Our State of the Union: We Refuse to Sink to His Level

Trump Lies

If ever there were a president who deserves to hear “You lie!” in the middle of his State of the Union address, it’s this one. 

Donald Trump is setting records — big, huge records — for lying. The New York Times twice catalogued the incessant pace with which Trump says provably false things. On topics both large (no contact with Russia) and small (inauguration crowd size), Trump lets the fibs fly with abandon.

The Times’ list was emblazoned under the headline “Trump’s Lies” — then, “UPDATED December 14, 2017.” The list was first printed in June. Here’s the editor’s note added later: “Updated: The president is still lying, so we've added to this list.” It’s already been a while, so we’re guessing there’s a few pages more worth of lies to record.

Despite how satisfying it might feel in the moment, we’re not calling for any lawmaker to blurt what we’re all thinking — “You lie!” — in the middle of the State of the Union (as Republican congressman Joe Wilson so infamously yelled at President Obama nine years ago). The address is supposed to be a time for the country to come together, united by the usually soaring rhetoric and shared plans for our future. Normally, there are moments when Democrats stand and cheer, then Republicans (depending on who's in power). It’s all in a good spirit of politics, nothing serious. Normally, we don’t dread what might slip out of the president’s mouth if something distracts him from the teleprompter.

No matter what happens tonight, progressives should continue our struggle. For the last year we’ve tried to keep our resistance above Trump’s level. No one wants to wake up the day after the State of the Union and regret what happened the night before, or become the source of division that Trump feeds off. Well-minded people are organizing a State of the Dream response on social media to provide that hopeful moment we’re all so badly in need of these days. 

Don’t expect it from the podium.

Still, even if we sit on our hands or skip the event altogether or join a competing event, let’s recognize that the night should go smoothly. Because we should also recognize it was the first black president who was actually heckled as he addressed the nation. 

Maybe that was a moment when we should’ve known our cultural norms and everyday niceties were starting to break down. There was something in the water. Things seemed off, or should have. Now we’re staring into our televisions at a man we cannot recognize as representing America. And', largely, we’re doing something about it without turning into him.

LUCAS GRINDLEY is editor in chief of The Advocate. Follow him on Twitter @lucasgrindley. Illustration by Tevy Khou.

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