Don’t fight back—that’s what bullying experts advocate. But that’s exactly what Senator Marco Rubio did. He turned his wrath on Trump and began to gleefully imitate Trump’s below-the-belt style of personal attack. His jabs threw Trump off-kilter, if only momentarily.
The back-and-forth was unpresidential. It’s more than just a retaliation against political correctness. There’s a pathology to Trump-style insults. They’re a cancer. I don’t want my children to think any of it is okay.
I’ve heard this sentiment recently from other parents at the school pick-up line, in off-handed remarks from television commentators, on Twitter and Facebook, and even from the former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
But I wonder, what does all this bad behavior say about taking the high road?
The school nurse phoned me one day shortly after lunch to tell me my daughter was complaining about a stomachache. I asked to speak to her, and I could sense in her voice something was off. She sounded upset. She never misses school and is hardly ever sick, so my husband went to pick her up.
My husband talked to her initially, and eventually she told him about the insult. “It was the worst day in my entire life,” she confessed.
First-grade drama can be rough because it’s so new and kids are still developing socially and emotionally and trying to figure out where they land in the pecking order. They’ve started to use what they have and don’t have—FurReal Friends, Minecraft, braces, and casts—as social currency.
My daughter is generally a happy kid, always skipping, drawing pictures for friends and teachers and giving them tight squeezes at the end of every school day. I don’t want her steamrolled, but I don’t want her to change, either. Standing up for herself isn’t a lesson I can teach her in one afternoon. It’s a moving target. Later, we talked, and I reminded her, “Not everyone is like you. But that doesn’t mean you should stop being you.” By that I meant, “keep being the good guy.”
Like a lot of Americans, I have this idea lodged deep in my psyche that the good guy always wins. Good triumphs over evil. The hero puts the villain in his or her place, eventually. I’ll take a villain only if that villain shows us a shred of humanity, like the terrible but lovable Gru from Despicable Me.
I want to believe that if people do things with integrity, if they place the greater good ahead of individual ego, there will be a reward at the end of it all. “You’re not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency,” Jeb Bush told Trump during a debate in December.
But as it turns out, that’s exactly what Trump is doing.
I asked Coloroso whether it’s ever okay to fight back.
“I don’t advocate it,” she said. “Aggression begets aggression. Passivity invites it, but assertion will dissipate it.”
I actually felt emotionally hungover after watching the Super Tuesday coverage, so I was glad when my daughter insisted we watch A Year in Space the next evening, a documentary about astronaut Scott Kelly’s 12-month mission on the International Space Station.