19 April

Why Hating President Trump Is Not Good For You (Or Anybody Else)

by Jon Katz

“I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Trump formula is pretty simple and pretty clear if you think about it.

He needs you to hate him; his success depends on it. The more he is hated, the more he is loved, victimized, protected, and defended. It isn’t about politics, but human nature, and human flaws.

Hatred and obsession with Donald Trump is his fuel, the source of his energy,  the highest grade fuel on the political market.

It does not harm him in any way,  accomplishes nothing, persuades no one,  but leaves the haters anxious and angry and worried about the future.

If you want to shed your fear and anger and be a true patriot, go and do something useful.

There are so many better choices for us than hitting that news app 100 times a day, and whining and bitching and arguing on Facebook or Twitter.

Martin Luther King’s statement above was brilliant on many levels. This philosophy made him a great man and spawned a successful and lasting national movement. African Americans before Dr. King had it a lot worse than Trump haters have it now, and King won with love and faith, not hate and argument.

Hate is too heavy a burden to bear.

I made the same decision a few years ago in a completely different way and context.

I am far being a great man, but I am not an angry and worried man, at least not now. Donald Trump has plenty of trouble on his hands defining himself; he doesn’t get to define me.

That’s my job.

I know if I took up hate, it would eat me alive, from the inside out. Dr. King was right; hate is too great a burden to bear; it has never done one positive or useful thing for me.

I was online last night, and a Facebook Page came up, someone was asking people if they were a judge, what punishment would they choose for President Trump.

I’ve been around a while, but I was struck by the poisonous, vicious and graphic pronouncements that ranged from having his tongue cut out, to being castrated, to being imprisoned in a pit with alligators, to burying him alive with a bunch of tapes of President Obama speaking again and again.

I think the sponsor of the post thought he was witty in some way, but the posts brought a chill to my spine. I wondered if he thought about children coming across his bloody post.

Dr. King marched, went to jail, marched some more (so did Gandhi). In our time, we post nasty messages on Twitter. At some point, people who want a real change will have to go outside and actually do something.

I am realizing, in recent weeks, and as I write a bit about Governor Cuomo and the President, that Trump-hating has become a virus all of its 0wn, upsetting some people more than the coronavirus itself.

Thomas Merton wrote that anxiety is a mark of spiritual insecurity, and I believe he was correct.

Anxiety and anger hollow out the soul and leave us empty and unfulfilled. There are all sorts of ways to heal from the Trump Pandemic; these sheltered days offer us plenty of time to think about it.

Living in the country has been good for me because I have a bit of distance from the heart of the volcano. I see so many people being pushed to the left by him that they run headlong into the far right, and the difference between the two seems to shrink over time.

You can’t hate a virus in a personal way; it is simple to hate Donald Trump in a personal way; it’s just what he wants and needs. Without it, he is just another nasty old man in an expensive suit with a bad wig.

I see people losing themselves in social media and Facebook posts.

They succumb to the false notion that Facebook is real, the people on its true friends, that it reflects the reality of the world. I stay off it pretty much; it is a hate and fear and warning enabler, a way for people to pretend to think when they have mostly stopped thinking at all, losing themselves the one mob or another.

I want our democracy back from President Trump, but not at the cost of becoming like President Trump, or praying for his torture and dismemberment. I have to step outside of myself to do this, not sit behind a computer all day.

I hope never to be sitting in a stadium with thousands of other people shouting for the blood of people I disagree with. Frankenstein’s angry villagers were nothing compared to Americans who want to be on television.

Hate is just not healthy.

Trump is a hatred machine, his constant fomenting of anger and grievance and division to get himself re-elected, even in a dire national emergency, is disheartening.

Imagine how much energy it takes to keep all of those people angry all of the time, greivance is such a hungry evil; it sucks all the good emotions around it. Empathy doesn’t suck the heart out of us; it fills it up—our choice.

I don’t argue my beliefs, not at home, not online. I don’t need to pose on Facebook, per persuade the world that I am right about everything I say. We all know I’m not. I get to label myself, no one else gets to label me.

I decided to do good rather than waste a minute hating, and I have helped to do more good than I ever imagined, and it was such a good decision for me that I can hardly believe I made it. I was always good at making bad decisions.

The truth is that compassion and empathy – some say, love – feel good. They are the bulwark against fear and rage.

So I’ll share what is perhaps the best decision I’ve ever made in my life, except giving Maria the use of one of my barns to make art and bringing her cheese and chocolate every night for months. Like a wild cat, she decided to come in for the winter, and that was a miracle for me.

Next to that was the decision I swore to myself the night Donald Trump was elected.

I had already seen enough during the campaign to guess what was to come, but what has followed is far worse than I imagined.

Sometimes I pity Donald Trump for being so hateful and disturbed; sometimes, I despair of the damage he is doing to our country and to so many needy and vulnerable people. It hurts to watch and see.

But in November of 2016, I took an oath that I would not be him or live with him in my head.

