When they go low, we go high…or do we?

When they go low, we go high.

~ Michelle Obama, Democratic National Convention

Elizabeth Warren and MoveOn Went “Low”

This week I received the email pictured above from Moveon.org. I consider myself a supporter of their work moveon dot organd have contributed to them in the past.  I was triggered by the title they choose for this email. To me, it reflects the drastic lowering of the bar in our national dialogue. I so much long for respectful speech from all our public figures.  When I received the mail, I was tempted to unsubscribe — I have been unsubscribing to many things lately as I want to maintain “space” for work and family — instead I decided to open a dialogue.

My Letter


I’m a supporter of MoveOn, and I want to give you some feedback on the title of this email.
First, I want to share my appreciation for the work you have done.  I have especially enjoyed Robert Reich’s videos and emails as they have elucidated a number of important issues for me.  I appreciate that you are doing your best to attract attention to your important work in a digital landscape that is flooded with content.  I imagine that you spend a great deal of energy finding email titles that will cut through the cyber “fog” surrounding us to get messages to your audience.
That said, the title of this email, “Defeat this pathetic coward”, triggered discomfort in me because I long for a world where people practice civility and respect for others.  With Mr. Trump stooping to such a low level so many times with his rhetoric of blame and name-calling, it is conceivable that those opposing him from the progressive side of the spectrum may lower their standards in responding to him.  His inimitable (I hope) approach seems to be, in part, a “fishing” expedition to tempt others to join him at the bottom of the well.  I fear that both you and Elizabeth Warren took Trump’s “bait” rather than maintaining the higher ground of which Michelle Obama so eloquently described as “when they go low, we go high” at the Democratic Convention.
Though I respect Elizabeth Warren for her unwavering support of middle-class Americans and her willingness to speak her truth, I disagree with the language she used her to characterize Trump.   I imagine that she is angry about the potential of his presidency and, likely, incensed by the language he’s used to characterize her.  Yet, in this case, she chose to “go low” to express her frustration about Trump.  By labeling Trump as she did, she dehumanizes him just as he has dehumanized her.  Rather than following Michelle Obama’s lead and raising the dialogue, she has chosen to stay in the “gutter” with Trump and, in this instance, Move-On decided to join her there.  I am displeased that Move-on made this choice and would enjoy hearing more about why you did so.
When I read the title, I was tempted to unsubscribe and, at the same time, I wanted to open a dialogue to better understand your perspective. My life work is about bridging differences and this email is the first few tentative slats of a bridge toward you.  I invite you to meet me in the middle.  Maybe there is something we both can learn in the process.  I’d enjoy hearing your reactions to my words and more about the reasons you chose this title (and included Warren’s use of the term in the email).
I look forward to your response.

Language is important.  Labels, whether positive or negative, separate us.  When we have the skills to share our feelings and needs instead of throwing labels at others, connection is possible.  Then every word can be a small step to a world where everyone Communicates with Heart!