Do better; everyone is watching.
I say this with the utmost care to a vast majority of leftists I see engaging in online spaces, even ones I’m friends with personally: stop being so awful for a few minutes. I’m not talking about your politics here. I’m also not talking about being “polite” to fascists, cleaning up your cuss words, leaving toxic people in your life, or pretending to respect people like Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell or whomever. I’m talking about what you choose to criticize.
Your enemies aren’t the only ones who hear you when you talk (in fact, more often than not, your enemies don’t hear you at all) – your allies do, too. When you criticize a right-winger online for his poor grammar instead of the fact that he just advocated for the death of Black prisoners? Your ESL and dyslexic allies hear you. When you criticize Melania Trump for being a gold-digger or having lewd photos that exist of herself or having “way less class than Jackie Kennedy”? Your sex-worker and sex-positive allies hear you. When you criticize Donald Trump for wearing diapers or shaking when he drinks his water? Your disabled allies hear you. When you mock contemporary politicians for dressing “worse than” old politicians, for being “ugly” or overweight? Your fat and body-positive allies hear you. When you equate fascist beliefs and willful ignorance to a lack of education, or worse, mental instability? Your allies who could only afford a GED and your mentally ill allies hear you.
You are seen when you laugh and what you laugh at means something. Your allies hear you, and what we hear we understand to mean that these qualities – you find them detestable. They make the people you don’t like even worse, and that means that the only reason you tolerate those qualities in us is because you do like us. The modern political left is supposed to stand for progress and equality. What do those words even mean if we aren’t fighting for them for everyone? You can’t claim that you support human rights for all and then turn around and imply that any of these things you ridicule in your opponents makes them less human, less moral. You can’t advocate for your allies in one breath and mock them in the next. Besides, there is so much else to criticize about our political opponents – so much that is wrong with their ideology itself, so much that is truly morally detestable. Why do any of us lose ourselves in pointing out the things that don’t matter and the things that, often, catch the people we’re supposed to be fighting for on the backswing? Donald Trump is not a horrible man because he’s orange – he’s a horrible man because he lies and believes some people inherently deserve to die. The conservative movement is not horrible because it’s undereducated – it’s a horrible movement because it’s rooted in prejudiced ideology.
Should we be fighting for better education, mental health support, disability assistance, all that? Of course. But you’re doing the exact opposite when you add the lack of those things to the “bad” column for people you already can’t stand. Please, do better. Our movement will be so much bigger if we can make real intersectionality the bedrock.