Why we go high

Some time ago I encountered a meme of an authentic-looking photograph of a document from Fordham University purporting to show a semester of Donald Trump’s undergraduate grades. It showed what you’d expect, a parade of mediocrity: C minuses, a D plus and an F. I was immediately suspicious and, after a little due diligence, posted on the meme a link from snopes.com exposing the document as a fake. My effort was met with a surprising amount of resistance, even hostility, best summarized by the notion that I should “lighten up.”

My response was that we have such an embarrassment of riches when it comes to Donald Trump, why on earth should we feel the need to make anything up? But I realize now that I was missing the point. The point shouldn’t be that we have so much on Donald Trump that we shouldn’t have to exaggerate or invent, the point is that we have something on Donald Trump at all. We didn’t get rid of Donald Trump because he was a Republican. We shouldn’t be thanking goodness we have so many examples of his wrongdoings to make it that much easier. We got rid of Trump because Trump really is a bad guy in the first place. Period. If he really had been a good guy then I hope we’d want to keep him.

Before you scratch your heads excessively let me explain it the other way. If Barack Obama had behaved like Donald Trump, I would have wanted to get rid of him too. Sometimes we get so deep into the idea that our war is all about Democrats versus Republicans that we lose sight of our underlying purpose. Our war really is about Good versus Evil. In fact, we’ve kind of muddied the ethical waters by making issues of morality excessively partisan. We really do need to get back to the good old-fashioned notions of right and wrong as they exist by themselves.

This distinction may seem to you a bit semantic, and maybe it is. But I think it serves to help us remember why Michelle Obama was right when she said, “When they go low, we go high.” Because low and high aren’t strategic positions we take to maximize our advantage against a common enemy. The low road is the enemy. We take the high road because the high road is what we’re defending. The minute we start to lie in the name of truth, become bigots in the name of equality, cheat in the name of fairness and commit injustices in the name of equal justice under the law, we become our own enemy. That’s why we must always occupy the high position.

I hasten to add that this does not mean we become nice. I hate injustice, I hate advocates of injustice, and injustice deserves harsh words and strong measures and swift punishments. The constant stream of lies that issued from Donald Trump and the White House were never going to be ameliorated by a return fire of lies in the opposite direction. The truth is what brought them down, truth relentlessly and mercilessly applied.

And it worked. Trump and his pirate ship of criminals are going. Now we must next turn that diamond-cutting laser beam of truth upon ourselves. We must get rid of the corrupting-influence of money in elections. We must get rid of the Electoral College and the misbegotten practice of gerrymandered Congressional districts. We must make government appealing to people who really want to be public servants, not to people who see it as a road to riches, self-dealing and endless corporate profits.

I realize these are ideals that may never fully be met. But that’s no reason why we can’t get closer to them. In order to move forward, we need to apply to ourselves the same standards of right and wrong we relentlessly applied to Donald Trump and his pirate ship administration. Now that we have the power, let’s show them how it’s done. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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