For many years, it’s been OK for the Republicans to heap scorn on the other side. Those of us who aren’t Republicans also aren’t “real Americans.” We’re “coastal elites,” even those Democrats (often of color) who work serving meals, doing data entry, and emptying bed pans in big city hospitals. Elites, every one. We’re such assholes that we eat arugula, put dijon mustard on our sandwiches, wear tan suits, and drive Prisuses instead of monster trucks. We’re “libtards,” and “socialists,” (even though the Rs have no idea what that means). They announce that we “hate America,” even as we serve in the armed forces, pay our taxes, participate in our democracy, and volunteer in our neighborhoods. Our religions don’t matter — Hillary Clinton talked about her Methodist faith in almost every speech she gave and that was ignored. Joe Biden goes to Mass every Sunday (as did John Kerry) and the Republicans say that Biden will “hurt god.” And we’re told that we’re “snowflakes,” too sensitive and too fragile. There are people in my neighborhood right now who have bumper stickers and flags that say, “Trump 2020 — Make the Liberals Cry Again.” Trump can label every single Democrat with one of his school-yard-bully names (Crooked Hillary, Sleepy Joe, Phony Kamala — the list is endless) and if you object, you’re just being too politically correct.
Somehow, the opposite is never true. If Hillary says that it’s deplorable for people to be racists and sexists, it’s bad news for years. Democrats must always be “reaching out to the other side,” examining themselves to see how they could possibly have failed to win the Evangelical vote and/or the vote of white supremacists. You hear it in every speech Joe Biden gives, pleading with people to recognize that, “We’re the United States of America.” (Narrator: Joe, we are not.) He keeps insisting that he can “reach across the aisle and work” with Republicans who have been accusing him of stealing an election and who have been attacking his son. When the Democrats win, they’re urged to “reach out” and appoint some Republicans to cabinet positions. The minority of Americans who voted for Trump must “be heard” and have “an outlet for their frustration.” If that means raging through the Capitol, smashing windows, smearing feces, and stealing laptops, well, gee, they were upset at the election. (As someone noted, when Hillary’s supporters were upset, we knitted pink hats and got to work registering voters to elect Democrats in local and state elections.)
Now, the Rs have finally gone too far.
After Republicans committed this week’s bloody insurrection in our nation’s Capitol, even Joe Biden is calling them out for their Nazi behavior. Even Twitter finally (years and years too late) blocked Trump. Even moderate Dems are calling for Trump to be removed.
And, oh, my goodness.
First of all, those of us who have lived with abusers know this behavior all too, too, too well. “Don’t do that or you’ll make me mad.” Also, it’s ALWAYS your fault when the abuser loses control and hits you, destroys things, cancels plans, makes life hell. “See what you MADE me do?!?!?” he says, as if he, the master of the universe, the strong one, the one that weak-you must obey, had no agency at all. Running around and making sure that the abuser isn’t “triggered” (that’s the title of Don, Jr.’s book because, according to them, we’re always being “triggered,” — every accusation is projection) can become a full-time job. I remember a friend who was married to an abusive alcoholic. Her daughter had grown up in that toxic environment and spent her life trying to manage things so that daddy wouldn’t be mad. “Mom, do we have dog food so dad won’t come home to feed Buster and get mad if there’s no dog food? Mom, I can do the laundry so dad’s shirts are clean. Mom, do you want me to stay up to fix dad a hamburger when he comes in? Mom . . . .”
So we have Republicans — who have spent years destroying any national unity we might ever have had — now suddenly demanding that we not “trigger” them because THAT would destroy national unity. Why would it destroy national unity? Because if we dare to call out their Nazi tactics or remove their unfit president from office, they will CHOOSE to behave like abusers. “If you call the police after I hit you, it will be your fault when I lose my job, beat you up worse, get mad and throw away all the kids’ toys.” Your fault.
Second, let’s talk about unity, and coming back together, and reconciliation. Those things don’t just happen and they don’t happen because the victims just swallow all that’s been done to them and pretend it never happened. (Trust me. I grew up in a dysfunctional family where that was exactly what was expected and, no, it never changed the dysfunctional behavior.) Those things CAN sometimes happen, but they require something from both sides of the aisle. They require Respect (especially for the victims), Relevant Education about what has happened and who did it, Reciprocal Relationships (where BOTH SIDES must both give AND take), and Responsibility (where the abuser acknowledges what they have done, what it caused, and why it was wrong.) Want unity? Apologize for Trump, for cozying up to Russia, for racist cops, for rape culture, for, well, there’s a long list. Let’s get some reparations. Let’s hear how YOU are going to change your behavior. Let’s talk about what YOU did wrong and how you’re going to stop yourself the next time you feel like doing that. No one here is stupid enough to believe that if the Democrats had been craven enough to not stand up to what happened this week, the Rs were suddenly going to go all kumbaya, pass Biden’s legislation, and wear masks in the middle of a pandemic .
Third, let’s talk for a minute about free speech — you know, the supposed reason why Twitter can’t banTrump for violating its terms of service, why Biden can’t criticize the Republican’s “big lie” that the election was stolen, why it’s horrible for Hillary to say that racism is deplorable. Before I retired, I was a lawyer and we lawyers have this affinity for “the text.” In this case, the text is the Constitution of the United States. The First Amendment only tells us what Congress (not corporations, such as Twitter) can not do. It says that Congress can’t make any law that “abridges” freedom of speech or the press. Here, “abridge” means to shorten or curtail. So Congress can’t pass a law that bans Trump from Twitter, at least based on what he expresses.
So, just to be clear, when we say that “Americans have free speech,” or “You can’t violate my First Amendment rights to free speech,” we mean that the government can’t abridge or curtail political speech. We’re not talking about other entities besides the government.
Republicans have for decades defended corporations. Any regulation of any corporation has been suspect. So, a corporation, such as Twitter, can (and does) impose any terms of service it likes. If you violate those terms, Twitter is free to ban you or to revoke or abridge your ability to use its service. If a bakery doesn’t want to bake a cake for your gay wedding, your right to “freedom of speech” (not to mention your First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion) doesn’t mean that the bakery has to bake your cake. The bakery isn’t Congress, so it can tell you to pound sand. If a store doesn’t want to serve people who won’t wear masks, that store is free to refuse to sell to you, to not admit you into their store, to fail to help you buy what they sell. The store’s not the government and it can refuse to sell to you and your right to free speech isn’t even invoked. If an employer (in one of the many at-will employment states, which Republicans have endorsed) wants to fire you for not getting the COVID vaccine, or for showing up on YouTube hurling racist insults at your neighbor, or for posting a Facebook picture of yourself making the white power symbol — well, that’s the employer’s right. You were employed “at will” and don’t have any recourse. (Hey! All those regulatory protections were only for libtards, anyway, right?)
Bottom line: Republicans aren’t interested in “unity” or “coming together.” The last four years have shown that. They’ve spent that time calling us nasty names, demonizing us, and doing all they can to marginalize us. Republican assertions that Democrats are harming any chance of unity are simply based upon their belief that “unity” is an effective club to use against Democrats when Democrats are in power. Republicans aren’t concerned with freedom of speech. Their pleas to avoid “cancel culture” and “political correctness” are simply based upon their determination to continue to demonize us without any pushback.