As someone who had to cope with more than my fair share of them in primary and secondary school, I have no tolerance or patience for bullies. While I do not know firsthand the horrors of sexual assault, I do know harassment, including sexual harassment, and I know the pain and suffering it can inflict.
I was never a particularly great athlete, but have spent plenty of time in locker rooms. I attended a private boys school in my adolescence, went to summer camp, was in a fraternity and have spent 37 years in the often wildly profane culture of professional kitchens. So yes, I have from time to time heard vulgar and sexist talk of the type our current Republican nominee has attempted to write off and “just locker room banter.” Except not exactly.
I thought hard about it for a few days. I tried to remember a single, solitary occasion when someone bragged about committing sexual assault, forcing himself upon another person, or groping. The closest thing I could remember was a high school freshman who said he saw his cheerleader crush lose her bikini top at the pool – enough to incite some puerile howls, and surely some embarrassment at the time for the girl (if in fact his tale was true) – but hardly rising to the type of rape culture incitement we were subjected to by way of viral video last week.
Everyone I have spoken to or read confirms my conclusion that this is not “locker room talk.” People do not talk like this in locker rooms or anywhere else. Are men often crude? Yes. Tell demeaning and/or sexist jokes? Yes. But do we brag about sexually assaulting people? No. No we do not. Mr. Trump speaks for no man I have ever met in my five decades on this earth.
Mr. Trump’s behavior eleven years ago is to be roundly condemned. However, it is important to note that the common refrain you may have heard – along the lines of “what if she was your daughter” or “it could have been your mother he was talking about” or “would you let him say that to your wife” – is not the reason for just condemnation. While it may be accurate, and surely the women alluded to were someone’s wives and someone’s daughters, they were and are, more importantly, someones. They are people.
The faith in which I was raised holds as its very first principle, a fervent belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. A woman does not deserve more respect than a man simply because of gender, but neither does a woman deserve less. And a person does not deserve less respect simply because they are not present. The way one behaves in private is indicative of who they really are. He very obviously lacks the judgement, the character, the kindness needed to be the President of the United States. There simply is no arguing that point.
A few people have suggested that this latest incident only made a difference because he was talking smack about white women instead of Mexicans or African-Americans or Muslims. Maybe so. Mr. Trump exudes white male privilege from his very pores. But a jerk is a jerk, and offensive is offensive. Character is destiny, and he lacks character.
My father was fond of saying, “If it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, it’s a duck.” In this scenario, Mr. Trump is clearly a duck. The only baffling aspect I’ve yet to figure out is why it took so many quacks for many in America to notice how foul this bird really is. Hopefully, they will still remember in four weeks.