Neither side has a monopoly on incivility and anger

By Michael d’Oliveira

One of the tactics in American politics these days involves pretending as though everyone who agrees with you is always respectful and civil and the other side is filled with angry and disrespectful people.

And like many things involving politics, the reality is much different.

The truth is that both sides, liberal and conservative, contain groups of people who exceed the kind of behavior that society generally defines as socially acceptable.

On several occasions, liberal protesters have yelled at and harassed Republican politicians and members of the Trump administration in restaurants and other public places.

The same has happened at several Trump rallies. Trump supporters have regularly yelled at members of the media, including the use of profanity and the middle finger.

Most recently, Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was yelled at and harassed by a group of conservatives in South Florida. One man called her a “piece of shit.”

Regardless of whether or not this type of behavior is acceptable, only politics is capable of getting people this worked up and angry.

And only politics is capable of blinding people to the fact that no side has a monopoly on incivility and anger.

The alteration of this “Halloween” billboard (the featured image at the top of this post) is a good example of that – people thinking only the other side has a problem.

If anyone wants to argue one side has a bigger problem with incivility and disrespect, that’s an argument that can be made. But arguing one side is completely innocent of this kind of behavior is not an argument that can be made credibly.

And, of course, leading that charge of lacking credibility is President Donald Trump.

As someone who has repeatedly condoned and encouraged violence, Trump somehow thinks he’s the best person to call the Democrats an “angry mob.”

At a political rally on Oct. 18, Trump praised Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte for body slamming a reporter. “Any guy who can do a body slam – he’s my guy.”

The next day, Trump called the Democrats an “angry mob.” And then he said something about unity, which is the perfect thing to expect if you’re the kind of guy who constantly belittles your political opponents.

Thankfully, there are at least some Republicans and conservatives who are speaking out against Trump’s language.

Radio host and former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh is one of them.

On Twitter (below) he wrote, “The President encourages & applauds physical violence against a journalist. Hey Republicans, don’t ever complain again about violence coming from the Left.”

We need people on both sides to call out violence and the encouragement of violence.

There’s no time limit on public accusations of sexual assault

By Michael d’Oliveira

When Christine Blasey Ford made her allegations against now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, it produced the usual questions that come with accusations of sexual assault: Why would a woman wait 40 years to come out with her story?

Why would she stay quiet while the man who allegedly assaulted her was nominated for other judgeships or positions of power?

Why didn’t she say something sooner?

There are a lot of stories about why women stay silent, and the two main reasons they give are shame and a belief that telling their story won’t matter.

As for when a woman should reveal her accusations against powerful men, the answer is simple: when she decides. It’s not for anyone, especially men who have no idea what it’s like to be raped or harassed, to assign a time table for women who claim they are the victims of such behavior.

Ford may or may not be telling the truth. But she’s not subject to anyone else’s judgement as to when she should have come out with her story.

Human beings are complicated. They don’t react in the neat and tidy little ways you want them to. Sexual assault is an emotionally scarring experience. Beyond the physical trauma, the victim is left emotionally devastated with huge self-esteem and image issues.

You can’t expect someone still dealing with the impact of sexual assault to have the courage or clear-mindedness to be able to take on everything that comes along with going public with their story.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), an anti-sexual violence organization, sexual assault can cause PTSD, depression and flashbacks. “After a traumatic event, it is typical to have feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear, making it difficult to adjust or cope for some time afterwards,” states RAINN’s website.

There is a huge cost to accusing a Supreme Court nominee of attempted rape.

There are death threats, huge amounts of public ridicule and the uncomfortable saga of having to reveal possibly the worst moment of your life to the world.

It’s very reasonable to think someone would want to avoid that. It’s also reasonable that when Kavanaugh was nominated for his previous positions, Ford decided that maybe telling her story wasn’t worth the trouble.

But there are few positions of power and influence that compare to being a Supreme Court Justice. She may have finally decided she couldn’t see this man rise any higher.

Our decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. There are repercussions for those who accuse powerful men of unseemly actions, especially if there are powerful interests invested in his success.

When women do come forward, we should keep an open mind and be cognizant that speaking about sexual assault is no easy thing.

Everyone should stop calling for Trump and Clinton to be locked up

By Michael d’Oliveira

“Lock her up” is a staple of rallies hosted by President Donald Trump. It’s a chant directed at Hillary Clinton for all the crimes conservatives claim she’s done.

It’s become a very tired chant – one that’s been yelled for years but brings Clinton no closer to getting thrown in jail. It’s also a chant that shouldn’t be uttered. Calling for the incarceration of a major political figure before she’s even been charged with a crime is dangerous, divisive and distracting.

In July of 2016, Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin wrote about the “lock her up” chant. “The suggestion is that Hillary Clinton was not just wrong, negligent or dishonest but should be imprisoned. In lieu of policy disagreements we now criminalize the opposing party’s nominee,” she stated.

