One presidential candidate is a liar while the other one simply misspoke or inadvertently omitted information. One sincerely apologized for their human foibles while the other showed no contrition for their immoral actions. Depending on which side of the isle you sit, the lens through which you view a presidential candidate can be drastically disparate. Our political dialogue has always been jam-packed with surrogates, supporters, and candidates who begin a political conversation with a desired outcome and build evidence toward that end, rather than absorbing factual information to arrive at a thoughtful conclusion. Party zealots have always vehemently supported candidates whose actions they themselves would rebuke if committed by a party adversary; a phenomenon similar to what one experiences in professional sports -- an athlete is a hero donning our favorite team's uniform and vilified when playing for our rival.
I have been following presidential elections ever since the days I wore footy pajamas and was more concerned with avoiding bedtime than the outcome of an election. I have witnessed nasty and personal attacks, salacious accusations, and both the dishonorable impeachment and disgraced resignation of a president. I usually avoid engaging in political conversation or expressing my political views on social media. For me, such an endeavor is usually a futile exercise where more time is spent arguing than thoughtfully listening and exchanging ideas. However, the 2016 presidential election has changed that and has compelled me to speak out. I do this, full well, knowing that I will not sway anyone's opinion and only set myself up for criticisms and attacks. My only solace is that I know there will be others who will be singing out of the same hymnal.
This year's presidential election has taken us to a dark and sinister place. The vile and unbridled assertions that have been made during this year's campaign is unlike anything we have ever seen before. I long for the days when the claims of corruption, lying, and misconduct where all that separated us from serious policy discussions. I yearn for a time when television ads asserting that a candidate freed a hardened criminal or kept much needed medication from our seniors transmuted our idealistic optimism into a healthy yet deep-seeded skepticism. No, this is not just the lament of an aging quinquagenarian struggling to let go of the past and finding it difficult to embrace a new norm. This year's political ranker is not simply the usual partisan game of "he said, she said" where accusations are batted back in forth like a tennis ball in the open court of public opinion.
What has angered me this year and what I believe has crossed a moral line, is the explicit statements of misogyny, hatred, racism, and bigotry that has been articulated by the Republican candidate for president. The unbridled and offensive comments that have been hurled at women, immigrants, individuals with special needs, and more specifically at Senator John McCain's war record is not only disgraceful but an affront to human decency. This is no longer in the spirit of political banter to achieve political gain but an attempt by a small and insecure man to bully and manipulate others in order to inflate his own ego. An obvious conclusion that has been asserted by many expert political strategists and that can be proven out by analyzing the latest polls.
However, what is most frightening about this year's political rhetoric is not just the severe language, but the droves of people who find these assertions acceptable. Angry crowds are enthusiastically cheering on the hateful rhetoric in the name of "telling it like it is," justifying this behavior as a legitimate backlash against "political correctness" gone awry. The wish of affronted groups to request fair and respectful treatment does not give this candidate a hall pass for intolerable and sickening statements. It is simply not acceptable for anyone, let alone a leader of our county, to use their power against others regardless of anyone else's actions. There is no moral equivalent. Charging that their rival has acted similarly, does not diminish the dangerous and visceral statements no more than "he hit me first" lessened the punishment of the accused in the age old battle between siblings. Our leaders and public figures have to stop defending such vitriolic statements because the candidate shares their political ideology. A society cannot afford to allow political loyalty to take precedent over moral decency.
There can be no rationalization for bragging about sexual assault regardless if the account is true or false. The timing and motivation of the release of damaging videotape showing the offensive banter is immaterial and should not desensitize us from the harshness of the vile statements. I grew up without sisters and I am a father of two young men, both of whom are athletes and fraternity brothers and I have therefore been exposed to plenty of obscene and vulgar language. But be clear, crass and juvenile words, those that have been attributed to testosterone-filled locker rooms, should not be equated to or minimize in anyway the terrible acts that the candidate described using those same words. I will not accept the notion that what was viewed on those salacious tape represents normal male behavior.
So one might ask, what has taken me so long to speak out? This candidate's campaign began over a year ago and he has been spewing hatred for decades. Perhaps, I am as guilty as all the others who have recently, due to political pressures, denounced the candidate after the release of the "Access Hollywood" videotape. However, for me, it wasn't the scandalous videotape that induced me to put my anger and sickening feeling into words. No, that motivation came last week when I saw the placard that was raised in Washington D.C in front of the Republican National Committee Headquarters at a rally for the republican candidate. The sign read, "Better to grab a p***y than to be one." It was at that moment that the years of society instructing me to "man up," after expressing emotion, empathy, compassion, and sensitivity, that I clinched my fist in righteous indignation and slammed it on my desk. I declared that if being sympathetic and caring toward the causes of others makes me a p***y then I am proud to be a p***y. As I stood there alone in my rage, and after having stepped down from my soapbox, a glimmer of optimism seeped in. I grabbed onto the hope that the ripping open and exposure of the raw and ugly underbelly that is the hatred in our society will perhaps motivate us all to work toward making this world a more tolerable place. A common spiritual truth is that suffering brings about change. I cling to that hope and to certainty that this vitriolic political season will soon be over.
In May of this year, I wrote the blog post, I was Called a Poet . I wrote about the wonderful experience I had at a writing and meditation retreat organized by the Tiferet Journal. The Tiferet Journal will be hosting a similar retreat on November 5th, 2016. For information about the retreat and the Tiferet Journal visit tiferetjournal.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.