Opinion by Gretchen Whitmer
When I addressed the people of Michigan on Thursday to comment on the unprecedented terrorism, conspiracy and weapons charges against 13 men, some of whom were preparing to kidnap and possibly kill me, I said, “Hatred, bigotry and violence have no place in the great state of Michigan.” I meant it. But just moments later, President Trump’s campaign adviser, Jason Miller, appeared on national television accusing me of fostering hatred.
I’m not going to waste my time arguing with the president. But I will always hold him accountable. Because when our leaders speak, their words carry weight.
When our leaders encourage domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions. When they stoke and contribute to hate speech, they are complicit. And when a sitting president stands on a national stage refusing to condemn white supremacists and hate groups, as President Trump did when he told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during the first presidential debate, he is complicit. Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry. As a call to action.
2020 should be the year for national unity. In the midst of the worst public health crisis we have seen in our lifetimes, we should all come together as Americans to fight covid-19 and protect each other.
But this country is more divided than ever. And instead of uniting the country, our president has spent the past seven months denying science, ignoring his own health experts, stoking distrust, and fomenting anger and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division. He has proved time and again that he is more focused on his chances in the upcoming election and picking fights with me and Democrats across the country than he is on protecting our families, front-line workers and small businesses from covid-19.
As a result, at least 212,000 Americans are dead. More than 60 million have filed for unemployment. And still, the president has not developed a national strategy on testing, protective medical equipment or masks.
This year has been hard for all of us. It’s been hard for our doctors and nurses, for truck drivers and grocery store workers, for teachers and students and parents, and for those who have had to stay isolated to stay safe. And it is not over yet.
I’ve said it many times — we are not one another’s enemy. This virus is our enemy. And this enemy is relentless. It does not care if you are a Republican or a Democrat, young or old, rich or poor. It does not care if we are tired of it.
It threatens us all — our lives, our families, our jobs, our businesses and our economy. It preys on our elderly and medically vulnerable residents, and it has exposed deep inequities in our society.
For the past seven months, I have made the tough choices to keep our state safe. These have been gut-wrenching decisions no governor has ever had to make.
When I get out of bed every morning, I think about the high school seniors, such as my daughter, who missed graduation ceremonies. I think about those who have missed weddings and funerals. I think about all the parents who are working from home, making breakfast every day, logging kids into their Zoom classes and doing laundry. I think about the small-business owners who spent a lifetime building something great, who are now hanging on by their fingernails just to keep the lights on.
And I think about the 212,000 Americans who have died as a result of this virus. Deaths that could have been avoided, had the president treated covid-19 like the crisis he has known it to be from the beginning.
The disruption this virus has caused to our daily lives is immeasurable. But our hard work and sacrifices have saved thousands of lives. Michigan has one of the strongest economic recoveries in the nation.
There will be more hard days ahead. But we must all show a little kindness and a lot more empathy. Give one another some grace. And let’s take care of each other.
Wear your mask. Stay six feet apart. Wash your hands frequently. And look out for your neighbors.
We will get through this together.