She was right.

The same should be said for liberals saying “lock him up” about Trump.

Like Clinton, Trump has been the subject of countless newspaper articles, television broadcasts and other media outlining supposed and alleged crimes.

And, like Clinton, all or some of it might be true.

But “might” is the key word here.

Nothing has been proven and no charges have been filed. Neither Trump nor Clinton have been convicted of anything.

Liberals who chant “lock him up,” or post it on social media, are acting no better than the Trump supporters who think the justice system should just throw Clinton in jail with no trial.

But the phrase seems to have become just as popular with Trump’s critics as it has with Trump supporters.

Asked why he put bars on Trump’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star, an artist who goes by the name Plastic Jesus, said Trump was “goin’ to jail.”

It should be noted that, even if a court of law found Trump guilty of something, there is a very slim chance he would actually go to jail. Presidents just don’t go to jail in this country. For a myriad of reasons, both good and bad. So, if you really dislike Trump, don’t get your hopes up too much.

That being said, “lock him up” and “lock her up” are both corrosive phrases that do nothing but make people less likely to listen to each other.

It’s just not something that should be said in a country where the rule of law and due process are vital to the stability of the country.

But that’s politics today. Say something as incendiary as possible, no matter what the consequences.

A picture can be worth a thousand lies

By Michael d’Oliveira

Stop trusting photographs.

Seeing is not always believing, especially when politics is involved.

On her verified Instagram account, Lynne Patton, an official with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, shared a meme of CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.

The meme reads, “If the media will lie about this what else are they lying about?”

If you go just by the photo, it might look as though Cooper was trying to make the water look deeper than it actually was. He wasn’t.

Cooper defended himself and his reporting and debunked the meme by playing a video of his coverage – from Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Cooper clearly wasn’t trying to make things seem worse than they were.

“The good news here is the water is subsiding,” he says in the video. The whole point of having the camera crew on the road and Cooper just a few feet away was to demonstrate how deep the water can suddenly get and why people should be cautious and stay on the road if possible.

So, Cooper basically did the opposite of what the meme claimed he did.

If anyone is lying here, it’s the person who made the meme.

There’s also a good chance that they just saw the photo and assumed they knew the whole story. Jumping to conclusions seems to have become the national pastime.

That’s why you can’t trust photographs. They can be taken out of context or even photoshopped.

One recent meme (posted below) claims that a group of baseball players, in what looks like the 1950s, kneeled during the National Anthem in protest of black lynching’s.

By the way the men are standing, it’s clearly a team photo with no political agenda behind it. But the crowd behind the men also offers a clue: many of the people seem to be sitting. Something most people don’t do during the National Anthem. Either way, there’s no proof the players were protesting in the photo. So there’s no reason you should just believe they were just because someone slapped a few words on a photo.

If the American experiment is going to survive, Americans, as a whole, are going to have to become a lot more skeptical about what we read, hear, and see. As Hunter S. Thompson said, “In a democracy, you have to be a player.” Was he talking about “fake news”? I doubt it. But, in today’s democracy, being a player means being good at not letting false information fool you.

Accusations should not be automatically believed or dismissed

By Michael d’Oliveira

The following is quite insane:

“The charge of sexual assault against [Supreme Court nominee] Brett Kavanaugh is disqualifying and we call on him to immediately withdraw his nomination for the Supreme Court,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America in a New York Times article about the sexual assault accusations against Kavanaugh.

Did you catch that?

“The charge of sexual assault . . . is disqualifying.”

So, apparently, for at least one person, accusation is all that’s required to decide someone is guilty.

No proof needed anymore.

No need to investigate or verify.

Just assume its true and be done with it.

And Hogue’s statement on skipping past the trial part of the court of public opinion, and going straight to sentencing, came when the accusations by Ford were still anonymous.

Would Hogue call for a liberal, pro-choice Supreme Court nominee to step down if someone made anonymous accusations against that nominee with no proof? Very doubtful. But if Hogue’s attitude were applied to everyone who submitted themselves to public office, every single person, no matter if they were truly innocent or guilty, could be derailed with a few minutes spent creating a Microsoft Word document and an email account.

I don’t want to see Brett Kavanaugh confirmed as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court. I don’t think his ascendency to the highest court in the country would be a good thing.

But I do want to see him afforded the basic right to have the accusations of his accuser investigated before he is judged on what she claims happened.

When someone is accused of sexual assault, no one should automatically believe or dismiss the accuser. But each accusation should be taken seriously and investigated. False accusations can ruin careers, relationships and reputations. But individuals who are truly guilty of sexual assault need to be punished accordingly. They certainly shouldn’t be allowed to be placed into positions of power and influence.

That’s why accusations should be investigated before they are taken as fact.

