I’ve been uncharacteristically wordless of late. I am taking a break from posting, instead working on a novel project, mostly plotting, stewing, and outlining. I have to confess an addiction has snuck into the empty space: I’ve become an avid consumer of satire. I don’t know how I would cope without the incisive wit of the likes of Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, Bill Maher, SNL. They can say it so much better than I; if irony were a superpower, they’d be the Avengers. And yet, as I feast at the trough of liberal outrage, I am deeply troubled by the chasm of mistrust, vitriol and judgment that so divides our experiences as Americans. We are countrymen and women, are we not? After November 8, we are all going to have to make our peace and move forward together.
It doesn’t feel very likely we will be able to pull that off right now, does it?
My grandmother died just weeks before the 2012 election at the age of 106. She was a staunch Republican, and I recall our conversation late that summer about Barack Obama, whom she disliked enormously. She was troubled that I planned to vote for him. She thought he was “the worst” she had ever seen. I pressed her: Really? Worse than Nixon? Worse than Bill Clinton, whom she also disdained? As I raised name after name, all the way back to Woodrow Wilson, a twinkle came into her eye.
“Politics has always been a dirty business,” she sighed. They are all liars and cheats, that’s what her 106 years had taught her.
There are the crooks you like, and crooks you don’t like, I guess. Let’s take this as our conceit: they’re all crooked. So do you want to vote for a crooked politician with a distinguished career in public service, or a crooked businessman with a history of bankruptcies and sexual assaults? Hmmmm….
I’d like to tell myself the anger and discontent will die down. Although it won’t be pretty, we can survive a Trump presidency, in much the same way as we survived McCarthyism and the Salem witch trials, but hey, we’re still here. We can do better than survive with a Clinton presidency, because whatever your complaint about her may be, surely you cannot charge that she is under-prepared, unintelligent, inexperienced, or batshit cray. Troglodyte Trump will trundle back to his gold-plated cave, dragging behind him a trail of slime and perhaps an unwilling beauty contestant (or two, or four – the number keeps going up). Back into his lair with him he’ll take Chris Christie, Rudy Guiliani, Steve Bannon, Roger Ailes and the rest of his collection of misfit misogynist toys. They are a nice bunch, aren’t they? An ex-wife once charged Steve Bannon with domestic abuse. Thrice-married Rudy Guiliani, lest we forget, cavorted with his mistress and used NYPD police details to keep their trysts under wraps. He announced his separation from his second wife at a press conference with her by his side before informing her—nice guy, right? Roger Ailes, as we know, was terminated by Fox News for sexual harassment of Gretchen Carlson, which one suspects is but the tip of that particular iceberg. Chris Christie seems comparatively restrained, reserving his bullying for the mayor of Fort Lee and his rush-hour constituents. It’s clear that Trump has built up a team of woman-hating Neanderthals for his campaign: like-minded thugs who see women as objects to be controlled, objectified, commoditized, and screwed. Imagine his cabinet. I shudder to think what kinds of legislation such a confederacy of chauvanists might concoct when it comes to women’s health and wellfare, no matter how hard Ivanka tries to convince Cosmo readers otherwise. If Trump somehow prevails and gains the White House, maybe some loaded Russian mobster wants to buy up all our properties and we’ll see how Canada deals with an influx of liberals across its Southern border. (Justin Trudeau, we love you.)
You know I cannot turn the other cheek on Pussygate. Viewing the Trump-Bush tape was, to use Paul Ryan’s word, “sickening.” If you are a girl or woman, it’s almost laughable how recognizable, how defining, that kind of experience is in your life. I get a kick out of the heartfelt expressions of male outrage at Trump’s felonious sleaze when this kind of behavior has been going on since before Homo Erectus discovered fire. For starters, Trump & Bush’s prurient ogling confirmed what every women has ever suspected about this sort of skeezy, objectifying guy: a gentleman to your face, perhaps, but behind your back, he’s assessing your body parts like a butcher presented with a fresh carcass. And how about that sniveling little weasel Billy Bush, pimping out Arianne Zucker for Trump’s amusement? Ewwwwww. Anyone who has been in her shoes—smile and look pretty for the boss, your ideas and skills are secondary—knows how humiliating it is. As for the “locker room talk,” it bears repeating that unsolicited sampling of lady parts is assault; that “even” kissing without consent is sexual aggression. Period.
It bears noting that such sexual predation is not the exclusive purview of any one political party or ideology, nor of the political sphere — the Hollywood “casting couch” comes to mind as another pernicious example. I know women doctors who were harrassed or assaulted during their residencies, likewise lawyers, business executives, teachers, the list goes on. And on.
Let’s consider the indignation of our more sensitive men this past week: From Jeb Bush to Mitch McConnell, it seems every Republican politician has a beloved, “precious” daughter, sister, wife—imagine that– whom they are genteelly dismayed to think may be getting her hoo-ha or boobies grabbed without her consent. As singer John Legend points out, “You don’t have to have daughters or granddaughters to find Trump’s comments repugnant. It’s an odd, unnecessary qualifier.” You just have to be a human being who values human dignity. Dudes: we don’t need your chivalry. We’ve been coping with this crap for millennia. What we need is for you to keep your freakin’ hands, tongues and other appendages to yourselves unless expressly invited to do otherwise. Oh, and equal pay for equal work would be good, too.
Shortly after the Pussygate tape broke last Saturday, Kelly Oxford, a writer and blogger with a large Twitter following posted this invitation:
Ok, I’ll play:
These are just the stories I could easily summarize in 140 characters. Can you guess how many replies/retweets Kelly Oxford received by Saturday, the next day? 9.7 million. It’s up to 30 million just six days later, both in reply to her original tweet, and to the resulting hash tag: #notokay. Stories of women who were assaulted by uncles, “family friends,” coaches, teachers, old men on buses, subway riders, clients, bosses, delivery men, store clerks, security guards, upperclassmen, the list goes on and on and on. The abuses chronicled in response to Oxford’s tweet begin when girls were as young as three or four. So while I believe that most men are good, kind, and horny-but-respectful, there are too damn many who are not, Donald Trump among them.
I heard a commentator on an NPR radio program Monday, an African-American man from Tennessee, describe the inflammatory insanity of this election, and in particular, the hate speech that Mr. Trump seems to delight in chumming to his supporters, as “the last gasps of the old confederacy.” I hope he was right. To that, I would add the hope we are also witnessing–are you listening, girls?–the death throes of the Patriarchy.
Mr. Trump’s campaign strategy is unabashedly sexist. Hillary Clinton doesn’t have the “stamina” to be president, he said over and over during the first debate. He may as well have said, “Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a penis.” (And if she did, it would presumably be smaller and more inclined to premature eruptions than his manly spadroon, those tiny hands notwithstanding.) Newly released Trump television spots picture Clinton stumbling when her pneumonia was at its peak, while a voiceover starkly suggests she lacks “fortitude, strength or stamina” to be president. (Again, with the stamina.) The ad might as well say (cue alarmist soundtrack): “Hillary Clinton doesn’t have the balls to be president.” Literally.
So, nothing against you guys. I have a fine, millennially feminist son, and a wonderful, respectful husband, both of whom I love dearly. I am the daughter of a father and the sister of two terrific brothers. I have several excellent nephews, and a male dog that is devoted to me. (Okay, so he’s neutered.) I don’t want to cast aspersions on the entire male gender any more than I want epithets hurled at us sisters. But I have to say, the testosterone club has had its shot at governance for pretty much the bulk of recorded history, with mixed results. It’s time to see what the ladies can do. It may be the only hope we have for getting along again, once this wretched election is over.