Stop Tone Policing My Outrage at This Presidency

You can tell a lot about people by what gets them angry, by the causes they choose to defend, by the stuff that moves them to speak after being silent for so long.

There are people I haven’t heard from since the 2016 Presidential campaign began; friends who gradually disconnected on social media; who virtually ghosted me, slowly and steadily going incommunicado. 

They stepped away from any public discourse, intentionally withdrawing from political commentary of any kind, citing how incendiary it all is.

I haven’t heard a peep from them privately or publicly over the past eighteen months:

Not when he said protestors at his rallies should have been roughed up.
Not when the vile Access Hollywood video surfaced. 
Not when refugees were stranded at airports.
Not when they were bulldozing Standing Rock burial grounds.
Not when Sally Yates was unceremoniously terminated.
Not when Elizabeth Warren was silenced and persisted.

Not when Nazis and racists in Charlottesville were called “fine people.”
Not when tens of millions lost healthcare under the cover of night.
Not when kneeling black NFL players were called sons of bitches.
Not when he tweeted taunts at North Korea.
Not when Evangelists offered public prayers for predatory Alabama senators.
Not when the #MeToos were victimized a second time.

Through all of this—nothing. Not a damn word. Flat-out mute people.

Nothing moved them to say anything, nothing burdened them enough to rouse them from their silence, nothing offended their sensibilities significantly enough to merit even a whisper.

And yet lately, many of these same folks have suddenly found their voices—solely to tell me that my words are problematic to them, that they’re uncomfortable with me, that the issue they have—is with the expression of my outrage.

“Your anger isn’t helpful.”
“This isn’t going to reach anyone.”
“There’s a better way to do this.”

What’s revelatory about these people, is that they’re seemingly less bothered by anything happening in this country: the human rights atrocities, the legislative overreach, the unchecked cruelty, the prevalent hate crimes—than they are by the manner in which those of us who are bothered by it all, are saying so.

They deem our words offense, 
our methods abrasive,
our delivery divisive,
our language hurtful.

This is the very height of irony: people who’ve spent two years repeatedly glossing over or excusing or rationalizing away the most toxic, offensive, vulgar behavior and language—now greatly disturbed by a perceived lack of decorum.

This is how sideways it’s all gone here: that there are people apparently more concerned about the feelings of the bullies than about the very lives of those being bullied. I refuse to be one of those people.

If you’re waiting for me to apologize for emotionally wounding someone with the suggestion that they may not be all that keen on people of color, or that they’re likely afraid of gay people, or that their nationalism is showing because they defend what’s happening here—it’ll be a long wait.

I think the futures of dreamers and the welfare of sick people and the safety of LGBTQ teenagers and the stability of families of immigrants are worth the raising of my voice, and the forcefulness of my delivery, and the discomfort it causes anyone.

You may want to ask yourself why you’re more willing to protest those who protest, than you are to speak into the injustice itself; why the only thing you feel burdened to openly resist is our resistance. You may be fighting the wrong battle here.

If you’re more outraged by the tone of this President’s critics, than by his bigotry, dishonesty, misogyny, racism, and environmental recklessness—you’re enabling him, you’re normalizing him, you’re encouraging him.

Stop it.

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303 thoughts on “Stop Tone Policing My Outrage at This Presidency

  1. Mr. Gaster, Wecome! I hope you and your family are all doing well.

    And , or course I have a rebuttal. Can we both agree that we each voted for imperfect humans as we all are. The varying shades of awfulness we saw in each of them is our right based on our life stories and beliefs.

    Can we both agree that up until towards the end of last year a lot of men were allowed to harass and behave in a seriously depraved, odious, harmful, and undeserved way towards those they had power over with very little pushback. In the last few months a huge change has happed that has affected almost every walk of life, every religion, and political party. Trump has not faced a reckoning for things he was accused of in the past. He even received another “mulligan” for new news regarding past behavior. He is Teflon Don. Since 20 years, or even 1 year ago has seen a lot of changes, the whole point seems to be much ado about changing norms.

