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What can we do? Be better than what angers you.
For a week, many of us have been texting and emailing articles to our fellow Democrats and fellow Republicans, all of us on both sides discussing just how exactly the other side is wrong. It’s a good thing to share our anger and pain with each other — it’s cathartic and lets off steam — but since we usually send these things to friends who are like-minded, it also tends to dig us deeper into our own worldviews. So this isn’t a post about who won, or who needs to “deal with it,” or even who is president. That argument and all of the protests that go along with it are part of the healing process (and if you think that’s not true, you’re ignoring history — to see the protests after Obama got elected, look at Facebook groups like “Obama is NOT my President”).
No. When I look for why I’m feeling so sick at this moment, it’s about the acts of hatred and violence that have surfaced after the election: A friend who told me her niece was yelled at on the street and threatened because she’s black. A Republican friend who said her relative was threatened because she’s Muslim. A Democrat friend who told me of the swastika that was painted in their school bathroom. Or the N-word that was painted on someone’s car windshield. In the past week, these threats are showing up beyond the norm. (Need more examples? They’re here and here.)
And here’s why I haven’t been able to sleep for days: “A nuclear explosion is not caused by one atom splitting, but by the impact of the first atom that splits causing multiple other atoms near it to split,” says historian and academic Tobias Stone. “The exponential increase … is the bomb. That is how World War I started and, ironically, how World War II ended.”
That’s why I’m so sick here. We can spend our next few months being atoms filled with negativity, or atoms filled with something positive. My solution? As always, I speak with my work. By coincidence or by fate, I’ve been working on I Am Gandhi. Usually, I never discuss a book until the work is done, but for months now, I’ve been lost in Gandhi’s teachings, trying to channel him. I’ve never needed him more.
Make no mistake, we are in a modern civil war. It’s been brewing for years. I’ve said it before: It used to be, even in comic books, the good guys fought the bad guys. Today, Superman fights Batman; Captain America fights Iron Man. We are a country at odds with itself, each side convinced we’re right. But again, I choose to look to history. These days, as we look back at the real Civil War, both sides — Republicans and Democrats — always point to the same moment as the true turning point: That moment at Gettysburg when Abraham Lincoln gave a speech that lasted two minutes and used only 271 words. The most important five words in that speech? “All men are created equal.”
Over these past few months with Gandhi, I’ve realized I don’t just write about heroes. I write about values — values that have been sorely missing — for years — from the dialogue of our country. And the core of my own values is this: When you see someone being treated unfairly, you must speak up. We all know this. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. This is common decency. And over the past month, Gandhi made it plainly clear: You must fight against the unfair treatment of all people. You must protest in a nonviolent and peaceful way. And you must use love.
Today, for that reason, I have to speak up. If someone is threatening you because of the color of your skin, I stand with you. If someone is screaming at you because of your race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, I stand with you. And if you do not speak out against these horrible acts, I stand against you. I’m tired of “us” and “them.” I want to get back to “we.” There’s only one way there. Today, all Democrats, all Republicans, all Americans — and yes, this means Donald Trump, too — we must, together, climb to higher ground and speak out against these hateful acts against women, against minorities, against Muslims, against those with darker skin color, against anyone who is considered “different.”
Again, think of Gettysburg. This is Donald Trump’s moment. Like my friend Simon Sinek taught me about George Washington: “Leadership isn’t about being in charge. It’s about taking care of those in your charge.” Some will argue that Trump stirred this all up; others that the venom has been here all along. However we got here, people are at each other’s throats. The KKK is planning a victory parade. People across the country are being attacked. Children are being threatened. Donald Trump may be our president-elect, but if he wants to be our leader, he must denounce this violence; he must speak up for those being treated unfairly. He must tell America that we are all created equal. He deserves a chance to say and prove that. If he does, I will stand with him against the hate; if he doesn’t, I will stand against him.
And the same should hold true for any of us — if we don’t speak out, we are normalizing this behavior. I will never do that. I’m done texting and sending articles to friends. When someone says something that attacks someone for being different, I will say, “What’s wrong with you?” I will fight with my words, with my art, with my books. I will arm a generation of children with the teachings of Gandhi, and Dr. King, and Rosa Parks. And we will be an army. If you are an artist out there and want to see the script for I Am Gandhi to create even more art, email me through my site. Until then, the beautiful Democrats, beautiful Republicans and beautiful Americans who already believe in the messages of fairness and love — we will never go away. That is the side we should all be on. That is the true American side. We will never be silenced.
Meltzer is an author known for crime thrillers and co-creating the 2004 television series Jack & Bobby and also has ventured into children’s books about historical figures.
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