I have been saddened and angered by many of the events that have taken place in our world over the past year. Questionable deaths of black men at the hands of police, assaults on police doing their jobs, terrorist attacks at home and overseas, and much, much more.
What has upset me most, however, has been the continued propagation — some could reasonably call it a resurgence — of ‘rape culture’ in our society. The case of Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer who raped an intoxicated, unconscious woman behind a dumpster was the epitome of this trend. The blaming of the victim, the laudatory comments about the quality of Turner’s life and the pain that he would face as a convicted sex offender, all of which were allowed to overpower the brutality and severity of his unapologetic actions. Even after the powerful, painful, and horrific statement from the victim—read directly to Turner in the courtroom—the judge saw fit only to place Turner in jail for six months, a sentence since completed after three months, due to his “good behavior.”
And now, as if to close the circle on this horrible year, we have the words of Donald Trump, discussing a woman as if she is game to be hunted and pounced upon. Trump has said many outrageous and offensive things, but his words about being a star, that he could do anything to a woman and get away with it, sickened me like no other thing he has said.
The line from Turner to Trump could not be more straight or true. Trump continually dismisses his language as “locker room talk,” as if it is ok to speak this way in some narrow context. But this type of conversation should not ever take place, not in a locker room, a boardroom, a home, or before the taping of a TV show. It belongs nowhere.
And to the man who wants to lead our country, the man who says, “this is not who I am,” I say it is exactly who you are, more than any words you have aired in public. It is at the very core of the narcissistic soul that inhabits you.
I watched as Donald Trump chewed through his Republican peers with hatred, ridicule and preposterous nostrums of nothingness, all designed to work people into a frenzy. I feared that Trump would ultimately succeed, despite the feelings of many friends, who felt that common sense would win out over the demagogue.
I watched as Trump tried to moderate his position after the convention, the chameleon who is more a politician than those he defeated on the road to the election. Again, I feared that Trump would succeed. My only hope was that people would see through his bluster and understand that, apart from a fluffy slogan, he had no real plan for improving the ills of our nation beyond spreading divisiveness.
I watched, and said nothing, because I felt that the overarching decency of the people of this country would recognize that Trump would not be a true leader; that he would be a man of and for a country of one: himself.
Now, today, I say to all who can hear: “Stop!” I say it loudly, forcefully, and with all the breath that my lungs can produce. Stop the hatred. Stop the injustices that cloud our abilities to see the greatness in all of us. And stop believing that women are objects to be put on a shelf and taken down as subjects of sexual conquest.
We need to be better than this as a country. And we need to start dismantling the world of the ‘good old boys’ that permeates our society.
A few weeks ago, I was stopped at night by a policeman who saw me driving erratically. After a minute of conversation, he let me go, even though, given my driving, he probably should have asked me to at least walk a line, or take a breathalyzer. I’m sure that if I had been a black man, a scruffy twenty-something, or someone with a “foreign” look, he would have run through the checklist of things policemen do at such a stop. But I got to drive on.
This incident bothered me for days. Maybe my explanation was satisfactory, or maybe there were more important things to deal with on a Saturday night. But I also know that part of the reason I got a pass was because of who I was, a mid-fifties, middle-class white man. I could easily have been seen as part of that club that is the engine of our world.
Donald Trump wants to strengthen this world that keeps me privileged, but I say that it is time to tear that world down, down to the bare earth, and rebuild it with decency, equality, understanding, love and courage.
America does need help. It always has. But unlike Donald Trump, what we need to do to make this country great again is return to the ideals and values that we’ve honed over nearly 250 years of discourse, contention, competition and political evolution.
Yes, I am angry, and I am sad. I am angry at the refusal of Congress to even debate the nomination of a justice for the Supreme Court. I cry over the killings of innocent people in the name of fanaticism. I hang my head in dismay over the hatred aimed at people because they have the temerity to believe something different. And, most of all, I seethe over the care taken with a rapist over that of his victim and the callous descriptions of assault dismissed as mere chatter. All of these things make me want to disappear from this world, but I cannot in good conscience do so. I must sit back, breathe deeply, and work for a world greater than the bigots and the demagogues and the men whose power makes them believe that they can treat a woman as a piece of meat, laugh about their desires and then dismiss it as mere talk. These people need to go; it is time we all said, “Stop!”