Empathy as Resistance

But these “natural” reactions to a dangerous adversary form a trap, locking us into Trump's formula for embroiling political discourse in a barrage of verbal violence. It likewise defeats the aims of resistance if they encompass respect for all people. Our net for “all people” needs to be broad enough to include Trump himself, his key allies such as Stephen Bannon, chief strategist, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, those affiliated with the alt-right and all purveyors of hatred. We can't afford to fall into the trap of counter-demonizing our demonizers. In the current toxic political environment, compassion and empathy become critical tools of resistance.

Trump consistently appeals to the worst selves of his supporters. From encouraging campaign audiences to rough up protesters to his statements about women, Muslims, Mexicans, reporters and political rivals, he has created a civic atmosphere that permits bullying, racism, misogyny, homophobia and so on. What may be less obvious: The president also appeals to the worst selves of his adversaries. He goads, he badgers, he offends, he provokes. He invites us to respond at his level of discourse. It's an invitation we must refuse.

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