I’m a mom. It’s a fact that pretty much defines who I am, especially these days. I’ve been teaching my five year old to take responsibility. She’ll sometimes do something and then she’ll say “well I took the candy because you wouldn’t let me have it.” Or “I took the toy away from my baby brother because he had it too long.”
I always gently step in and say “sweetie, nobody else is responsible for your behavior. You didn’t take the candy because I didn’t allow you to have it. You took it because you wanted it. You knew it was against the rules.” Or “You didn’t take the toys away from your baby brother because he had it too long, you took it because you wanted it. This is you acting on your feelings, regardless of the rules or other people’s feelings.”
I may take a while for her to learn the lesson, but what I’ve learned over the course of this past year is that there are lots of adults out there who were never taught this lesson: our reactions to others aren’t justified by their behavior.
This past week a video of a man went viral. The man causing the stir, Timothy Trybus was later arrested and saw the charges he faced upgraded to felonies for hate crimes. It all stemmed from an angry tirade directed at a woman wearing a shirt with the Puerto Rico flag on it. I wouldn’t have clicked the link except the post I saw that shared it included a message that said something along the lines of “This is what electing President Donald Trump has gotten us.”
I expected to see a man who was quoting Trump or expressly advocating for Trump but no I just saw someone behaving like a jerk. I saw an il-informed, bigot clearly breaking the law by harassing a woman for no reason other than he chose to behave like he had a right to disrupt her day and bully her. He didn’t. The cop, Patrick Connor from Forest Preserves of Cook County that stood by and did nothing shouldn’t have been allowed to resign. He should have been fired. All of that to say, the man and the cop were responsible for their actions (or inactions as it were). No one else.
We cannot justify or blame the behavior of jerks on the right or left on Trump and the way he tweets or the way he speaks. This guys behavior isn’t due to some cosmic shift in cultural standards that came with a Trump presidency. There were ignorant and mean people before Trump and there will be plenty after him.
I’m tired of hearing that our president or the Republican Party is to blame for the actions of others. That by electing Trump this is what we should expect this behavior to be a norm. It’s just not true. Rep. Maxine Waters who called for people to not only be disruptive and rude, but to be violent toward those in the Administration is solely responsible for her words and actions. We can’t blame the incivility of the people at the movie theatre with Pam Bondi, or the restaurants with either the Department Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen or White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders as something that should be socially acceptable because of the times.
No, the individuals behaving badly need to take responsibility. You’re acting like a jerk or a bully. It’s you who made a conscious decision to behave that way. That’s not because Trump behaves or Tweets one way or another. It’s not because Trump was elected. There is no excuse.
I have been thinking about Rep. Maxine Waters and all of the Members of Congress who have left Congress over the past few year. Some were over-spending money, some were using drugs, others for breaking the law. I feel like there will always be a Rep. Maxine Waters in Congress, heck she’s been there for 18 years already. Or an Alan Grayson type of bomb-thrower, is what they call him. We have them on both sides of the aisle.
But we can’t allow the least-behaving, the lowest common denominator set the standard for our levels of civility. Yes, Trump frequently speaks or tweets in a way that I would never allow my children to, but he’s a grown man and his behavior speaks only to him and his character. It doesn’t even speak for those who work for him contrary to what some believe.
Those who use his bad actions as an excuse for their own bad actions are making a false argument. Those people need to come back to reality and realize our standards must be higher for ourselves and those around us.
I hope Congress censures Maxine Waters. I hope the guy in the video faces appropriate consequences. That’s how we stop and prevent future behavior like this.
While we have First Amendment rights, there are certain expectations and standards and even laws that prevent the views and actions of disruptive people from harming those around them. Enough with the excuses, let’s just take responsibility and expect better from one another and those around us.