While there is certainly a connection between a person and his or her speech, and while individuals must be held accountable for their actions, we must learn to separate the person from the idea.

When we respond with personal attacks, we accomplish little, even if those attacks appear to be true.

We can hate a person’s speech even while loving the person.

But while Trump may be guilty of personalizing politics, he has successfully baited the progressive movement into doing the same.

These character attacks fall into a broader pattern of responses by the progressive movement over the past four years: virtually all progressive answers to Trump have become entrapped in a paradigm of negation.

Most of all, these observations also apply to responses to hateful language: not only must we denounce such language, but we must actively defeat hate with love.

Oftentimes, progressives have deceived themselves that their advocacy has been grounded on love and inclusion.

The progressive echo-chamber of love and conformity is reinforced by social media, where one misstep can lead to vehement, widespread shaming.

When we degenerate into shaming, we violate another person’s rights to dignity and respect, fundamentally undercutting our moral cause — for we cannot defend the existence of some people by denying the existence of others.

In fact, the dehumanizing nature of shaming probably helps to explain why cancel culture itself has become such a polarizing force in our society.

For hateful groups, this perceived suppression tends to reinforce their conspiracy theories, confirming to them that powerful forces in society have aligned to block free participation in our social discourse.

To create more just systems, we fight against problems, not against people. We fight for ideas.

In contrast to these feeble approaches, moral ideas — which are inherently true ideas, transcending all individualities and identities — provide the most powerful weapon in the world.

Works Cited:

  1. King, Jr., Martin Luther and James M. Washington. 1986. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. New York: HarperCollins.
  2. Goodreads. n.d. “Mahatma Gandhi Quotes.” Accessed September 1, 2020. https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/5810891.Mahatma_Gandhi?page=1.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Josh Greenberg

Josh Greenberg


Human, activist, scholar. Physician-Economist-in-training @UMich. CEO @proghealth. @FulbrightPrgrm Awardee. I work on anything that matters, locally & globally.