I try to avoid getting into political conversations on Facebook. There is no dearth of objective and subjective evidence that people type things from the anonymity and disconnection of their computer screens – tweets, comments, hashtags – that they would never say to someone face to face, in person, human to human. This video of men reading aloud the online comments that have been made to women working in sports broadcasting is a chilling and poignant reminder of this – most of us would never dream of saying such hateful, vile things to another human being, no matter how much we disagreed with them.
At the less extreme end of online interactions, I don’t want to engage in a public argument from behind my keyboard that devolves into who can best further their point and away from being human and open and genuinely trying to learn and grow and see each others points of view. I want to deepen my relationships with other people, not distance myself from them, and for me that happens face to face, human to human, heart to heart.
When the news broke yesterday that there was a new video of Donald Trump making lewd comments about women, I wasn’t remotely surprised – this is someone who has shown his character – or rather lack thereof – time and time again. He hasn’t hidden his disdain and disregard for women (not to mention Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants or really anyone who isn’t white, male and privileged – who isn’t him). I thought it was odd that such a fuss was being made, and told a friend so – “If people don’t think Trump is sexist by now, how is one video going to change anything?”
And then I watched the video.
I watched that video and I listened to his words and I felt sick to my stomach. For years I worked at non-profits dedicated to helping survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and sex trafficking. I heard story after story, from woman after woman – just one was enough to break your heart – the sheer volume was enough to crush your soul. What always struck me about these stories was how every single perpetrator stopped seeing his victim as human – the total lack of empathy or compassion or shared humanity. These women weren’t hearts or minds or souls, they were body parts, empty shells, objects in the most chilling sense of that word – in the minds of the men who assaulted them they existed to be overcome by force, used, battered, bruised, broken.
I watched that video and I listened to Donald Trump’s words about groping women, kissing them without their consent. I listened to him talk about a woman he was about to meet as “legs” – as a body part, disconnected from her heart, mind, soul – then I watched him interact with her, pretend to treat her as a person, as a human. That part was the hardest – watching this woman who had no way of knowing the ways she’d been sized up, dissected, objectified by the the two men standing in front of her – by the man she was coerced into hugging, whom she had to treat well and flirt with because he was rich and powerful, because “that’s the way it is” – in Hollywood, in the boardroom, in this f-ing messed up world we’ve created where we have decided that women aren’t people, and excuse it away as “locker room banter.”
For me, this election stopped being about the issues a long time ago. It stopped being about economic policy and healthcare reform and national security when Trump called Mexican immigrants to this country rapists and murderers. It stopped when he called for a ban on all Muslims entering this country – when he painted an entire religious group as terrorists. It stopped when he insulted and demeaned and sexualized and dismissed women time after time after time. It stopped when he compared building his business to the sacrifices of a father whose child died fighting for the country Trump wants to lead. It stopped when he made it clear that he has no compassion, no empathy, no capacity for humanity, kindness or integrity.
For me, this election is no longer about Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, Clinton or Trump – this is about who we’re going to be as a nation – as communities and families and individuals. Are we going to be people of integrity and compassion and love for one another? Or are we going to be so blinded by our own self-interest or apathy or partisanship that we don’t have the courage to recognize evil when we see it, to call it out and say “This is wrong. This is not ok.”
When it comes to political issues – gun reform, abortion, marriage equality, racial justice – I have very strong opinions, but I also don’t have the hubris to think that I’m 100% right, and everyone else is 100% wrong. These issues are complicated and nuanced and far more informed, astute political minds than mine have been grappling with these topics for decades. This election isn’t about which side of the aisle you’re on, which party you’ve voted for the last thirty years, which party you identify with because of your religious affiliation. This is about right and wrong, good vs. evil, end of story. This is about looking at someone who espouses the very worst impulses lurking in the human heart, and saying “this is not ok.”
So many of my strong politcal views are tied to my faith – I am a follower of Christ (I hesitate to use the word Christian anymore, which – especially in this election season – has become such a loaded term). When I read the Bible, it’s crystal clear to me that my job on this earth is to love God and to love people – to be an agent of grace, peace, justice, reconciliation and healing. I believe that part of loving people well is standing up for what’s right – speaking out against injustice in it’s many forms and loving the poor, marginalized, immigrant, refuge, orphan, widow because – spoiler alert – that’s what Jesus did.
I look at Donald Trump and I pray for him because I have to – to keep my own heart from filling up with so much anger and rage and indignation at everything he stands for that I become the very thing I abhor in him. I pray that he would experience a miraculous change of heart, that he would start treating people with kindness and compassion and humanity – but until that happens I’m fighting like hell to make sure he doesn’t get elected. Because everything he stands for flies in the face of everything I stand for – and that’s worth fighting for.