That’s a right that should transcend politics.

Sadly, it’s not.

When some public official gets accused of sexual assault, so many of us either automatically believe or dismiss the accuser based solely on the political background of the accused. And that’s really quite sad and pathetic.

It’s one of the most shameful aspects of our public discourse.

When Democratic Senator Al Franken was accused of bad behavior, many liberals dismissed his accuser of being politically motivated. Likewise, many conservatives automatically believed her and called for Franken to step down. Which he eventually did.

Now, we find ourselves in a situation where the shoe is on the other foot and no one seems to remember what they were wearing just a short while ago.

The Democrats need to run on ideas in 2020; well, every year, really

By Michael d’Oliveira

Whomever the Democratic nominee for president is in 2020, they need to ignore most, if not all, of what President Donald Trump says and does.

Hillary Clinton constantly talked about Trump in 2015 and 2016 and look where that got her.

Trump’s Democratic opponent in 2020 needs to talk about what he or she will do to improve the country, not what Trump writes on Twitter. He or she needs to give voters good, solid reasons why they should make Trump a one term president.

He or she needs to tell the American people their ideas on:

The economy

The military

Foreign policy

Healthcare

Education

The environment

The national debt and deficit

Job creation

Taxes

And everything else that’s important to the present and future of this country.

When the 2020 campaign starts, the Democratic nominee doesn’t need to tell us what he or she thinks about Trump’s latest tweet. We’ve all had enough of hearing about Trump’s tweets or comments.

Frankly, even people who dislike Trump are tired of hearing about his behavior.

There’s obviously a little room to criticize Trump’s behavior. But the vast majority of his opponent’s campaigning should be devoted to his or her ideas.

They shouldn’t tell us they’re a better person than Trump. We already know they’re a better person than Trump. Everyone, except for Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer, is a better person than Trump.

Besides, Trump’s tweets are covered incessantly in the mainstream media and on social media. Everyone is going to hear or read about it and form an opinion. They don’t need anyone else’s help either way to decide how they will feel about what he says.

There’s no need for the Democratic nominee to chime in. That person has more important things to comment on, like how they’re going to lead this country.

Voters on the fence about Trump need to be able to look at the Democratic nominee and see someone who has strong, well-developed ideas about the economy, America’s relationship with its allies and every other issue of national and international importance.

If they aren’t confident in what that person will do as president, they might stay home or stay with Trump. But, just a few months of campaigning without talking about Trump’s tweets could save us from having to hear about them for another four years.

Visiting the house of my great grandparents brought my immigration roots home

Until my trip to Portugal last month, immigration has always felt like something that involved other people. I always knew my great grandparents [on my father’s side] were immigrants; my mother’s family [from Ireland] goes back even further.

But it was always something that felt far off in the past, not something that would ever really matter in the here and now.

But visiting the former house (pictured above) of my great grandparents in The Azores, an island chain in the Atlantic Ocean that is part of Portugal, brought the issue home to me for the first time – literally.

During my visit earlier this month to the home in the seaside parish of Bretanha, which has a population of about 600, it was hard to imagine why my great grandparents would leave that beautiful island behind.

But I know the answer: like so many Europeans who came to America, they sought a better life.

While I wrote this, I also found it hard to imagine what it must be like to find myself a newcomer to a foreign land. Short vacations are one thing, making a new life somewhere is another.

All I can imagine is that it must have been fraught with difficulties, challenges and frustration. But, also, hopefully, one where they found the version of America they hoped to find when they came here in 1931 and became citizens in 1942.

As the children and grandchildren of immigrants, each of us has a personal responsibility to treat today’s immigrants with kindness and compassion. We should strive to treat today’s immigrants like we hope our ancestors were treated when they were strangers in the home they made possible for us to be born in.

Anything less would be an egregious example of hypocrisy and selfishness – one that our ancestors would most likely be angry at us for.

We cam have strong border and an immigration policy that protects the lives of Americans without sacrificing our compassion. We can be safe and treat immigrants, legal and illegal, like the human beings they are. The two are not mutually exclusive.

The greatness of America isn’t affirmed in how well the economy does or how strong the military is. It’s affirmed in how successful immigrants are and how successful they assimilate to our way of life.

As long as this is the kind of country where immigrants can succeed and feel welcome, it will be a country worth living in.

McCain’s death is an opportunity to reaffirm our basic humanity

By Michael d’Oliveira

In William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Shylock talks about recognizing our common humanity.

“Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.”

Senator John McCain died this week. And while he wasn’t the person Shakespeare wrote about, he was a fellow American and a fellow human being.

His death is terrible, but it also serves as an opportunity for all of us to forget about politics for a second and respect the terrible pain and grief his family and friends are experiencing. The war hero who endured years of imprisonment and torture is gone.