    We both voted our conscience. You feel you made the right decision. I witness the result of you or many other people’s decision every single day. There is no way you can prove how things would be if the result of the election was different. You can guess, and you can surmise but you actually only know what is happening right now.

    Peace Mr. Gaston

    • Hi, Ms. Musto. The Gaster clan is well, and I hope yours is likewise.

      While I agree that we both voted for flawed people, to be fair I need to point out that, while I am definitely on the right side of the political spectrum, I did not vote for Donald Trump. I couldn’t bring myself to overlook the laundry list of his significant issues. You’ll notice I made no defense of the man in my post. We really did nominate the two worst possible candidates in 2016.

      I think one of the reasons we are so divided as a country, and unlikely to come together anytime soon, is because the loudest amongst us have no use for the actual truth. Mr. Pavlovitz, in my opinion, falls into that category, for all the reasons I laid out above. Some of the things he claims to be outraged by either didn’t happen (tens of millions losing their health insurance), or happened before President Trump was even elected (Standing Rock), let alone in office. When someone distorts history, or just outright makes it up, they bring nothing of value to the debate. Quite the opposite, in fact. He is no different than almost the entirety of congress, or any opinion show host on Fox or MSNBC. They don’t really care about anything beyond what bolsters their talking points. Actual evidence they are correct, or consistent, isn’t necessary.

      I agree that the era of powerful men (even the occasional woman) harassing their subordinates coming to an end is great. Just don’t expect me to applaud people who are suddenly speaking out in support of victims after decades of looking the other way, because suddenly it’s in their best interest to care.

      I take no issue with people who are genuine in their beliefs, regardless of what those beliefs may be. You are a prime example of that. You and I have led different lives which have colored how we see the world, but we can have conversations without either impugning the other’s motives or convictions. The author, sadly, has chosen the demagogue route. I’m sure it drives a lot of traffic to his blog, but he’s part of the class that is dividing us further.

      • Thank you for your response. I am happy that all is well with you and your family. I never meant to imply you voted for Trump. That is why I said we live every day with what you or many other’s voted for. No one knows if things would be better or worse.

        I am 70 years old and have seen norms change by leaps and bounds over the decades. I am older than John Kelly and I do not remember any time when “women were sacred and looked upon with great honor”. I think it was more about most women knowing their place in the hierarchy of life. Many women just had no other options.

        Please do not get me wrong, there are and were abusive women, women who committed adultery, women who walked away from their children even back then. But there has always been those who gave men a wink and a nod to any hurtful behavior.

        I don’t know why it took so long for this abrupt change to happen or why it happened now, but all those who abuse power should face consequences. I believe we were commanded to treat each other better. Most humans seem to be ill-equipped to handle power righteously.

        We can agree that both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Trump abused their power and still served as President. I do remember when Clinton went on TV to apologize with his wife and daughter sitting in the audience. It was painful to watch. I did and still do feel sorrow for what Chelsea went through during that time. The child or children always loses. On the other hand I cannot imagine Trump apologizing for anything.

        There are so many other things going on it is hard to be patient with baby steps.

        Peace Mr. Gaster

  2. Preach on, John! Your words are powerful. They need to be said. As Christian conservative churches continue in their moral and numerical decline, it’s wonderful to have voices like yours out there that offer a refreshing alternative, both comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, just as Jesus did.

  3. I want to express my sincere appreciation to everyone trolling this blog. In your honor, I have raised $11.59 for Planned Parenthood so far. Thanks, y’all. And have a blessed day.

      • You’ll have to answer to your god for turning your back on the poor, the traveler, and embrace the money changers. If you’re more concerned about a cluster of cells and not the people who walk among you, you are turning your back on what your jesus taught.

