Blaming and shaming are Donald Trump’s “go to” strategy to divide the American people and promote a dangerous politics of resentment.
This week’s target for blaming and shaming is transgender Americans. Instead of admitting the failure of the Trump administration to deliver on grandiose promises of “overwhelming and decisive victory” for the military, in a series of tweets Trump tried to lay this administration’s poor performance at the door of a group of Americans who are just trying to serve their country honorably in the military.
‘Don’t blame me, blame them’ is the constant refrain of this inept and corrupt type of politics. Neither the leadership nor the citizenry is invited to take responsibility and look to themselves to improve the country. Rather, they are encouraged in a vague sense of being guiltless and even the victims not the perpetrators. These Americans then become more and more resentful of others. This is literally paralyzing the nation..
It is also darned dangerous as this resentment of equal rights for others is actually what weakens us as a nation.
This type of manufactured resentment is, frankly, the basis of “Trumpism.” Americans, far from being proud of traditions of equal rights guaranteed by our Constitution, are encouraged to feel resentful when others get equal rights; they are made to feel this equality for others somehow weakens them. (That is clearly the basis of the Trump tweets, that transgender Americans weaken the military).
Transgender Americans do not “weaken” the military or the country. The profound truth of the American experiment, when we are living up to it, is that we are much, much stronger as a people when all are treated equally and have equal rights.
Blaming and shaming transgender people is not only a betrayal of our national political aspirations to “all” being “created equal,” it is a betrayal of deeply held religious values.
Transgender people have been treated shamefully and denied equal rights. This is a fact. What is needed for that to genuinely change is the dynamics of the doctrine of repentance, taking responsibility and eventual reconciliation that makes genuine community possible (See Interfaith Just Peacemaking , Chapter 4). Being willing to confess where you have wronged others, trying to make amends, cultivating empathy, and being willing to let go of revenge are deeply transformative and build strong communities.
It is always best to start with yourself and so let me be clear. Transgender people have been grievously wronged, wronged not only by prejudice and misunderstanding, but also by misplaced and even intrusive forms of “support.” I personally confess that it has taken me years to become what I hope is a faithful ally, and I know I have more to learn. I find the National Center for Transgender Equality to be helpful. You may also.
The need for genuine confession cannot be overstated if we are to call ourselves and other people into a genuinely transformative ethics of community and out of the manufactured resentment and even hatred that are now dominant.
This week I tweeted a call for Donald Trump to adopt the famous Catholic confession, the “Mea Culpa,” that is, in English, “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” It was re-tweeted many times. I wondered, however, how many of those re-tweeting also confessed themselves for their part in our national mess of blaming and shaming. Only those who re-tweeted can say, but it is clear that many think Trump needs to admit fault.
Being able to admit fault is crucial, but let me also raise a pastoral caution here. Not everything is your fault, as I have written in the column It’s Not Your Fault: Jesus, Forgiveness, and the Life of Robin Williams. Too many vulnerable people are blamed and shamed for merely being themselves and I would certainly say transgender people are among those. Knowing your own gifts and strengths and resisting being considered at fault for those is very important. Affirming the gifts of others is equally important. And that can clarify when you do need to admit fault, and when you need to invite others to admit fault.
The reverse is what we have now. We say in the peace movement, “When you mirror your enemy, you become your enemy.”
This must stop.
I therefore call upon Donald Trump to confess that he has betrayed his promise to the LGBTQ community from June 14, 2016. “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedom and beliefs.”
I call on Donald Trump not only to confess this betrayal, but also to change course and support fully equal rights for transgender people.
And I call on you and me to confront the blaming and shaming and instead support equal rights for transgender people and for all human beings.
Together we are stronger as a people.