Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Trump Talks Dirty and Worse

What's a Conservative to Do?



I feel it important for me to say once again that this is my personal Blog where I express my personal views about matters social, political, and sometimes religious. What I write here should not be linked to my parish or my denomination. No one who reads what I write at this Blog should, after reading, say anything more than, "That's what Bill Smith thinks, and you know what that's worth."

Throughout the Republican primary season Donald Trump and Ted Cruz traded places as the candidate I most hoped would not get the nomination. Donald Trump because he is a boor, a loud-mouth egotist behind whose facade I suspect is a lot of insecurity. Ted Cruz because he is the un-Reagan, the kind of purist-absolutist conservative who alienates his colleagues and can't get anything done. I could have been happy with any of the others though my preferences were Rubio, Bush, and Kasich in that order.

My friends over at World Magazine have called for Donald Trump to step aside. I wish he would step aside and said so on Saturday, hoping Mike Pence would take his place before Sunday's debate. World is trying to be consistent. When the Lewinsky scandal broke, World called for Bill Clinton to resign. (I was a columnist then and wrote a couple of columns on the subject of the scandal.) Now it has come out that Trump groped women, which by today's standards could lead to his being accused of sexual assault. He also bragged of his acts using lewd language. World believes they must demand the same from Trump they demanded from Clinton.

But, as World admits, Trump is not going to step aside. That means that on November 8, the country is going to elect either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as President of the United States. Come next January either Trump or Clinton is going to be sworn in as President of the United States.

With that said, I offer a little perspective on Trump's language and actions. I wonder if Trump's language and behavior present us with a unique moral challenge.

Language. In 1962 I was released from the custody of Pensacola Christian School. Fortunately for me they had not yet built a prison for high school inmates. So I moved on to Pensacola High School at age 14. It was a shock to move from a class of about 30 to a school with several thousand. A big part of the shock had to do with PE class. I remember doing squat-thrusts on the tennis courts in August and ending up with blisters on the palms of my hands. Then there was the locker room. Here I heard words of which I did not know the definition. I heard boys calling for other boys to come do for or to them acts I could not imagine. The things they talked about doing to or with girls was beyond the most lustful imaginations I had in junior high at PCS. I also worked on my father's construction crew in high school and college. There, too, I had to figure out a new vocabulary and a new world of behaviors. The counsel the foreman gave me just before my honeymoon was reprehensible.

I expect many who are condemning Trump's language have laughed hearing Richard Pryor concerts. He was a genius as a comedian, but his vocabulary was awful, particularly as he talked about women and their bodies. People who have said people don't talk in locker rooms the way Trump did may forget the language of rappers and comedians or, as Darryl Hart has noted, Beyonce.

None of what I just described, or many experiences I could add, justify the crude, lewd, sexually charged language which I have heard. That Trump, now a seventy-year old, who was not and probably is not a Christian believer, should have talked the way he did ten years ago is not surprising or shocking to me. It is condemnable, but it is not surprising or shocking. He is one of those guys who never moved on from high school locker room. And, if you hang out in a golf club or other locker room that does not include women, you are likely to hear such talk today.

Behavior. That the moral behavior of Trump puts him in the class with Clinton and thus merits the call by World, seeking consistency, for him to step aside is not disputable. But, perhaps that is not the point. In my lifetime there have been three Presidents whose behavior has paralleled the Trump of the past (what Trump is today I do not know). There was John F. Kennedy, a user of women and prolific adulterer whose staff not only enabled but helped him to procure and to gratify himself with women. There was Lyndon B. Johnson, who was used to imposing his will on people of both sexes, who like Kennedy was a user of women and adulterer and whose language was crude. Then, of course there was William J. Clinton who groped, used, abused, and is accused of raping women as a Governor and as President. All three defeated men who by comparison were sexual prudes - Nixon, Goldwater, and H.W. And all three were, despite their sexual behavior, relatively successful as Presidents. (Yeah, I know, there was the Vietnam thing with LBJ.)

