During former President Barack Obama’s second term, he had stressed what was always a major part of his vision, diplomacy and global corporation. A large number of right-wing pundits dedicated the better part of almost the entire news cycle attacking his character (sound familiar?) because, in their eyes, he was “weak” and an American President has to be “strong.” They lambasted his foreign speeches, calling it the “global apology tour.” One Fox News guest went so far as to call him a “Pu**y” after a heartfelt speech he gave on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Apparently, remorse for incredible loss of life is something to be ashamed of.
This kind of dialogue has dominated American politics since at least the Cold War, and arguably even before. It is a vindictive assault on any character deemed unfit by our standards of strength. It’s ironic, because when I think about strength, I think about the ability to admit when you are wrong, and enough having confidence in yourself that you never beat your chest. The kind of strength valued by all strata of this country is a brutish, cruel one. We don’t feel on top unless everyone else is under our foot. We had a word for people like that back in my high school. I never got along with that sort very much.
This ethos is vile, which makes it all the more disappointing when I read the headlines the day the shutdown ended. Both the right and the Liberal left media blasted Trump for “caving like a dog.” Ann Coulter spewed that after this, G. H. W. Bush was no longer the “biggest wimp to ever hold office.” One Twitter post juxtaposed Trump across House speaker Nancy Pelosi with the caption “who’s grabbing who’s pu**y now!?” I immediately felt uncomfortable with all this. After a 35 day shutdown, the President conceded to temporarily reopen the government, and the first thing we do is laugh at him for “losing.”
Part of me gets it. Trump has hurt a lot of people both in his words and in his actions. This shutdown portrayed a total lack of care for the interests of American workers in the name of what amounts to a monument to his own pride at this point. However, underneath a man spoiled by wealth, obsessed with power, and dominated by fear, there is a man, a human person, and every person deserves dignity. We will meet Trump on every issue, argue our case, and call him out on every count of selfishness and corruption, but that all becomes blunted when the national debate is consumed with the size of his stomach or what’s in his pants.
After so many years of female congresswomen being subjected to the same ugliness, and a nationwide debate on toxic masculinity, you would think we would take care to respect human dignity. It’s not out of love for politicians that we must do this, but if for nothing else but a concern for our own moral character. Are we comfortable becoming cruel in the face of cruelty? I for one am not.