If Trump Tweeted For Good
Imagine, for just a few moments, the world we deserve, the world we wish to see.
Imagine if Donald Trump, our new President, tweeted for good instead of revenge and argument. I got the original idea from a New York Times column that popped up in my Iphone this morning. The columnist wondered what might happen if Trump responded graciously to his critics.
He was writing about the politics, I got to thinking about ordinary people, something more personal.
Mr. Trump has about 20 million followers on his Twitter account, he posts nearly every day, and I got to thinking about this very naive, perhaps even Pollyannish fantasy, if I can call it that.
What if Donald Trump tweeted for good, rather than to punish his critics and seek revenge on the people he thinks are his enemies. What if he changed the disheartening, even violent ethos of information technology around, to something good?
I have been writing online for about 30 years, and I have witnessed and experience the use of these new tools for good and evil. The Internet was founded by angry teenage boys in many ways, and their sometimes hostile, testosterone fueled ethic of conflict and cruelty has haunted it ever since. Angry people on Facebook and Twitter have done more to damage free speech than all of the dictators in the world could ever do.
Mr. Trump does remind me of the early geeks and hackers i wrote about for Wired and Rolling Stone. They had powerful social and ethical beliefs, but they often used the Internet in much the same way as our next President, as a punitive tool to intimidate, harass and harm people who disagreed with them.
Or to attack the many targets – journalists, phone companies, government agencies – that they felt impeded their work and freedom. They were devoted to their own freedom, but not the freedom of others.
Social media has taken the good and bad of technology to a whole new level. Donald Trump has become the Dark Wizard King of the Trolls, they just love him, they never dreamed one of them would be sitting in the White House. They are eager to punish anyone who dares to criticize him.
On my humble blog, I have vowed to use technology for good, to make the people who attack me small by trying to be big. In a sense, this is also President Obama's new strategdy, and the reason he is drubbing his successor in the popularity realm. He is winning simply by being gracious and mostly quiet. Not attacking people is sometimes just as powerful a statement as revenge.
That is my method of dealing with hostility online, I do not argue my beliefs on Facebook or Twitter, I will never use this technology to do harm. I love the idea of going high when people go low, it has lifted me beyond my shabby instincts.
Just think about the possibilities if Mr. Trump decided to Tweet For Good.
If he mentioned a worthy student who needed money to go to the college of his or her dreams and posted their twitter handle.
If he tweeted to ask for help for an elderly woman who needed advanced nursing care but could not afford it.
If he raised money for the families of a police officer or solider killed in the line of duty?
Or an abandoned Syrian child who needed a home?
Or asked for contributions to build a tech education center in the middle of Chicago's troubled South Side?
If he asked for support and compassion for the Muslim women who was chased through a mall and had her clothes pulled off by some teenagers.
If he sought employed for a Michigan mill worker who lost his job and can't find a new one?
If he asked people on Twitter to help pay for some expensive surgery that might save the life of a father of three, but is simply too costly for him and his family?
If he raised money to help poor women cut off from health services in rural areas?
If he tweeted a circus worker and asked how we all could help make sure the elephants found good and safe homes when they left the circus?
If he helped a struggling rancher keep his farm in Montana?
If he asked if there was a good gig for Megan O'Malley a trombonist who could write so well and who loved the circus so dearly, and was frightened about how she might live.
Mr. Trump's followers on Twitter are a ferocious mob, setting upon anyone who criticizes or challenges him. They would help these people. Just think of the power of 20 million focused people coming together in a common cause to help people? What a gift to the world? If he did that, I would be marching for him on Saturday, flags flying.
We could all come together in the most joyous of causes – helping one another. Even the left and the right couldn't argue about that, and Mr. Trump could give his loyal trolls a wonderful lesson in humanity.
I can only imagine the impact it would have if Mr. Trump showed them and the rest of the country how to take this amazing new technology and give it a new and different kind of rebirth – if he used it only to help people and bring them together. It was meant to do that, that was the failed dream.
Imagine also the psychic impact on all of us if we could send a few dollars a day to fellow Americans to help them, rather than argue with them, belittle them or divide them, as our political system now does almost reflexively?
I am no saint, but I have learned to try to use my blog for good. This is selfish, not selfless. People are eager to do good, and I am eager to feel good about myself.
We raised $3,000 on one day to buy welcome bags for immigrant children. We helped raised $70,000 in a few weeks to raise money for legal fees for Joshua Rockwood, a decent farmer and animal lover whose farm was raided, his horses taken, and who faced charges of animal cruelty because his water tanks froze in -30 degree temperatures.
Joshua was cleared of all of the charges. When I asked readers of the blog to think of the residents of the Mansion, an assisted care facility, at Christmas, the Mansion was flooded with cards, messages, flowers, shawls, mittens, photos, chocolates, and other gifts. They came in for days and totally transformed the Christmas lives of people at the edge of life. (We're doing it again for Valentine's Day.)
We helped to raise $60,000 to support a cafe seeking to serve it's community. We paid the bills of a beloved farrier who had two knees replaced at once in surgery.
Social media can do good as well as bad, it can lift hearts as well as cause them to sink. I am weary or argument and revenge and pettiness, the grievance and victimization and tit-for-tat of bankrupt ideologies. Enough.
I have learned in this new culture to try to think of my attackers and many critics as human beings, to try to connect to them at that level, to speak to the better angels in me and them. I have learned to state my beliefs clearly, but also that they are not an argument.
I see in many ways – the love people have for him, his close connections to family – that Mr. Trump is so very human, I wonder if he could not use his tweets to bring out that humanity and give us all the gift of getting to a better and more hopeful place? He could show us every single day how to find a common ground in our polarized reality.
I know what it is to be attacked, I am attacked all of the time, and have been for 30 years. If you think at all, you will be targeted by someone. And loved by someone else.
I do not feel the need to answer the angry people or pay them back, they are entitled to their beliefs, as I am entitled to mine. This, I learned is a lesson of adulthood, of growing up. You choose your battles, if you fight every one, you will soon be spent.
Imagine if Mr. Trump had used Twitter to send this message to Meryl Streep after her speech at the Golden Globes: "Dear Meryl Streep, I am sorry you chose to use the awards ceremony as a political forum, but I imagine your outspokenness is one of the reasons people love you so much and why you are so successful. I hope you will consider coming to Washington to meet with me, perhaps the two of us can use the power we have been given to do some good for people. Best..."
Or this tweet to John Lewis: "Dear John Lewis, I am sorry you feel I am not a legitimate President, I hope to prove you and others wrong on that score. On the eve of Martin Luther King Day, I salute our brave and inspiring contributions to the civil rights movement, and I hope we can work together to ensure the rights of every American citizen, as you have so long fought to do."
I am a writer. I know that you can do so much damage in 140 words, or so much good. It is the choice we all face whenever we sit down at a computer, connected in this new way to the powerful web of humanity.
Tweets like those above, tweets that dignify people and help them, and give us the chance to help others, are the tonic and the balm we need, tweets that rise above our political differences and honor the humanity that connects all of us.
Am I silly for dreaming of this, for hoping that is possible?
Maybe. But hope is a tonic too, and my heart is full of it, and I will keep on hoping. I am no President and have little power, but I will re-commit myself to using it for good.