Times have changed for sure. Men and women are mixed in the workplace, the military, and even the locker room. The government has definitions and rules which are quoted by Joe Carter at the Gospel Coalition website as he condemns fellow evangelicals who have stuck with Trump:
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. When the harassment becomes physical it becomes sexual assault, which the U.S. Justice Department defines as any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Harassment can include activities such as a business owner walking in on female underlings while they are naked and discussing in front of females employees which ones he’d like to have sex with (and asking other men in the room which ones they’d like to have sex with). Harrassment becomes assault when it includes forcible kissing, groping, or grabbing a person’s genitals without her consent.
These are new definitions and rules for men of Trump's generation. They grew up with the mindset, "Do what you can get away with doing." That was true of Christian boys who were not doing the really bad stuff: "Take a kiss if you can get a kiss." This is to say it was different in the Trump days. I am disqualified by age from saying how men view things today. The sexual revolution has turned out to be a double edged sword for everyone. Things are much freer. Today you can do whatever you want with whomever you want whenever you want wherever you want, but you better make sure he or she is consenting at every step of the way. No one can condemn you for what you do. They better not or they will be condemned. But you better be sure, no matter how many "yeses" there have been along the way, that there has been nothing that can be construed as a "no" or you can be in big trouble. The only rule left about sex is the rule of consent. But this is not the world in which 70 year old men grew up.

Am I defending Trump? No. I am giving perspective. Do I think his speech and behavior are OK? Not for a moment. I condemn both. If Trump tried to grope one of my granddaughters or spoke about her with the language he used, my instinct would be to end his mortal life. Am I endorsing Trump? No, I am not.

I am saying the choice is between two candidates. One is a lecherous, foul-mouthed man whose knowledge, self-control, and judgment are at best questionable. The other is a woman who believes it is a sacred right to kill full term babies who have not yet entered the birth canal and who has enabled her husband's treating women as Trump has. The reality is that one of those two persons will be elected President.

I might be wrong, but I think Trump is done for and that almost certainly Hillary Clinton will be elected President - probably by a wide margin. I think that the conservative movement whose vehicle is the Republican Party, will be in disarray. The House may be retained, but the Presidency, and very likely the Senate, will be lost. 

What am I going to do? I don't know. I can duck for two reasons. First, living in the state which elected Tim Kaine as Senator, it is highly unlikely my vote will make any difference in the Presidential race. Second, I am scheduled for my second knee replacement on November 4 so will not be venturing out on November 8. I can vote only if I go get a an absentee ballot. 

But what is the "Christian" thing to do? There isn't one. So you may (1) vote for Clinton, (2) vote for Trump, (3) vote for a third party candidate, or (4) not vote for a Presidential candidate. Make the best decision you can.You might do something stupid, something you'll live to regret, but you won't sin. We're electing a President of this secular republic. For that you need wisdom, discretion, instinct, and intuition to decide what is best for the republic at this time and which, if either, candidate is most likely to accomplish it. Still doesn't answer the question does it?  









3 comments:

  1. I didn't quite glean exactly what Trump did beyond the Access Hollywood tape. Yes, I'm aware he's a serial adulterer. Like Martin Luther King Jr.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Bill. For the most part, I agree with you. I must say that I'm going to take the recent new groping "revelations" with a grain of salt until and unless there is some substantial corroboration. Why only now, this close to the election, all of a sudden are women coming forward to make their claims after being silent all these years? Call me a cynic (yes, I am one when it comes to politics, and especially today's politics), but the timing seems awfully suspect. And knowing the Clintons, I put nothing past them. Having said that, I will vote, and I will be voting for a party platform and against a platform I can only see as destructive. I won't be voting for a candidate, but for the big picture. It is my hope many others will do the same. I believe the stakes are too high to stay home and the outcome will have generational consequences, even though I wish I had a better option to choose. Even if it seems futile, I'll cast my vote and be saying a lot of prayers before, during, and after the election. (Beth B.)

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