaneously. They are fully collaborative and integrated movements.

All people are welcomed at the table but bigotry isn’t, so save the allegation that its acceptance is a requirement for me.

Equality demands deceny toward humanity’s diverse gathering—and it’s what I demand.