January 23, 2019

It’s Not Me. It’s You.

Guest Column
By Mark Pontoni | Dec. 29, 2018

Back in February 2015, I wrote a blog post entitled, “Divorcing Friends: It’s not you … it’s me.” In that post, I explained why I had to unfriend some folks on Facebook: It had become unbearable to attempt discussions with people who willingly used false information and consistently invoked inaccurate sources when we debated. Like a high school romance gone bad, I was willing to accept the blame for the breakup … as long as I didn’t have to hang with that person again.

Nearly four years later, the country is in far worse shape than I could have imagined back then. We suffer daily the effects of the darkest day in American history, when we somehow decided to put an unstable, unintelligent, lying, treasonous criminal in the White House. We still don’t even know how bad it’s going to get — we just know it’s going to get a lot worse before we can begin the long process of healing that will commence the day Donald Trump and Mike Pence are in the country’s rearview mirror.

Since that February day in 2015 when I told so many “It’s not you … it’s me,” I have come to realize that I was wrong. Very wrong. It is, in fact, you. If you still support Donald Trump after all he has done to destroy our country’s reputation abroad, after his nonstop efforts to put our economy on the brink of yet another disastrous crash, after all he has done to divide us as a people, and after all he has done to give permission for people in red hats to demean their fellow Americans, you are the problem. 

Nowhere is this more obvious than when we observe the events going on in Lansing in the weeks since the midterm elections. Under the “leadership” of those who believe what Trump is doing to our country is good medicine, the Michigan Republicans are attacking democracy, women, public education, and the will of the people. A few proposals still alive at press time could:

a)    Weaken the powers of the newly elected secretary of state and attorney general.
b)    Take away authority from the State Board of Education, on which Democrats took seats in November.
c)    Severely limit the odds of citizen initiatives making it to the ballot (presumably because the people of Michigan keep wanting to do things that Republicans can’t stand, like making voting easier).
d)    Ban doctors from prescribing medications to women via online examinations.

Because Trump has given permission to hate, to lie, and to dismantle the fundamentals of a democratic society, lightweights like Lee Chatfield, Tristan Cole, and other Republicans in our state are taking full advantage. The people of Michigan overwhelmingly elected a Democratic governor (53 to 43 percent) and Secretary of State (52 to 44 percent). We elected a Democratic attorney general. We overwhelmingly approved an end to gerrymandering (61 to 38 percent).

Since the 2018 midterm election, however, Republicans have looked into the eyes of the voters and spit into our faces. This is Trump’s America. 

I am confident that the institutions that have kept our country going since the late 1700s will be able to endure and then repair the Trump Tragedy. What we might not be able to repair, however, is the damage Trump and his soulless followers are doing to our youth. Northern Michigan is an economically fragile region. Building a robust economy that lessens our dependence on minimum-wage tourist jobs has never been easy. And as Trump, Chatfield, Cole, and their ilk continue to push their agenda of intolerance, young people who know better are going to look for better options.

Bridge Magazine has done a series of articles about why our youth are fleeing the Great White North. I encourage you to seek them out. When I talk to students about their post-high school plans, a large majority of them want out of northern Michigan. While many crave an education and careers in more diverse communities, many also cite the hopelessness of the political climate in our state, and specifically in our area, as reasons to bail. They openly talk about how pointless it is to hope for change in our area when elected officials work in opposition to fairness, respect, and tolerance.

When it comes time to assign blame for this damaging exodus, remember that if you support Trump, if you vote for politicians like Chatfield and Cole, or if you tolerate repression of the free exchange of ideas, you are to blame. You have created, and now you maintain, a climate that is unacceptable to many of our best and brightest. They will take with them the talent and resources we need to develop genuine economic growth.

If you’ve fallen for Trump’s lies or for Chatfield’s lunacy that hatred and intolerance are what Jesus wants, you are writing tickets out of town for the very people who have a fighting chance improve the lives of all of us in northern Michigan. When they’re gone, you’ll still have your Confederate flags, your MAGA hats, and your pictures of aborted fetuses. But what you won’t have is the talent needed to preserve our environment, grow our economy, and lead people to build a society which truly believes all men are created equal. 

And this time, it’s not me. It’s you.

You can read more of Mark Pontoni's thoughts on education, politics, sports, and family (and his Feb. 2015 “divorcing friends” blog post) at www.thegrumblings.com.

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