Don't Call Trump Stupid
As a progressive democrat, I have a message for my colleagues, “We need to stop calling Donald Trump stupid.”
Donald Trump is not stupid. And neither are his supporters.
Yes, I oppose most everything our hot-headed president has said. I despise his anti-immigrant, Islamaphobic, and misogynistic executive orders. And I am regularly angered by his self-congratulatory bravado and self-centered perspective on leadership, democracy, and governing. But calling him stupid not only misses the point, it gives him strength.
And that’s ironic. Because no one I have met – strike that, no grown adult I have met – has called more people and things stupid than has our reality-TV-star-turned-President.
The Donald is undeniably a master stupid-caller. He did so consistently throughout his presidential campaign. He used the label to discredit his political adversaries. He trashed journalists regularly as stupid. He even attacked a Twitter user named @TheSportsSwede, who has a paltry 117 followers. It was on April 25, 2013 when @TheSportsSwede’s tweeted against Donald’s real estate professed prowess, and @TheRealDonaldTrump responded, “@TheSportsSwede You are so stupid!”
A website archiving all of Donald Trump’s tweets calculated that he “stupid-tweeted” 183 times since October 7, 2011. That’s a whole lot of stupid. It’s over 30 stupids per year for the past 6 years, not to mention his oral stupids.
In fact, calling people stupid is probably Donald Trump’s crowning example of staying on message. And I suspect he’ll continue to use this art form for as long as his mouth works and his fingers – or even just his middle ones -- can gesticulate.
But stupid-speak does not stupid make. In fact, his stupid strategy can be called insightful, crafty, and productive. His bullying paid off. He has earned the title America’s stupid-caller-in-chief. Stupid people can’t do that.
But what’s impeccably good for the goose is not necessarily good for those of us who would love a gander at his impeachment.
And the principal difference between him calling us stupid and us returning the favor is that he is in power. One can’t stupid-depose a bully. You need to outvote, out-organize, or outwit the bully and his pulpit.
Also, calling The Donald “stupid,” gives him an out. It absolves him of having to be moral, because after all, if he were just too stupid to do the right thing, then why should we be surprised when he doesn’t? No, the fact of the matter is that Donald-despisers have different values.
By the same token, we shouldn’t stupid-call Trump supporters. Doing so kills conversation. It eliminates the need to understand their motives and perspectives, because what smart person would analyze a stupid person’s thinking?
Speaking from experience, no single political party or their voters has a lock on stupid. If we really believe in democracy, or just want to get stuff done, we need to work with others. That requires understanding…if for no other reason than to undermine their arguments. But hopefully, we will common ground, or at least understand our differing values.
This stupid restraint applies in most circumstances. Like when people call their boss, client, relatives, friends, frenemies, or competitors stupid, or even the driver on the road who just cut us off and nearly caused a huge accident. That move was dangerous, risky, selfish, and irresponsible. And you can pass laws against that. But you can’t pass laws against stupid.
Even thinking someone else is stupid, limits us. Because we’re giving up trying to understand. We’re admitting defeat – that we can’t figure out why someone would act, think, or behave in a certain way – and we are ceding rational thought.
So forget stupid. Instead, we should use more precise language, and we’ll end up learning more.
Using descriptors such as incompetent, lazy, uninformed, lacking critical thinking skills, inept, or being anti-strategic, mean-spirited, xenophobic, greedy, bigoted, insecure, and having different objectives than anything I would consider being close to humane – ahem – such a vocabulary could help us begin to pinpoint problems, and then strategize on how to address corresponding malignant behaviors.
But sloppily calling Trump stupid, or anyone else for that matter, stops us in our tracks. While it may be good for a chuckle, calling or even thinking someone else stupid is virtually guaranteed to give them the last laugh.
Seven Process Traps: Creating mission and vision statements
They’re a compass. They’re a rallying cry. They’re a roadmap. Pick your own metaphor: vision and mission statements provide organizations with inspiration for everything they do.
Importantly, the way an organization creates vision and mission statements will impact their success. Smart organizations don’t just whip them together out of buzzwords and air; they avoid these seven traps that many companies, nonprofits, and government agencies often fall into while creating vision statements and mission statements:
1. They forgot to ask why.
Everyone knows why you need a vision and mission statement, right? Well…not exactly. Many people don’t even consider it. Worse, some don’t prioritize them or outright don’t bother. Hey, they might be right, but it’s vital that every team member is on the same page about this. If they’re not on board, you’ll hear whining, dragging of heels, and potential sabotage throughout the process. There’s always the possibility that it’s not your organization’s most pressing need, but once you have full team support for the value of this exercise, you’ll find powerful results.
2. Wait, which is which?
Many people are unfamiliar with the distinction between a vision statement and a mission statement, and the confusion can cause problems. Without clear definitions, you’re apt to write in circles, jargon, or clichés. Define your terms upfront, including Purpose, Values, Strategies, Core Competencies, Goals, and BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), then choose the scope of your work strategically.
3. Top-down approach.
Whether your company has a cult of personality, a big-ego executive or a well-meaning time-saver, a single leader penning your guiding philosophy will come up short. Without staff and stakeholder input, you would miss out on a diversity of voices at best. In most circumstances you’d waste precious time. At worst, you would alienate your staff. Assume that every team member has meaningful input – you did hire them to contribute, right? Recognize that your mission will be most successful when the whole team is behind it.
4. Make it up on the spot.
Don’t wing it. Do your homework. Done right, your vision and mission statements reflect your company’s conceivable future. Understand your organization’s financial reality and prospects, see what competitors and similar organizations are doing, understand customer and societal needs, and honestly evaluate what your organization is currently doing. Turn your stakeholders into your research machine, thereby engaging them and building buy-in throughout the process.
5. Lead it yourself.
Many leaders forget about their own power and decide to facilitate the mission / vision process. Employees are usually hesitant to speak completely freely if their job security is on the line, especially in a group setting where politics bring out the worst in people. Find someone diplomatic within your organization who can speak plainly to the CEO. Alternately, hire an outside facilitator who will help the executives participate in the background while empowering staff and board members to engage in a safer space.
6. *Umclar Fabilizimzim.
You don’t want a facilitator who speaks with a mouthful of peanut-butter, literally or metaphorically. *Unclear facilitation, which lacks a transparent process and timeline, will hinder progress and foster distrust. Ensure the group understands why they’re creating vision and mission statements, the differences between the two, and how they’ll be implemented.
7. Outsource thinking.
Surrounding yourself with experts is a sign of leadership, but abdicating responsibility and involvement leads to failed follow-through. Have enough at stake for yourself, your board and your staff to ensure that every member of your team will be proud and motivated to follow through on the final product.