By Linda LaScola, Editor
Back in January of 2017, I wrote a post featuring photos from the Women’s March, held the day after Trump’s inauguration.
Both my anger and my hope were high back then and I felt exhilarated marching with thousands of others with common concerns for the future of our country. A year-and-a-half later, I’m much more concerned and a lot less exhilarated, to put it mildly.
I’m especially disturbed by the recent focus on “civility” – which seems to be defined as liberals not publicly expressing themselves to Trump administration officials. I admit that when I first heard that the owner of a restaurant in southern Virginia politely asked Presidential Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her party to leave her restaurant, I thought it was a mistake. Not because it was uncivil, but because I was concerned it wouldn’t play well. I was right about that.
When I started thinking about “right ways” to express legitimate concerns about our government, I realized that most people won’t ever have the opportunity to confront well-known government officials in public places. Hell, I’ve lived in Washington, DC for decades and rarely see anyone famous! These encounters are clearly not the kind of thing that are going to happen everyday or to everyone.
Most people will never be in the position to politely ask a White House staffer to leave the premises, as the owner of the small VA restaurant did, or, in another instance, to mobilize quickly enough to confront a cabinet member face-to-face, as protesters in a DC Mexican restaurant did.
Still, I thought, I need to be prepared! I don’t want to be caught up short when my big opportunity arises. I thought about other people, just as eager as I am and just as unprepared. We need to be ready with an effective response.
Then, just yesterday I heard about Kristin Mink, local schoolteacher who rose to the occasion when she saw Environmental Protection Agency Secretary, Scott Pruitt, sitting a few tables away in a downtown restaurant.
She quickly wrote up a few notes and checked to make sure they were accurate. Over the protests from some of her family, she took her toddler and husband (filming it on his phone) to Pruitt’s table. She very civilly expressed her concerns about his actions and asked him to resign. It’s posted on her facebook page and has “gone viral” as they say, so maybe you’ve already seen it on the news. Ms. Mink has linked to media interviews on her Facebook page, including MSNBC and CNN. In the MSNBC interview, she invites Secretary Pruitt to lunch so they can talk some more!
She is amazing! So articulate. Such presence of mind.
So many of us are not like that.
So, what do the rest of us do? This is my question to you. We may not come up with perfect answers, but let’s think about it. How can we be ready to respond “civilly” to any encounter? I know most of us won’t run into a big shot in a restaurant, but we might bump into a group of Make American Great revelers complaining about immigrants or godless people like us.
I do have one idea, that I’d like you to build on. A few friends and I dreamed it up. We could make up meaningful words to a well-known, simple melody and have a song ready to sing. Others could join in without straining their voices or screwing it up. How about a hymn, like The Little Brown Church in the Vale? It has an easy descant that people could join in on. “Come, come, come come.”
Let’s hear your ideas – songs, poems, speeches, raps, whatever. I want to be ready and I need your help.
7/5/18 5:30 PM Update: You’ve probably heard that EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, resigned this afternoon. CNN didn’t waste any time getting the reaction from the schoolteacher who confronted him just a few days ago to get her. Here’s Kristin Mink’s quote on the CNN website:
She said initially felt “unrestrained glee” by the news “because that was what I wanted him to do and followed immediately of course by the realization that Trump now gets to appoints somebody else. And we see that it’s Andrew Wheeler, a coal lobbyist. So clearly the agenda is not going to be getting any better.”
Bio: Linda LaScola is co-author, with Daniel C. Dennett, of Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind(2013) and “Preachers who are not Believers” (2010). She is an independent qualitative research consultant who lives and works in Washington, D.C. She holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the Catholic University of America and is a co-founder of the Clergy Project and editor of the Rational Doubt blog.
>>> Photo Credits: By Eric Vance, Photographer, United States Environmental Protection Agency – https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2017-07/scottpruitt16x20.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62190405
By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America – Donald Trump, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52647057