When Did “Getting Away with It” Become an American Value?
By Donna Smith, Executive Director – Progressive Democrats of America
The election of the Trump-Pence regime with all of its trappings (quite literally, its trappings) signals the acceptance by millions of a loud, proud and shifting American value system – getting away with it is something to be prized and praised no matter what the “it” may have been. We seem to have embraced a cultural ideal that so long as you do not actually accept any responsibility for your words or actions, and provided you knock over anyone who suggests you might be accountable, you are the new vision of leadership. The bully pulpit is simply that – a way to bull right over those who are less well positioned or those who have no voice.
Demagogue-elect Trump did not invent the bully pulpit, nor is he even very original in his use of the incredible amount of assistance he needed from other bullies in the background. No one more than Donald Trump has had to threaten, cajole, or court support more than this guy, and he has some pretty heavy debts to repay to the bully-loyalists who now seek to run the show. There are so many puppeteers that it will be difficult for the Trump-Pence regime to fully reward every one with the job or appointment they desire and now believe they deserve. His first hires were telling, but come on, folks, this is just the way we knew this man would behave. He got away with so much hatred and so much bullying that we cannot possibly think he will stand accountable for a few hires of his cronies.
Standing accountable for our own words and actions is something that used to be instilled in children as one of the ways we grow up and become responsible adults. Most Americans do not have the option of getting away with much. If I make a misstep in my life, I stand to account – boy, do I. Lose part of my income? We hurt until I replace it. Hurt another person? If in words, I take responsibility and apologize, and if in actions, I try to repair what I have damaged. My mom and dad taught me that kindness and showing good manners is a way I show my respect for my fellow human beings and for myself.
My dad, WWII U.S. Army veteran Howard E. Boyles, taught me that trying to “get away with things” was cowardly and childish. Of course, he also went to war to fight against Fascism in the world, and we know how that is being repaid in 2016, don’t we?
It may be too late to undo the election results (though I think we deserved an audit of the results), but it is not too late to stop feeding into the notion that getting away with bad behavior or behavior that harms another person is somehow noble if our eventual goal is otherwise. Hurting others is hurting others. Getting away with an ugly comment or vitriolic Tweet is one thing, but set up your new regime to get away with harming millions and millions of people is a whole new level of nasty – will the Trump regime get away with these promises of mass deportations, loss of health insurance coverage and therefore loss of healthcare access, loss of Medicare benefits, loss of environmental protections or attention to the climate emergency, and loss of standing as a nation devoted to the ideal of equality for all since its founding?
Well, the regime may try to get away with all they have threatened to do to harm the least of these among us, but some of us – a lot of us – still rely on our upbringing and our beliefs that we are accountable to one another on this earth. We must all stand accountable, stand up and remember those now terrified for good reason.
Bullies always comfort you or at least seek to reassure you right before they whack you from behind. A lack of conscience about “getting away with it” when the “it” was to spew hatred and cruelty is not wiped away by speaking to Leslie Stahl on “60 Minutes.” We are smarter than that, and we have lessons from our own history to guide us. More importantly, well more than half of the people who voted last week took a stand against this hateful, boastful, arrogant and of our government, founded and structured as government of, by and for the people. And we are not going to let them “get away with it.”