John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
What does, and doesn’t, constitute leadership is the theme of ongoing debates online, in the streets, and in homes worldwide, but particularly in the United States. Both mainstream and alternative media sources, citing political scientists, historians, and other experts, have compared Trump to Hitler, Mussolini, Erdogan, and other despots.
They’re not necessarily wrong.
Many of President Donald Trump’s executive orders and other official actions since his inauguration have met with legal controversy and contention. These actions include, among others, an enforced media blackout of the Environmental Protection Agency, barring select news agencies from White House press conferences, defunding International Planned Parenthood, and instituting an immigration travel ban against seven Muslim countries. Many view these orders as a chipping away, or steamrolling as the case may be, of democratic ideals and universal rights.
Grassroots movements opposing President Trump’s policies abound. A simple Twitter search turns up such hashtags as #NotMyPresident, #RemoveTrump, #SoCalledPresident, #TheResistance, #FreedomOfThePress, #FascistPresident, #StopTrump, and #NoFascistUSA. These resistors view President Trump not as a leader but as an oppressor.
Still others are just as, or even more, perturbed by Trump’s communication style and public persona, both official and unofficial. Ample documentation shows Trump time and again mocking disabled persons, uttering threats, yelling, silencing, belittling and demeaning both individuals and entire populations. This points to another kind of oppression: bullying.
Merriam-Webster defines a bully as “a blustering browbeating person; especially one habitually cruel to others who are weaker”. The U.S. government’s own anti-bullying website describes bullying as “aggressive, unwanted, repeated behavior that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power and an attempt to control or harm others”.
This behavior can include teasing, name-calling, making inappropriate sexual comments, spreading rumors, making threats, embarrassing someone in public, harming – or attempting to harm – someone’s reputation or relationships, attacking someone verbally or physically, taking or breaking someone’s possessions, making rude or threatening hand gestures, etc.
Many of Trump’s speeches and policies so far have taken aim at populations that have long struggled for equal rights under the law: women, members of the LGBTQIA community, immigrants, the uneducated, the poor, the underserved. The truth is that Mr. Trump is a bully, and this is inexcusable in a leader.
However, it is also true that much of the recent and ongoing backlash against Trump’s actions before and since taking office, mirror the tone and focus of what the backlash is railing against: hate speech, public ridicule, personal pot-shots, etc. Articles, tweets, memes, and protest signs have poked fun at Trump’s 10-year-old son, Baron; maligned Melania Trump’s clothes, public speeches (which she does not write herself), and professional past as a model; mocked the size of Donald Trump’s hands, the hue of his tan, and even his hair style. Some public anti-Trump communications were getting so vicious that new grassroots movements have arisen, such as #MakeAmericaKindAgain.
Shall we oppose bullying with more bullying? Use hate speech to fight hate speech? “An eye for an eye” was the maxim of the Emperor Justinian, not one of the enlightened spiritual teachers of the world. So, how can we respond positively and effectively to the angry rhetoric flying about?Shall we oppose bullying with more bullying? Use hate speech to fight hate speech? Click To Tweet
We can choose a different tack. We can think before we speak or write, before we irrevocably send words out into the world. We can follow the guidelines of “right speech” – Is it true? Does it need to be said? Is this the right time (and we could add ‘the right platform’) for saying it? If each of us takes spiritual responsibility, we can consciously practice compassion and charity, nurture dignity, and foster kinship with all those who share our planet.
While considering what it is we want in and from our leaders and role-models, we can also turn inward and ask ourselves some hard questions. How are we as leaders and role-models? Are we in our integrity? Are our actions in accord with our words? Are we being the change we want to see in the world? How can we be more spiritually responsible?
By continually asking questions and opening honestly to the answers we find, we bring increased understanding and peace to our own lives, and through our lives to the greater global community. For further questions for reflection, and guidance on how to become more conscious in the world, see my book Evolve Your Life, available at Amazon.com.