Dear Michelle,

I am writing to ask you, how do we go high? Your powerful speech on July 26, 2016 continues to surface in my mind, especially when I hear and see bullying, hate speech, insults and fighting. Because I am not doing a very good job of it. When you first said these words it seemed so easy, ‘just go higher, don’t stoop to the level of a bully, just do be better, act better...’ But it’s really, really, frickin’ hard!

And make no mistake about it, this November when we go to the polls that is what we’re deciding, not Democrat or Republican, not left or right. No, in this election and every election is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives…….. our motto is, when they go low, we go high. 

How do you do it? Or do you have private moments when it gets to you? Your husband told us, ordinary people, that change only happens when "ordinary people get involved, get engaged and come together to demand it. I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours," 

Well, I am certainly an ordinary person and I have been working hard to involve myself in my local community by joining our local party clubs, by working in my local school, by attending community meetings, by calling and writing to elected officials. I knew it would be challenging and that there would be disagreements. I am not completely naive despite being told by a fellow board member that I have been manipulated and can’t see the forest for the trees. What forest? The forest of disagreement. According to her, when one Democrat disagrees with another Democrat they are blind, not just that they have a different view- no, it’s blindness, apparently. How hard is it to have a civil conversation? Because I have really tried. And I just cannot do it anymore. Try, I mean.

Here’s the really funny thing, there will be those who might read this and say, “What a bunch of BS, she is a hypocrite, she argues all the time and she thinks she is always right, she needs to just STFU.” How do I know some will say that? Because they have. What horrible, awful thing did I say? I am not even sure. I do talk a lot. I do write a lot. I do post a lot.

When social media erupted I was definitely guilty of saying the first thought that popped in my mind because I finally had a place and an opportunity to do so. It didn’t take long before I was corrected, before I recognized my own behavior and made a concerted effort to change. I started seeing the ugliness from others, even close personal friends and I just didn’t want to be like that. I read books, watched TED talks, and listened to folks wiser than I speak. I watched Oprah interview Brene Brown and she described how she felt when she read the comments on her Youtube talk. Apparently they were pretty brutal and she hide in a dark room for days. 

Whether you like Oprah or Brene, or don’t, it doesn’t matter because the message I got was, “Words hurt and they hurt A LOT!” However you identify yourself someone out there is going to disagree with you and even further they are going to apply not just a label but a whole identity about you that probably has nothing at all to do with who you are. And I have been guilty of it too, I have made assumptions about people that may have no basis in fact. I have judged many other people who may not have deserved it. And I am really sorry that I have and am trying to make up for it by not doing it anymore.

However, does it mean that I have to listen and read and watch other people do it? I try to have conversations but if it gets insulting, ugly or demeaning I walk away, both figuratively and literally. And that’s still a problem because for some people, walking away means weakness or stupidity or blindness or even that by walking away I am trying to violate their Freedom of Speech! And that is why I am writing to you to ask you what, ‘going high' means. Is there a better way for us to get to know each other and hear each other?

Do we have to stick around and listen and read people’s rants and raves? Does insisting on civil discussion really mean that ‘free speech’ is being hindered? Where does their free speech end and my self-protection begin?

Which leads to snow-flake and political correctness because if I try to walk away from an angry rant I am a snow flake, libatard that can’t handle honesty, truth and reality and by not sticking around to listen to cursing and trash talk I am shutting someone up and not allowing them their freedom of speech.

I did think that being in a small rural community there may be more of a sense of comradery and willingness to try harder to get along, sadly, the rage and vitriol of the world at large has made its way into the mountain tops. We are just as rude, belligerent, arrogant and nasty as the rest of the country and world. The following comments come from people I know and work with and they are about acquaintances we have in common.

It so difficult to not insult back, so very, very hard. How do you do it? Sometimes it seems that it is not even worth trying except that at 3 AM my words come back to haunt me, “Why did I say that? What would Michelle do?”

I guess I am a work in progress. Still. And always will be.

Thank you for inspiring me,

Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

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