This is not a distraction.

Whether we can model equal opportunity and respect for one another is not a “distraction” to this presidential campaign.

I read the transcript of Mr. Trump’s comments regarding his “power” over women. I haven’t, and won’t watch the video because it is simply too much. Too much that someone who is running for President of our beloved country is heard speaking that way. His words and actions are a direct assault on women. Mr. Trump wants all of us to believe that this issue, highlighted by this newest video, is a distraction from the “core policy issues.” I disagree. Whether you as a leader can model equal opportunity and respect for all of your constituents is ‘THE’ issue in a government run BY the people and FOR the people. Let’s not let anyone tell us otherwise.

I’ve never met Mr. Trump, but I have known for a while that I don’t want to. For me, it’s not about his politics. I have loved and revered many American presidents whose political beliefs ultimately didn’t align with my own. But I’ve never felt the type of direct assault that I feel from Mr. Trump. Ultimately, I don’t feel respected, in fact I feel outright disrespected. And frankly, I just don’t need that in my life as a woman, but more importantly as an American.

I don’t have daughters — so I can’t use the line that is being used by so many to condemn what Mr. Trump has said. But you don’t need daughters to act or feel harmed. I am a woman and have three sons. And maybe what’s even more important is that I am an American. No matter my gender, my children’s gender or whether I have children at all — the fact that I am an American makes me want to stand up and say that these statements, these attitudes, this behavior is not ok with me. And my vote, my beliefs, and my needs matter — this is America after all.

I am thankful for the rights that women have in America today. Strong, dedicated and powerful women have had to fight hard to achieve the level of opportunity that we have today. We are still not where I want us to be but we are a lot better off than Mr. Trump gives us credit for by his attitudes, statements and actions. The fact that we have a man running for our highest public office able to flaunt the attitudes that he does about women makes me realize that the road ahead could be scary and dangerous.

My oldest son recently asked me why we highlight it when a business is owned by a woman — why do we make it a “thing?” He was confused because he watches me work and raise him and his brothers and sees me as equal to men. It startled me when he asked and it took me a few seconds to remind myself that this is a good thing. I want my boys to think about me and other women like this — but I also want them to realize that real equality and respect hasn’t been achieved and that they have a part in moving us forward. And, the equality and respect we all deserve as Americans goes beyond gender or race or religion. But alas, Mr. Trump’s awful and painful statements have value — I need only to point to those to show my boys the work we collectively have ahead of us.

So here is what I want to say:

Mr. Trump — you can do what you want with your own reputation but please do not further damage the reputation of this country. Try to appreciate the harm that your attitudes, statements and behaviors have already caused. Consider how important this issue is — it isn’t a distraction it is one of the fundamental issues facing the world and our country today. Can you model opportunity and respect for everyone? If you can’t do that and can’t consider the importance of that then you not only don’t deserve my vote — you don’t deserve my time, my attention or my respect. And you don’t deserve to be President of this amazing country.

As an American I am embarrassed. As a woman I am saddened and offended. As a mother I am activated to teach my boys why your actions are wrong.

And, one more thing, the reactions to your statements over the last several days have shown me that America has it right, and while it isn’t perfect, it is already great.

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