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Does Trump’s Rhetoric make the Atmosphere Toxic?

November 12, 2018 am30 9:47 am

I apologize in advance for asking such an obvious question; my union’s leaders seem to be getting it wrong.

Last Monday, the day before the midterms, they introduced a “Resolution to Unite with Organizations against the Toxic Political Atmosphere.” at the United Federation of Teachers Executive Board. (I’ve pasted it at the bottom of this post.)

Good and fine, except what they left out – nothing about the hate-mongering coming from the White House. You might think, “minor omission” – except they have a history. They have a history of being afraid of naming Trump.

Right after 2016 election (see the parallel?) they amended a resolution. See if you can guess where Trump’s name had been removed:

WHEREAS, the presidential election targeted communities on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion, and displayed abusive behavior toward women, has threatened the nation’s promise that all people are worthy of respect; and

WHEREAS, the presidential election has outlined an education agenda overtly hostile to public schools and teachers, promising to prioritize vouchers and charter schools at the expense of public schools ; and

(full narrative here)

They are afraid of naming Trump? Maybe not. Maybe November 2016 they were in a strange panic (many people were). So I raise my hand, and offered to insert the phrase “the provocative rhetoric of President Trump.” We all agree, vote, and go home, right? Not so fast.

The UFT leadership would ultimately vote, in unison, against naming Trump. But they needed to speak against. Normally one of them would rise to explain why they thought this language was a bad idea. But this time? No. They cued a speaker, not an officer, to go up. I was stunned by his words, and did not take notes. But someone did.

“Not the first time these things have happened” – 11 people killed in a synagogue in the United States? Yes, yes it is the first time.
“We don’t want to give him attention” – WTF? He’s got all the attention. He needs to stand accused of fomenting these attacks.
“Happened before and after Trump” – racist hate crimes are on the rise. Willfully ignoring this is offensive.
“People have spread this talk before” – but not from the White House? That makes a difference. A big difference.

And then they voted, and every officer, members of Unity Caucus all, voted not to mention Trump’s hateful rhetoric. This was a party-line vote, even if one or two broke ranks, and a few more party members remained silent in deep embarrassment

Trump’s incendiary attacks on rivals have created fertile ground for those inclined toward extremism. Why are United Federation of Teachers’ leaders afraid of stating this obvious truth? And they needed to use an intermediary? Why are they afraid of speaking themselves about Trump?

Resolution to Unite with Organizations against the Toxic Political Atmosphere

WHEREAS, three acts of hate-filled violence erupted in the United States in October 2018; and

WHEREAS, mail bombs were sent to more than a dozen public figures critical of President Trump; and

WHEREAS, a man with a history of violence murdered two African-Americans at a Kentucky supermarket following a failed attempt to forcibly enter a black church; and

WHEREAS, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, the UFT stands with organizations from across the political, religious and social spectrum – from the AFT, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Archdiocese of New York, to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Black Lives Matter – in repudiating the rhetoric of hate. The UFT stands with organizations speaking against the toxic political atmosphere that helped give rise to these abhorrent acts.  We extend our deepest sympathy to the families who suffered catastrophic loss in these dire events.

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