Bipartisan or Bystander?
Bipartisanship means active, often contentious, yet respectful cooperation, (and ultimate compromise), between two political parties for the ultimate betterment of their constituents. It is creating productive discussion to achieve a synthesis of ideas. Thus, the welfare of the people always comes before party loyalty.
It's also about speaking up. "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words are as relevant now as they were in Selma in 1965.
Bipartisanship is now temporarily lost because our political divisions run deep, and because the leadership in Washington has managed to dismantle any semblance of reasonable protocol. The executive branch is now our democracy’s most reckless caretaker.
This means that local responsibility to defend our democratic institutions becomes that much greater. National issues are local issues and we cannot fear that discussion. Archibald MacLeish said: “Democracy is always something that a nation must be doing.”
Kitty Genovese was an American woman who was stabbed to death outside her apartment in Queens in 1964 as most of her neighbors failed to come to her aid thus creating the "bystander effect." We cannot be bystanders as toxic rhetoric, conflicts of interest, and lies from the White House continues almost daily. We cannot continue to conveniently look away as our democracy begs for support.
When 331 cities (from NYC to Ambler, Ohio - pop. 154) representing more than 65 million Americans in 44 states, aligned with 194 nations that adopted the Paris Climate Accord - and that our president absurdly abandoned - Summit was a bystander.
When our immigration policy became a debate about bias and discrimination, an open discussion of the relevance (or not) of becoming a sanctuary city, Summit was a bystander. This, despite our Interfaith Council's bravery on the issue and the recent decision of the Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit to become a "sanctuary congregation."
Make no mistake, Summit and surrounding cities are desperately dependent on an immigrant workforce for domestic work, child care, landscapers, and our restaurants. Should we not protect those who make our lives that much better and care for our most precious assets? National policies have local ramifications that have to be addressed.
Have we heard from our current congressman, (the honorable Leonard Lance) in defense of our sisters, wives and mothers when Trump shames women? A congressman as a bystander is not an option for a moral society needing new leadership.
Our schools speak out clearly on bullying with a policy that clearly condemns and monitors it. Should we, as parents, not condemn the offensive ranting tweets coming from our president that demean minorities --or is he the bully we want our children imitating?
Trump's cyber bulling and ad hominem attacks would expel any child - and fire any employee - at any school or corporation - anywhere in the United States. There is no fake media, there is only a huckster man-child encircled by loyal sycophants who haplessly stand guard.
Many of us were relieved to see that the head of the National Education Association, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the country's largest labor (teacher) union recently spoke of not trusting Trump's and Betsy de Vos ideological agenda in doing what is in the best interest of children. Still, we hear nothing from the leadership of our local teachers union.
Why are the local and state GOP women (or men) not speaking out on Trump's anti-women diatribes? Who is speaking out in Summit for a party that is now being identified with misogyny?
As importantly, what kind of moral and supportive sons do we raise when we don't exhibit our distaste for our president's innate hate of women? What kind of moral man would accept Trump's demeaning comments to one's mother, wife or sister? I had a mother and have a sister that fought (fights) discrimination in the work place and those of us with mothers, daughters and wives must not sit silent.
Bystanders are moving back the clock on inclusiveness, denying the good that diversity creates, and damaging the century long progress on gender equality. Please don't tell me that being a bystander is simply a natural instinct for political survival. It is cowardice.
If we continue to wait for our state and local leadership to speak out about the hate propagated in presidential tweets and speeches, we will also watch the national as well as local waters of bigotry around us continue to inch higher, and we will permanently cripple our children's sense of right and wrong.
It is our duty to strongly speak out and set examples for our sons and daughters when Trump's daily hate speak is commonplace news. Is silence how we interpret the spirit of bipartisanship? Silence will not make our children responsible patriots and defenders of democracy. Patriots come from both sides of the aisle.
Teddy Roosevelt summarizes: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”
George Lucaci is a Summit Municipal Democratic Committee member representing Ward I, District 5