I was born on the West side of Detroit; in fact in a house that resides in Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s district and I was baptized at Christ the King Church at Six Mile and Grand River Avenue.
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We moved to Southfield, Michigan, in my youth, and I completely understand and relate to the “chip-on-your-shoulder” grittiness and saltiness of the area.
I have retained much of that sentiment, but Congresswoman Tlaib should apologize for her recent comments to a cheering crowd about President Trump: “When your son looks at you and says, ‘Mamma, look you won, bullies don't win,' and I said, 'Baby, they don't,' because we’re gonna go in there and we're gonna impeach the m-----------."
Why should she apologize? Here are just a couple of my reasons:
First, she should apologize for her language, not necessarily to President Trump. Yes, Trump has said and done much worse things, and has lowered the bar of appropriate discourse in our country. The president has said many things that I would chastise my children for, and would not want them repeating, especially in a public forum of any kind. Republicans, who haven’t criticized the president for his degraded discourse, have no leg to stand on in calling out the congresswoman and need to clean up their own house.
Second, from a purely political perspective, her comments aren’t helpful to the Democratic party in bridging divides and accomplishing what I know she wants to accomplish. In order to achieve success in politics, one must bring consensus to get the common good, and this kind of talk goes in the opposite direction of that. If she really wants the Democrats to succeed in Congress, and pass public policy, then her party is going to need the support of people who don’t feel the way she does. She is going to have to be part of building bridges with people who don’t think like her or talk in that way. And to that goal, her language sets her back.
Third, as Martin Luther King Jr., who stood strong against injustice, said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And I would add vulgarity won’t drive out vulgarity, and bullying won’t drive out bullies. The best way for all of us to make America a more perfect union, and achieve justice and goodness is to act and speak in a manner that patterns the type of country and community we want. And that starts with the words we use for those we oppose. It is easy to respect those who agree with us; showing decency to those who are against us is much harder, and much more important.
I understand the anger, and I myself have cursed and used vulgarity in certain moments, especially in political campaigns. However, I really tried never to do this in a public way about any opposing candidate or party. As I said, I was born in Detroit, and have six brothers and four sisters, so I am accustomed to hearing and saying similar things as the Congresswoman. It is just something that should not be done when we are seen as examples for our children and for our fellow citizens.
We can fight for what we believe, and push hard against inequity and injustice, but let’s all do it in such a way that diminishes the hate and bitterness, and increases love and compassion. I hope upon reflection that Congresswoman Tlaib realizes her statement will only achieve the opposite of what I am sure her good intentions are.
Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.