I would not hate refugees (I come from a refugee family) and trans people and scientists and gays and socialists and Democrats and everyone different from me.  I would work with and for the needy and the vulnerable.

And I will not hate him or  Republicans or MAGA people or rural people or the angry working men and women who believe their work and much of their lives have been stolen from them.

That is my way of being a good citizen and a good human being.  Like Andrew Cuomo, my politics are being better, not angrier. My life is my politics, not my e-mails.

I decided to put my money and my heart where my mouth and my politics were.

I began working with refugee organizations, and with an elderly care facility called the Mansion. Over these three, going on four years,  the Army Of Good and I have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help refugee students and their families and to bring the residents of the Mansion to life, to offer them every tool and comfort we could as they moved to the edge of survival.

People on both sides of the Great Divide are welcome, whether they agree with me or not. Yes, lots of Republicans want to do good also.

I don’t need to detail all of that here, other than to say it saved me from years of anger and fear and disconnection.

I am not a supporter of the President, but I know some good and honest people who are, and I will not dishonor them by going on social media to celebrate over fantasies of dismemberment and revenge.

To me, those Facebook posts on Trump are like scenes from a horror movie, a view from Hamlet maybe, we’re only missing the torches and the shouts. There is nothing humane or just or progressive about them. They diminish people who care.

Democracy is a mess, discordant voices trying perpetually to come together. People who voted for President Trump and supported him will have to come to terms with it, for good or bad. It’s not my job to tell them what to feel or think. I believe in the idea that you can’t fool people all of the time.

I am a democracy geek, I believe in freedom, and I believe in civility and respect. That makes me a freak if you look at the news or use social media.

The reason I love writing about Andrew Cuomo – his real significance to me –  is that he intuitively and, most of the time, quite organically, understands the best way to respond to Donald Trump and his grievance machine.

When the Pandemic came, he made a choice. He decided to tell the truth and bring back the idea of facts, and offer love and comfort to his wounded people and the sick and the needy. Just like a leader does.

I don’t know what’s in his heart, but I see what has come out of his mouth. It’s good stuff.

Every day, he does good, usually with little drama, self-congratulation, cruelty, or divisiveness.  Every day, he unmasks an aging and bitter older man who is in so far above his head, he can’t see the ground anymore.

I have never seen a more riveting or revealing moral drama than those two fighting for their values and visions of what government and leadership means. They are fighting for our future.

Hatred is not enough this time, people are paying attention and thinking, and that is not something Donald Trump can survive in a crisis like this. He would be so much wiser to turn the briefings over to Grandpa Fauci and just give all that money away to his friends.

Since the crisis, me and the group of people we call the Army Of Good have cranked up our work, getting food to the starving refugees in Albany, getting masks, good food, and a disinfectant machine into the Mansion.

The more our President divides, the more good we do. “There is so much need right now,” Jeanne messaged me from Michigan, “let’s take care of as much of it as we can for as long as we can.” Yes.

That idea has turned what could have been another angry and disturbing nightmare into pleasure and a joy for me.

I am getting older, and I am not wasting one minute of my life hating Donald Trump or the people who support him.

I realize how upsetting he is to the people calling for his torture on Facebook, praising one another for their “wit” and digital savagery. They don’t know, I thought, that they are not hurting him, they are becoming him.

I wonder when the people who think of themselves as “progressive,” or “liberal,” will connect the dots:

Every single excellent resistance fighter and movement in history – Gandhi, Mandela, Dr. King, The Dalai Lama, the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, the women’s movement – have all been almost entirely non-violent and built on the foundation of patience and civil resistance.

Gandhi was right. Love always wins in the end. Hate always loses.

This is the message that Andrew Cuomo has learned in his years of public service,  and his growing significance now. This is the message I have learned.

I write this today because it was Maria who said at dinner that some people she knew hated Trump so much they moved to the left and ran right into the right. It was a great insight.

I fill my life with some good every day. It is selfish, not noble. I’m not running for sainthood; I just want my life to have meaning. I want to feel good about my life.

There is not much room in my head left for hate and grievance.

Gandhi urged us to hate the sin, love the sinner. Roy Bennett proposed more smiling, less worrying. More compassion, less judgment. “How am I doing with my anger? About my attachment, about my hatred, about my pride, my jealousy? Those are the most significant things which we must check in daily life,” said the Dalai Lama. Thomas Merton:” If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things in yourself, not in another.”

I empathize with people who hate Donald Trump. It could so easily have been me. I see a world beyond him, a damaged and bleeding world, a world that will need a lot of help and love.

Do something useful, I thought, not something that will chew up my soul.

The minute I started watching Andrew Cuomo in his first press conferences, I was shocked to think for a minute, “that could have been me, that is what I would want to say to people.”

I was exhilarated to see very clearly that he, the Governor of New York State, had reached the same conclusion that me, a late-middle-aged writer on a farm with donkeys and sheep and dogs, had concluded.

And he has one hell of a platform for his message.

The best and only way to beat Donald  Trump is to be better than he is.