The Senator who voted for the disastrous invasion of Iraq is gone.

The presidential candidate who defended his opponent as a “decent, family man” is gone.

The father and husband is gone.

The man is gone.

All that remains is the legacy.

It’s a legacy that people are well within their rights to criticize or praise as they see fit. But John McCain, the man, should be afforded a certain level of dignity and respect after his death. We all should.

Now is not the time to rhetorically dance on his grave.

I know because I’ve done it with people I didn’t like. I was wrong to do it and I’m sorry for what I said. So, this is not about criticizing some others for the things they’ve said. This is about all of us doing better. Now and in the future.

Our common humanity should be a way for us to reinforce our common love and appreciation for America.

When we forget about politics and act like decent human beings in times like this, friendship and understanding grow. It gives us a chance to see each other as human beings and Americans instead of liberal or conservative or democrat and republican.

McCain said so himself in a final statement released after his death.

“We are three-hundred-and-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.”

Many Trump supporters also don’t understand

By Michael d’Oliveira

It’s become a common refrain amongst many of President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters: The Democrats and the media don’t understand us.

That’s true.

Many people who are anti-Trump (the Democrats) or who report on Trump (the media) don’t understand many Trump voters all that well. But the opposite is also true: many of Trump’s supporters don’t seem to understand (or care) why Trump is disliked and disliked so intensely.

It’s important to note though that “many” is the right word here. Not every person who voted for Trump in 2016 is an apologist who thinks he can do no wrong.

For that group of Trump voters, the policies are what matter; the man on Twitter and at rallies is deeply flawed and reprehensible, the man singing laws is making the right moves for the country. It may be a thin distinction, but it is still an important one that should be made. Painting everyone with the same broad brush is unfair and doesn’t do any good.

However they view it, they’ve figured out something important: you can generally support what a politician does without making excuses for his personal behavior and speech.

As a nation of individuals, each with our own opinions, we’re always going to disagree on what policies are best for the country. There’s also nothing wrong with passionately defending our ideas. We should never be afraid to stand up for what we believe in and vehemently try to prove why other people are wrong and why we’re right. Spirited debate can be passionate and respectful at the same time.

And that’s probably the biggest issue Trump’s hardcore supporters don’t seem to understand: Trump poisons every debate with personal insults. Or, if they do understand it, they’re glad he’s “sticking it to liberals.”

Whenever challenged, Trump never actually defends himself or his position. He just insults the critic. And insults are not a real defense, they’re just insults.

Instead of expecting the president act like a president when he addresses his critics, many Trump supporters have turned into this mob that just hoots and hollers approval at every new insult.

Except for Trump’s hardcore supporters, Trump’s behavior has become a growing concern for anyone who cares about how a president is supposed to act.

Even people from Trump’s own party and retired military men and women (who almost never give opinions in public) have called him out on it.

Stop sating the Democrats are “the party of slavery”

By Michael d’Oliveira

Dinesh D’Souza is back with a new movie, “Death of A Nation.”

But D’Souza, a conservative commentator and filmmaker, has been trotting out possibly his favorite old hat: “the Democrats are the party of slavery.”

What he’s doing is weaponizing the historical fact that the Democratic Party supported the institution of slavery before and during the Civil War. He weaponizes it against the Democrats of today as a way of trying to associate them with slavery in Antebellum.

He touts it as an historical fact. And it is. The Democrats are the ones who supported slavery and tried to secede from the Union.

But here’s an important thing he leaves out: all those Democrats died 100 years ago or more.

The Democrats of 1860 were the party of slavery. The Democrats of today are not. None of them own slaves. None of their parents or grandparents or great grandparents owned slaves. This is not the same group of people.

During the Democratic presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the late 1930s, many Republicans championed isolationism and were against Roosevelt’s steps to bring America into World War II.

And just like the Democrats of 1860, the Republicans of 1940 are all dead. Trying to paint today’s GOP as the party of pre-World War II isolationism would not be fair. It’s a completely different group of people. Just as it wouldn’t be fair to associate today’s Democrats with pro-slavery elements in 1860.

In the trailer for his movie, D’Souza gets a basic fact wrong: “Lincoln was elected to unite a country and stop slavery.”

No, Lincoln wasn’t elected to stop slavery. Lincoln never said he would stop slavery when he ran for president in 1860. He merely promised to leave it alone where it already existed. That’s definitely not a pledge to end slavery.

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that,” wrote Lincoln in 1862.
Lincoln only truly decided to work to end slavery after he realized it was the cause of the Civil War and that it needed to be abolished in order to prevent another war in the future.

No one elected Lincoln in 1860 with any notions he would end slavery. 1864, yes. 1860, no.

Ending slavery only became possible after his election when the South seceded.

Why would anyone take “Death of A Nation” or D’Souza seriously if he can’t get that basic fact correct?