Great post by Tom Perriello’s former Chief of Staff, Brennan Gilmore, that I thought was well worth sharing here (bolding added by me for emphasis):
For more than a year, the NFL protests have prompted important conversation and necessary controversy. But the protests took a startlingly darker turn last Friday when President Trump made a cynical, manipulative and calculated decision to use the issue to create further division in our country. In doing so, he distracted us from the pleas for racial justice and ignored that Kaepernick’s kneeling was itself a compromise in deference to the wishes of veterans who didn’t want to see him sit down during the anthem. Rather than build on this spirit of compromise like a leader with integrity and a desire to see his country prosper, Trump jumped at the chance to push people further into opposing camps.
There was a Gold Star mother who left the CNN studio crying, saying no one should tell her what to feel. I can’t begin to imagine her pain, and she’s right. There are many like her who want to see the flag honored and don’t know what to do about it. There are also many black mothers with the same unique pain known only by those who lose their children, who are fed up, hopeless and don’t know what to do but support protests in order to seek change in policing.
A true leader, even half a leader, would look at these two mothers, embrace their pain as his own, and find a path forward. Trump is no leader. He looks at these same two mothers and sees an opportunity to turn them against each other so he can politically profit and feel the roar of an increasingly fearsome crowd that he has poisoned with intoxicating tribalism.
In my comments I noted that to my grandfather and me, patriotism wasn’t just about the flag or anthem, but the deeper truths enshrined in our Constitution. It is to that Constitution that we swore an oath, to protect it against enemies foreign and domestic. And I can think of no greater enemy, foreign or domestic, to the ideals of our constitution than our sitting President. He has shown nothing but reckless abandon for our values, our unity, our progress, even our lives. The division he is seeding will tear us apart if left unchecked.
And this is not about politics. It’s greater than that. I sat next to a wounded warrior last night who is helping to run a Republican governor race. I helped run a Democratic one. We had a great conversation about politics but lamented the seeming inability to extricate ourselves from false binaries and zero sum games. There’s only one zero sum game and it’s this: if we are divided we fall.
There is no reason we have to. There is nothing in the problems we face that prevents them from being solved. Through better legislation, training, education, policies and social programs we can confront the challenges of racial injustice. Through mature, respectful dialogue we can find compromises that allow us to preserve sacred time-honored patriotic traditions even in the midst of protest. This is America, we can do anything.
But to do this we have to recognize the forces trying to prevent unity, moderation, progress and compromise. We have to acknowledge the nefarious role of Russia in manipulating public opinion in efforts to divide and weaken us. And we have to recognize with clear eyes that the current President does not want us to find these compromises, because a unified America is a threat to him.
Woken up to this, we have to recommit to standing up as citizens where our leaders have fallen. We have to resist our President as he employs divisive tactics to selfish ends. He has to come to see these avenues as dead ends.
As individuals we have to choose to make America work together again, fueled by compassion and our common humanity.