Last week, a listener to our podcast and a reader of my books wrote to inform me that he would no longer be listening, reading, or otherwise engaging in my work as a result of the way I write about Donald Trump and respond to him online, specifically via Twitter.
The man was polite and even sounded a little regretful, but he explained that even though he does not support the President in any way, he feels that my responses to the President are ignorant and childish. He explained that I was leaving behind a shameful legacy, and that the best way to defeat the darkness is through light.
I was sorry to see the man go. I had exchanged emails with him in the past and even answered some of his questions on our podcast. I found him to be interesting and thoughtful. But before allowing him to sail off into the night, I had to at least explain myself, and he appreciated my explanation and thanked me for not lashing out and taking the time to write a thoughtful response.
But then he still sailed off.
Oddly, I’ve also heard from many Trump supporters who are often annoyed with the things that I write to and about the President but continue to read and listen because they are sensible enough to understand that even although I may refer to Trump as a racist old horny burger goblin who literally steals children from poor people (credit Stephen Colbert), this is not an attack on them personally.
Simply a difference of opinion.
But this recently departed listener/reader not the only person who has asked why I would spend a scintilla of time responding to Trump’s tweets when there are so many more productive things to do. I also have friends who are quite certain that I am on an enemies list of some kind as a result of my responses and my participation and victory in the lawsuit that forced Trump to unblock.
So I thought I’d post my response to the listener/reader here in order to list the reasons for my actions.
1. Yes, being involved in the lawsuit that led to me being unblocked by Trump (and all the money dedicated to this cause) makes me feel like I should be shouting to the rooftops of the world whenever I feel it necessary. I owe it to the Knight Foundation to make use of this tool and deliver truth to power whenever possible.
2. It genuinely makes me feel good to speak to the powerful in this way. It warms my heart. And I know he's listening, because he's already blocked me once. It’s not all that I’m doing, of course. I'm a member of the ACLU, a subscriber to the New York Times and Slate, and I contribute to the campaigns of political leaders both monetarily and in terms of time and expertise. I call my state senator and Congresspeople frequently. I'm trying to do everything I can do oppose his hateful and ignorant administration. I really am. But telling Trump exactly how I feel in the kind of coarse language that he uses and seems to understand (while never swearing) makes me feel good. It might make me seem like a rotten person to feel good in doing this, but it's exactly how I feel.
3. I have heard from many, many people who thank me for tweeting like this. There are lots of people who are genuinely afraid of Trump and our growing authoritarian state and take great solace and even joy when someone they know (or sort of know through his writing, speaking, etc.) stands up to him. I have received dozens of emails from folks expressing appreciation for what I am saying. I'm sure there are also folks like you who see it as negative and childish and wasteful (and I have friends who are sincerely worried that Trump may have an enemies list of folks like me), but lots of people are also heartened by my approach.
4. Yes, I want there to be a record of my resistance when my children are older and wondering what the hell the country was thinking when they elected this man. It may not be the most eloquent record, but it's a permanent reflection of my anger, disgust, and refusal to allow him to go unchecked. And yes, I'll be proud of it. They will know that their father despised this President and his policies and made that abundantly clear as often as possible. They may wonder about my choice of words, but they will never wonder about how I felt, and that means the world to me.
5. I agree that the best way to fight dark is with light, and I like to think - sincerely - that as an elementary school teacher for two decades, a person who tells honest, vulnerable stories onstage that connect with others, as a person who writes stories that have traveled around the world and brought joy to people's hearts, a person who promotes and supports the ideas of making the most of every moment and being authentic and vulnerable with the world, a person who encourages others to be brave and tell their story, and a father and a husband and a volunteer... that I am bringing lots of light to the world. So yes, light is important, and honestly, I'm trying like hell to make a positive difference in the world.
Does all of this make up for the negativity that I fire off at the President? In your mind, perhaps not. I'm sorry to hear it. But I think that in terms of the balance sheet, I’m well into the positive column even after I call the President a nitwit.
Yes, it's true. I spend about 10 minutes a day telling the President how I feel, and for reasons that I think are justified. But I'd like to think that this very tiny part of my life is well balanced with everything else I do in the world. The countless hours I spend teaching and writing and supporting and building and parenting and loving.
It wasn’t enough to keep this particular reader/listener in my orbit, but I tried.