And forgive me for saying that has been one of the easiest and most rewarding jobs in my life.

“You know the oddest thing?,” an old friend told me a few weeks ago. “You’ll miss him when he is gone.”

11 Comments

  1. Thank you. This is honest, poignant and heart felt. Many people do hate/dislike Trump. I confess I’m not an advocate of his. I’ve been doing some soul searching myself. It seems like there are always trying times somewhere in our lives and in this world. Many of us survive (whether physically and/or spiritually), some of us do not. I find myself seeking God more than ever now. I also am disgusted at the vomit that comes out of peoples mouths/thoughts on Facebook. I agree, the anger is frightening! On the other side, the inspirational stories of people helping others, no judgement, not caring who they voted for fills me with hope for our humanity…. brotherly/sisterly love. Why stop at the Covid virus and just keep helping and giving. I believe most people do, but this huge political divide ebbs away at our hearts. I read your blog and I know the good you have done and continue to do. I know the hardships you have endured and conquered. I love the story of how you and Maria met and your pursuit to win her affection and many offers of marriage. I was watching In-touch ministries this morning, even though the sermon was an older one, God put it in my path. I have struggled myself with anxiety, anger, angst. But I am a good person and do help others when I can. This particular sermon talked about the power of prayer and our personal relationship with the Lord. I let that slip away and need it back in my life. I particularly enjoyed reading 1John 4:7-11. I “love” most verses that talk about love. I tend to be on the defensive and it’s hard to be happy in that mode. My goal is to continue praying for myself and others. What is my destiny? Do I have a choice in it? I think I do. Thank you John for your blogs, for sharing your life, your stories and your honesty. Writing this has been cathartic for me. Not everyone has the ability or empathy to understand someone else’s journey until they are able to look at themselves with honesty and an open heart. I hope you and Maria stay healthy and happy. God bless.

  2. Jon,
    I’m new to your writing but my wife has been following for over a year now. After reading just one piece a few weeks ago, I understand why. Your philosophy is contagious and I’ve decided to let go of my hatred of Donald Trump and anyone else for that matter. After reading a few of your articles, I realized that I’ve been swimming in my own poison. I’ve always endeavored to do good and make the best of the time I’ve been given, but your example is showing me that I’m capable of so much more and I will. Thank you

  3. Hello Jon,
    Thank you for your thoughtful essay. You remind us of things we knew but often forget, as the news seems to get worse day by day. Hate consumes the vessel it is stored in, or something like that. We too have found Governor Cuomo’s daily press conferences uplifting and inspiring. We have channeled our energy into making and supplying masks for local essential workers and a nursing home.

  4. Thank you, Jon. As an Interfaith Teacher, I have urged us all to remove hate from our language, for hate is one of the disguises that fear wears. Your article is beautiful. Just beautiful. (I also have a little farm, just two Shetlands and a bunch of chickens, just west of Rochester)

  5. One can hate,what another Does,without ‘hating’ the Doer. I suspect,that ( ) is too ignorant ,to see how his big-little ego is actually devouring his chances of ‘having a life’,being ‘happy’,or loving ,or kind ,generous,etc. He obviously,has never tasted true,real love ,or liking,as it wasnt given to him ,or ‘received’ fully…..
    Yet,the pc is a bit reductionistic,in that we are now living in a new age of terrorist dimensionality,unseen till now.
    The underlying roots ; Cruelty ,murderous rage and action /inaction, indifference to human life , tragic karmic ruination ,will all be despised ,now and forever! When loved ones DIE,due to neglect ,avarice , narcissist drives ,then we cannot dictate,how others will react or respond… if others ‘hatred’ can compel them to vote ,influence ,volunteer ,then i think we stand a chance at Surviving this epoch. We are now at a point in time ,where the death of a culture ,as well as individual ‘freedoms’ ,and human lives lost might become a reality.
    Its quite lofty, self-reporting on how ‘good we are’,or can be…lets just try to hope and see,that there Is a very real counter movement,fueled by love ,need ,and compassion,for us to overcome these horrendous hardships,losses ,and
    sufferings. It is Not being reported,often ,and social media ,can be an effective avenue ,to further ‘the cause’. How many,have seen the National Nurses Union site,online? And,perhaps,countless others,too….
    Keep your hearts hopeful, help others by encouragement ,and believe ,or disbelieve that which is true, helpful , and
    positivist…who wants to die ,angrily?
    Time for new commitments,to be born?
    Be kind to yourself ,and do the obvious ‘good’ you can . For the time being.
    Be human.

  6. And still Jesus says it best:
    43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? -Matthew 5:43-46

  7. Jon, I don’t remember your exact words but you often say, pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice. I think you can also say, anger is inevitable – an automatic reaction, but hatred is a choice – something that needs to be sustained. I like Michelle Obama’s advice in one of her terrific speeches – “when they go low, you go high”. Not always easy to do but I know one thing for sure, when my time comes to die, I want to die with love in my heart not hate.

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