As a United States citizen who fled the country for Canada after the 2004 presidential election, this writer looks with awe and horror at what is happening there now. He watched as the Democratic Party leaders arrogantly proclaimed their lack of interest in the will of the people, and anointed Hillary Clinton as their candidate for president, a highly flawed choice, one dragging tons of baggage from her long political career, who is disliked by large swaths of the public.
The Republicans, never a party to stray too far from the 1%, selected Donald Trump, an obnoxious billionaire businessman with no government experience, one whose record of so-called family values that the Party once held dear, is more than a bit shoddy. He, too, had a very low approval rating among voters, but it must have been somewhat higher that Secretary Clinton’s, since he was, sort of, victorious. Although he lost the popular vote, he won enough electoral college votes to be elected, and will assume office in January.
Weeks before the election, a taped conversation that Mr. Trump had with a television host by the name of Billy Bush, was made public. The now-President-elect discussed women somewhat extensively during this chat, and his words were shocking and crude, even for him.
Let’s look at a few of his statements.
- Regarding groping women: “when you’re a star, they let you do it,”
- Regarding an unnamed woman: “I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it, I did try and f— her. She was married. I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”
- In reference to actress Arianne Zucker, who was there to escort Mr. Trump and Mr. Bush onto the set. “I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” “And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”
- “Grab them by the p—y,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”
The backlash to this was swift, with several prominent Republicans condemning such statements, and withdrawing their endorsement of Mr. Trump. His spokeswoman, however, dismissed the controversy. Said she: “This was locker-room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago”.
Other defenders of Mr. Trump have echoed the same sentiment. Retired surgeon, former candidate wannabe and darling of the Christian right, Ben Carson, in a CNN interview with Brianna Keilar, defended Mr. Trump’s comments as ‘normal banter between men’. This has been repeated, in one form or another, by his adoring, sexist fans, both men and women, in a variety of interviews.
This writer begs to differ. This is not ‘normal banter between men’. It is sexist in the extreme. Decent white men, in private, wouldn’t refer to Blacks using the ‘n’ word; nor would they make comical references to slavery, or the current trend of white police officers shooting unarmed Black men. Honorable straight men wouldn’t joke about the Matthew Shepard murder; respectable Christian men wouldn’t use derogatory terms to describe Muslims. And principled men wouldn’t speak in such a way about women
But Mr. Trump isn’t decent, honorable, respectable or principled; he is the antithesis of these virtues, as he has repeatedly demonstrated.
So why does he get a free pass for his comments about women?
This says as much about half of the U.S. voting public as it does about Mr. Trump himself. Granted, many people who voted for him would do anything to keep Mrs. Clinton out of the White House, but choosing one awful candidate to prevent the election of one equally as awful has just gotten the U.S., and the world, in the mess it is now in. But there are some things that decent people simply can’t overlook, and Mr. Trump’s dismaying comments about women fall into that category.
Perhaps, although how escapes the comprehension of this writer, some people can overlook those comments. One supposes that if that is the case, one can also ignore his comments about Mexicans, including this gem: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
And, as long as one can ignore that, it’s not a stretch to say one could also ignore his statements that he would ‘absolutely’ require all Muslims to register in a national database.
It is more than troubling that enough people found those statements sufficiently easy to ignore that they were willing to cast their vote for Mr. Trump on election day.
Between November 9, the day after Mr. Trump’s election, and November 16, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported a total of 701 incidents of what it describes as “hateful harassment” against people of color, women, LGBT individuals, Muslims and other groups. Is this a coincidence? Shortly after the election, the KKK in North Carolina announced a parade in Mr. Trump’s honor. With that organization celebrating, the drastic increase in crimes against various minorities since the election cannot be seen as mere coincidence. His supporters have achieved what they wanted: a racist, sexist, Islamophobic, homophobic candidate elected president of the United States.
What is to be done? With a compliant Congress that will provide no check on his worst impulses at home or abroad, and a government non-responsive to the will of the people, the options for those of us who do not share Mr. Trump’s narrow, twisted views are limited. But there are a few:
- Defend victims. In whatever situation we see them, those who are being harassed due to their sex, nationality, religion or sexual orientation should have defenders outnumbering harassers. Whether in a restaurant, store, walking down a street or anywhere else, we need to speak up for those who, as of November 8, became far more vulnerable.
- Put down hate speech. When among any acquaintances, if people demean women, gays, or any other minority, they need to know that we will not tolerate such conversation. We will not listen to ‘locker room talk’, as defined by Mr. Trump’s supporters, or any demeaning conversation about anyone.
- Contact Congress. This isn’t a one-time event. When any policy is introduced that would marginalize any group, such as the shocking, hateful idea of registering all Muslims, our elected so-called representatives must hear from us immediately, and in the strongest terms. As mentioned previously, the U.S. government isn’t responsive to the wishes of the citizenry, but if Congress members think some policy they support will cost them a significant number of votes in the next election, they will change. This, of course, is not due to integrity, but to the Congressional need for self-preservation.
The United States and the world are in for a difficult several years. Even if Mr. Trump leaves office in four years, significant damage will already have been done; the era of the 1950s, when a woman’s place was in the home, Blacks were still in the back of the bus, and being publicly gay was a death sentence, will have returned. And there is little hope that a Democratic president will do much to resolve these issues, partly because these attitudes will quickly become well-entrenched, and partly because no known Democrat has an ounce of integrity anyway.
But in our own spheres, we can, and must, make a difference.