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Don’t go near the bully pulpit: How to avoid the hatred in political discourse

Jessica E. Johnson / Staff
GOP candidate Donald Trump speaks in a rally in Pendleton, South Carolina

I had a really good, juicy “hot take” on Donald Trump’s recent rally in Pendleton all ready to go. I was ready to tear him a new one (within the standards of what acceptable language is for this newspaper, of course) for everything that I think he is doing to our country with his crazy presidential campaign. I had plans to call him all sorts of names (some of which aren’t yet allowed on television, or even cable). I was going to insult his intelligence and trash him well and good. 
Then it occurred to me that would make me no better than him. 
I’m not perfect by any means. I’ve done my fair share of stuff in the past that I’m not proud of, but I’ve grown up and learned from my mistakes. It’s especially tough to look back and think of all the times I was insensitive and unpleasant, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes not. 
Growing up and maturing is hard to do. Realizing that you don’t know everything and that you can always learn from others helps. 
I want to thank Donald Trump, if that’s the right way to put it, for helping me realize that I don’t want to be anything like him. 
Trump has run a campaign based on hatred, but hatred usually has its roots in fear: fear of the unknown, fear of others, fear of mortality and fear of that which we cannot name. Fear is an easy emotion to give in to; I mean, it’s right there, just waiting to be triggered the next time a terrorist attack or a news report on crime catches our attention. 
We fear what we do not understand, and sometimes it is difficult to understand the misunderstood. ISIS will never sway us to think differently of them, and indeed that is their goal: to make us fear the Arab or Muslim living amongst us, because he or she “could be one of them.”
Trump, a savvy businessman if ever there was one, has tapped into that fear. Furthermore, he has tapped a fear of people of color who aren’t “from here,” to sweep his way to the top of the polls (which he’s more than happy to tell you about). Fear is easy, fear never goes out of style. Fear never fails to turn a profit. 
However love, or at least compassion, is a lot harder for people to embrace. 
Not to sound too much like a hippie or anything, but love is an emotion that we should embrace more often, though it is difficult to love your neighbors or enemies as you love yourself and your family. Trump and his political predecessors know this, and they know that fear fills seats at rallies like the one in Pendleton as well as the voting booths on Election Day. 
Fear unchecked by facts and logic leads to dark, disturbing places. Hitler knew that Germans feared what their country had become, and he provided them with an outlet for that fear in their hatred of the Jews. Who’s to say that the Nazis never used the slogan “Make Germany Great Again”?
I reject the negative dogma of Donald Trump and his acolytes, who mistake high poll numbers with approval and acceptance of their fear-mongering. 
It’s far too easy to shout back at him about how wrong he is, or to call him a bad name (and believe me, the temptation to do both would’ve gotten me kicked out of the rally had I attended). 
Standing up to bullies should not include embracing the tactics that they employ. We shouldn’t let fear decide how we vote, who we let into this country, or who we listen to. What the Trump campaign says about their leader is probably what we always knew about him, but what it says about us is far louder: we are afraid, and we will look to anyone who offers us an outlet for our fear, especially if it’s hatred. 
We can and we must do better. Fear is a valid emotion in these times, but it is not and cannot be the determining factor in who we choose to lead this country forward. 
We have ideals that we don’t often live up to, like “all men are created equal.” If we are to finally do so, we need to consign demagogues like Trump to the dustbin of our history. However, we must do so without resorting to the bullying loudness that defines him, because then we’re no better than he is. 
Perhaps that’s what I’m most afraid of. 

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