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Where Life and Leadership Converge

What’s missing in politics? In life?

What’s missing in politics? In life?

In all the racket of news this week, one story received little attention because it was part of a much larger and more volatile story.

That was the small but courageous act of a young woman who wrote an open letter to her boss. It was an act of courage I believe is all-to-often absent in politics, leadership and life.

Dana Schwartz, is an arts and entertainment writer at the New York Observer. When she saw the Donald Trump Twitter post showing Hillary Clinton, $100 bills, and a six-sided star, she Tweeted, “Hmm! What could Donald Trump possible be evoking with the raining money and Star of David.”

Clinton -StarSchwartz, who is Jewish, wrote a second Tweet that said “No Jew can vote for Trump with a clean conscience. He makes very clear the type of people he tries to appeal to.”

Schwartz 2

For these posts, she received vile and hateful replies, a few of which are included below.

schwartz 9schwartz 5Schwartz 1

schwartz 6

I found the image below that was included in one reply to be particularly troubling. It shows Schwartz' face placed in an over with Donald Trump happily poised to turn on the gas.

schwartz 7

After gaining approval from her editor at the Observer, she wrote an open letter to her boss, who is Donald Trump’s son-in law and who is also Jewish. Her online letter includes many more of the disgusting replies she received.

Schwartz letter

In the letter, Schwartz said, “I’m asking you, not as a “gotcha” journalist or as a liberal but as a human being: how do you allow this?” She went on to say that she did not necessarily believe Donald Trump is anti-Semitic, but she believes he is appealing to people who are.

The Tweet below by David Duke, a white supremacist, Holocaust denier, and founder and grand wizard of the Louisiana KKK, seems to support her belief. He shows the original Tweet and the revised version showing a circle instead of a star.

In this Tweet, he wrote, "Seems something changed? That's ok, we welcome the hidden hand exposing itself. #MakeAmericaGreatAgain #AmericaFirst."

Hidden hands symbolizing the stereotype of greed on the image to the right further supports her assertion.

Duke tweetIn an interview with Lawrence O’Donnell in which O’Donnell asked if she feared she would lose her job, Schwartz said, “If I lose my job it will be because I took a stand on something I genuinely believe in, and I won’t be disappointed in that.”

As I look at Schwartz’ Twitter profile, I see language I would not use and a few fiercely held opinions I do not necessarily hold as strongly as she does. However, I sincerely applaud her courage to stand up to something she believes is wrong—as do I.

Certainly, it is possible Donald Trump did not see the Tweet before it was posted. It is possible the person who posted it did not immediately recognize the implications of the six-sided star, and it is possible the image was taken from a site other than the white nationalist site where the New York Times reported that it first appeared on June 22.

But, even if this image appeared under the most innocent of circumstances, it struck a nerve with people who saw it as an appeal to anti-Semitism. It also seems to have gained support from some who openly expressed anti-Semitism.

Rather than an apology, which Trump seems incapable of delivering, he attacked the media and made excuses.  He said in a rally that the post should have remained. Rather than distancing himself from hate-mongers in this and other occasions, he pretends he does not know they are there.

With these on-going incidents of insensitivity and sometimes downright hostility to “The Other” and his failure to acknowledge these incidents as wrong, I am led to believe the accusations of dog-whistle politics running amuck.

Whatever the facts of this and other situations, I believe the critical message is the importance of showing courage and honoring acts of courage when they appear. I see too many incidents in which courage is lacking and too few cases where courage is shown.

WHERE THEY STAND

As a Floridian, I was not a huge fan of Jeb Bush as our governor, but he was capable, and I believe he acted on his deeply held beliefs even though I disagreed with many of them. I was pleased to see that he and his family decided to sit this one out in spite of their strong connections with the Republican Party.

I also disagree with Senator Lindsey Graham on a number of issues, but I have been amused and impressed with his comments about his own party going bat-**** crazy. At one point, he urged members of his party to get behind the Republican candidate. However, after Trump’s comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel, Graham has now said he cannot support the candidate.

Graham said, “There’ll come a time when love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.” He will vote for neither Trump or Clinton. Other prominent Republicans have refused to support the candidate.

In addition, I was interested to see a small group of staunchly Republican women in Washington, D.C., who have come together, not because they like Hillary, but because they cannot bear the possibility of a Trump Presidency.

I can understand that because of his position, House Speaker Paul Ryan believes he must say he supports the Republican candidate, but I would have much more respect for him if he would say categorically that he cannot support lies and demagoguery, which he obviously recognizes in the candidate.

However, I have been particularly troubled by the number of politicians who ran against Trump in primary elections who now refuse to separate themselves from comments and positions that are so obviously antithetical to their own beliefs.

I cannot see why Marco Rubio and Chris Christie, who made such damaging comments about him previously, can now say it is perfectly fine to vote for him. Their concern for winning seems to outweigh their “love of country”—to use Lindsey Graham’s phrase.

LOOKING FOR INTEGRITY

I am looking for integrity, but without the courage to act, integrity is empty.

In 2012, I wrote a blog post dealing with leadership and courage that I believe is still relevant. The need for courage remains. That need exists whether we consider ourselves leaders, followers or somewhere in between.

As citizens and leaders, courage requires us to:

  • Listen without preconceived notions.
  • Ask questions, even uncomfortable ones as we gather all relevant information. 
  • Consider every possibility, even the possibility that a particular candidate or position is wrong.
  • Go below the surface to find the best in people and to discover the flaws.
  • Focus on values and personal mission.What is important? What can we do to leave the world a better place? What situations are contrary to personal beliefs and values? Is it possible to reconcile those?
  • Clearly state intentions and beliefs.
  • Demand accountability.
  • Err on the side of caution…and on the side of justice.
  • Take a stand and where necessary take action. 

I see too little of courage in the political and social arena, but when I see it, I am truly impressed. Thank you to Dana Schwartz and others who are taking a stand.

What action are you taking? How carefully do you weigh the facts? 


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