Staying High in These Days of Going Low
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When we see hate speech and injustice, we must hold tight to Michelle Obama’s words.
First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention rocked, and her words and advice about hate speech resonated especially for many LGBTQ people.
In a surprisingly personal speech, Obama shared how she and Barack advise their daughters, Malia and Sasha, on how not to let name-calling, nastiness, and negativity ensnare them by remaining about the fray.
"We don't stoop to their level. Our motto is 'When they go low, we go high,'" Obama said.
In this 2016 presidential campaign season, which has many parents scratching their heads as to how to explain Trump to their children, Obama depicted the presidential race between simply choosing an appropriate role model.
In expressing her enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton’s nomination, Obama brought civility back into the public discourse. And in Michelle’s inimitable classy and cool style, she took down Trump in the most elegant way: She criticized the Republican presidential candidate without once uttering his name.
"I want someone with the proven strength to persevere. Somebody who knows this job and takes it seriously. Somebody who understands that the issues of our nation are not black or white. It cannot be boiled down to 140 characters."
When Michelle Obama uttered those words we immediately thought of Trump, because he is our omnipresent Twitter bully.
What comes with Twitter bullying is hate speech, and Trump has normalized hate speech in the public sphere. One of the signs of an intolerant society is demeaning language, whether used jokingly or in earnest, aimed at specific groups of people. When this form of verbal abuse becomes part and parcel of the everyday parlance, we have created a society characterized by zero tolerance of inclusion and diversity, and in which name-calling becomes an accepted norm.
I remember a 2006 interview with Ann Coulter, the conservative "pundit," on MSNBC’s Hardball, where Coulter called former Vice President Al Gore “a fag” and hinted that Bill Clinton might be gay.
“How do you know that Bill Clinton is gay?” host Chris Matthews asked.
“He may not be gay, but Al Gore; total fag. No, I’m just kidding,” Coulter spat. And in referring to Clinton, Coulter continued, “I mean, everyone has always known wildly promiscuous heterosexual men have, as