So Election Day is a week away and what has seemed like an eternity of painful presidential campaigning is slowly sputtering to a stop. For most of us, it’s almost time to take a huge sigh of relief (or a huge swing at the closest wall) when the election finally comes to a close, but for millions of Americans it is first time to make an extremely important decision. I assume that this group of “undecided” voters is mostly comprised of those who maintain such a fervent hatred for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump that they cannot possibly vote for either one. Although, I personally have decided to take more of an optimistic view of Clinton and her past, I understand this sentiment forcing voters toward third party candidates. I do have to admit I considered jumping behind Gary Johnson, but my departure from his side started when I began to read up on his actual policies and was set in stone when the words, “What is Aleppo?” came flowing from his mouth.
Although I was shocked to hear that a presidential candidate had never heard of Aleppo, that in no way compared to my reaction as I listened to Trump’s Access Hollywood tape for the first time. As I sat and watched Trump and his partner in crime, Billy Bush, completely dismantle every previously held notion of normal human behavior. I could almost hear Clinton’s maniacal laugh as she practiced her induction speech over and over again. As I expected, minutes after the release of the tape, media outlets were live with a barrage of Trump haters and supporters alike ready to fire off their opinions at will. This was nothing out of the norm, but what I found shocking was that many Trump supporters immediately jumped to dismissing the language used in the tape and deciding to, as I did with Clinton, take a more optimistic view of Trump and his actions (if that is possible), even going as far as believing his “locker room talk” excuse. It may seem hypocritical of me to be entirely intolerant of any kind of lee way that Trump supporters give to their candidate and you know what? It absolutely is. But for this particular instance, let’s move past the personal politics and the charges of hypocrisy that people like to fling all over the place in political arenas and let’s look at the actual issue at hand: sexual assault and rape culture in America.
No matter which way you are inclined to twist this tape, the words are right there and as clear day. What Trump describes in the tape, even if you want to label it “locker room banter” is, in fact, sexual assault. Now let’s get one thing clear, all I have been hearing for a few weeks are calls for conversation on “actual issues.” According to Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), an American is sexually assaulted every 109 seconds and yet only 6 in 1000 perpetrators end up in prison. So, of course we need to talk about tax plans and balancing the budget, but if sexual assault in our country is not an “actual issue”, then I have no idea what is. As I stated earlier, I am all for embracing more optimistic views of politics, but that does not mean ignoring important issues that plop themselves right in front of us, so with that in mind, let’s talk about the many things that are wrong with this tape and the larger problems that the idiocy of Trump’s words allows us to uncover in our society.
First of all, every time I watch this video I experience a distinct, growing sense that Trump is in most ways just a naïve schoolboy who says whatever he wants and does not realize how his words affect others. Do you blame a kid like this for what he has said when he doesn’t even know how wrong it is? Well that’s completely up to you but either way you probably shouldn’t let him rule the free world. That being said I would almost be more comfortable with a misinformed school bully as my president than Donald Trump, because at least the latter shows some type of opportunity for improvement, whereas Donald has been that same naïve schoolboy for all 70 years of his life. He most likely won’t change in the next four.
All jokes aside, Trump’s childish disregard for the way his words make people feel points out an important flaw in his personal character and in our collective character as a society. Recently, there has been significant pushback against political correctness and against heeding the feelings of other human beings. Trump is viewed as strong because he doesn’t care what people think. But while this trait seems like a macho suit of armor to walk around in, it is a trait that, when exhibited in the Trump’s signature manner, can be one’s greatest weakness. In certain situations, a carelessness for the opinions of others helps us rise above obstacles and break free of what is holding us back. In this case, Trump is not rising up, but pushing others down, silencing their voices by being the loudest voice in the room or by threatening to sue anyone who accuses him of being anything but the best. Trump is the epitome of a “haters gonna hate” culture gone way too far, because at some point we have to either care about the feelings of our fellow humans, or trade our humanity in for a false sense of strength. It is not strong to grope women without consent. It is not strong to threaten to sue so as to silence all opposition. It is not strong to give no thought to the feelings of those around you.
Trump thinks he is strong and capable of anything because he is a “star.” His perception of politics and America is much like his apparent view on the appropriateness of sexual assault. He believes what makes him great is his ability to take whatever he wants with no repercussions. That is not the kind of greatness I want for my country. He has repeatedly told the public that he is the only one who can save our nation. But when we do away with his false, middle school-like idea of strength, then we realize that we do not need a champion in the form of an angry, orange man with a toupee and tiny hands. We realize that we are strong not because we do whatever we want, take whatever we want and say whatever we want without any regard for the rest of humanity, but because we work together towards doing the right thing despite a past riddled with mistakes and deviations from what is right. Striving for greatness requires more than just an empty slogan and a few million red hats sold nationwide. It takes action. So for you undecided voters: When you go to the polls, take action. Don’t let our country become Trump’s twisted version of a high school locker room. Vote for unity and for greatness in the form of action, not words.