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  5. I have to marvel at anyone still waiting for Trump supporters to ‘wake up and smell’ the failure or for the Trump administration to ‘do the right thing’. If there is any lesson to be learned since 2016, it is that there is no reaching these folks. They cannot acknowledge “the human rights atrocities, the legislative overreach, the unchecked cruelty, the prevalent hate crimes” that they literally cannot see. They are not equipped or inclined to see the bigger, inclusive, improved picture. They never were.

    The regression that Trump brings is as close to the hateful Messiah of their fantasy as these folks will ever get.

    Why don’t you stop preaching at the lost causes and start preaching to and for those trying to survive and hold on to their faith in the face of such false doctrine, faux religion and fake faith?

    • I didn’t get the impression he was talking about Trump supporters. I believe he is talking about neutrals that don’t want to hear any of it.

  6. Pingback: Why Anti-Trump John Pavlovitz is being “Tone Policed” | politicallywag

  7. I appreciate your post, thank you, it made me wonder…

    Are you talking about people that don’t want to hear any of it or people that don’t want particular content on their fb feed?

    Is your complaint about people that agree with you but want you to change the way in which you’re approaching it?

    I’ll tell you why I ask. I’m pretty sure I agree with you on most things political in this climate. I’m sure we have differences, but in general, we both share horror and disgust at our current admin and you and I both take to SM to bitch about it. Agreed?

    I’ve been recently lambasted for finding a problem with calling an obvious racist, privileged, white lady a “cunt.” I didn’t complain about the outing of the behavior, just the use of the word, based on it’s history being used to subjugate women in the US. Would you say I was part of the problem because I think language matters? Not the swearing, the identity shaming use of a particular word that I find akin to the words fag, kike, or slut.
    Thanks again,

  8. What about consistency? If they (the friends from the article) feel it is right that we should not be offensive, abrasive, divisive and hurtful then it is consistent to apply the same standards to the left as the right. That some people get angry at immigrants, Jews, inter-racial relationships is, unfortunately, a given and we object, rightly where the expression causes offence and is abrasive, divisive and hurtful. That others get angry about different things is also a given and yet the author of the article seems to think that he has the right to cause offence and be abrasive, divisive and hurtful when he’s angry but not visa-versa? This isn’t consistent! Is this not just controlling behaviour and double standards? What am I missing?

    ISTM that everyone has the right to be offensive or no-one does. No?

  9. Tone policing is the new normal though.

    I am endlessly silenced and told to go to the back of the bus by apologist establishment Dems about healthcare.

    Even though it is far and away the most deadly form of injustice in the world today.

    So I don’t know what to tell you, except I’m not fighting “them” anymore because they aren’t the ones destroying the left option.

    It’s our failure to hold the left accountable that is the problem.

  10. As a loving and proud parent of an LGBTQIA+ teenager who is my life…thank you. As the kids say. This. All of this.

    Again. Thank you for elucidating so well what I have tried to express.

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  12. The Standing Rock burial grounds were bulldozed when Obama was President. Even worse, those who tried to prevent the pipeline from being installed were viciously and repeatedly attacked when Obama was President. Elizabeth Warren required no silencing during this episode (she put out a weak statement at the very end, when it was too late), nor did she require silencing when we were arming apartheid Israel; when we were assisting the Saudis in their genocidal pursuits; nor when were bombing seven different nations, sometimes using chemical weapons. (Trump continues these actions and the Democrats still don’t give a damn.) When Obama supported and virtually installed Nazis in the Ukraine, Democrats were quiet then, too. When Medicare-for-All was immediately removed from consideration by Obama when he could have put it through, Democrats let the Republican Affordable Care Act to be legislated, which benefited insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies and the for-profit health-care system. Obama didn’t call Colin Kaepernick or other players sons of bitches, but he didn’t speak up for them either. Nor did Obama or Democrats speak out against what Kaepernick was kneeling for. I don’t get angry at outrage against Trump, but I do get angry at those with selective outrage, which I am now seeing all the time. The f**kheads who are keeping us down come in all types of packages: big, ugly, and lacking eloquence, as well as handsome, intelligent, and with exceptional social skills. They’re all still f**kheads, though.

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