Wednesday, October 19, 2016


In this valiant attempt to bring clarity to the November presidential election, I struggle with a lot of things. I've already shared in a previous post about my overall struggle regarding the real potential to tick everyone off. But the other challenge is that there are so many elements on which to shine a light, which one do I tackle first? Let's go to the tape. . . .

The tape, of course, is the revelation that Donald Trump bragged to (then) entertainment reporter Billy Bush about his ability to "have his way" with women (yes, I'm being diplomatic about something that at best was a rude, crude description and, at worst, an admission of possible assault). The exchange was caught on tape and recently released. Mr. Trump has characterized it as "locker room talk" and apologized. Many GOP lawmakers, evangelical leaders, and a host of others have repudiated the candidate. And, of course, in late breaking news, a few women have said that Mr. Trump's statements were not words only, but actions. To be fair, their accusations have not been substantiated, and Mr. Trump denies them, but they are certainly a cause of concern.

Three trains of thought come to mind:

We can't easily dismiss the claims against Donald Trump
So why did this 11 year old tape take so long to surface and why did these women wait until now to reveal Mr. Trump's treatment of them? First of all, regarding the women, it is not uncommon for a victim to remain silent. Some of it is born out of fear, some of it is embarrassment, some of it is a certain amount of self-doubt (did I somehow encourage this? was it my fault?). I would hope we've come far enough of our understanding sexual assault that we not dismiss these accusers out of hand. And I have to admit (with my limited knowledge), nothing the women have said so far sounds in-credible. It all sounds very consistent with Donald Trump's public personality and, yes, with his "locker room talk."

Which leads us back to the tape. What was on the tape was disgusting. Deplorable. Degrading. We can dismiss it as "locker room talk," but let's face it: the behavior it describes and even the language that is used is unacceptable.  But some of my conservative, Christian friends have said, "it's not that big a deal. Why are we condemning him for something he did  eleven years ago? He has apologized, so we should forgive him and move on."

Yes, I agree whole heartily we should forgive Donald Trump. But "moving on" might be a little more complicated. I can forgive the drug addict who steals my electronics to feed his habit. But I won't leave him unsupervised in my house. I will look for signs of continued drug use. I will love him and encourage him and rejoice in his victories. But unconditional forgiveness is not blindness. Or naivety. Yes, I forgive Donald Trump. But it took him eleven years to "confess" his sin (and only because the tape surfaced) and there have been no indications that he is a different man than before. Maybe he is. But we only have his public personality to evaluate and they suggest (not prove) he may have the same attitudes toward women as he had eleven years ago. Moving on is not so simple.

This could be a set up
But let's take a look at the other side of the coin. Aside from his "locker room" tape, there is no solid evidence to substantiate the claims of Mr. Trump's accusers. And while I prefer to give victims the benefit of the doubt, yes, some women do lie. We cannot blindly reject the idea that this could very well be a set up. NBC has had the "locker room" tape for eleven years, but during the entire run of the hit series The Apprentice, it never saw the proverbial light of day. While there are certainly legitimate reasons why the alleged victims may not have spoken out for eleven years, the fact is, they are only speaking out now, during a critical election season. The timing is more than convenient. Saturday Night Live brilliantly nailed this in a sketch portraying the Clinton campaign celebrating, with Hillary Clinton unable to contain her delight over this damaging revelation.  So there exists at least the possibility that these allegations are unfounded. Until more substantial proof surfaces, the question will remain unanswered.

What all this says about media and society
However, another troubling part of this whole thing  is the sudden focus on morality in our society.  Hey, I'm a stuck-in-the-mud, old fashioned values, Bible-believing Christian, but I get a little distressed when I hear representatives of the liberal left pontificate about the terribleness of Donald Trump's tape. Whenever Christians speak out against sexual situations or obscenity on television or movies, they are widely condemned as prudes, Puritans, or Pollyannas who want to destroy our civilization by imposing their narrow view of what is right or wrong in society. Meanwhile, we are treated to all types of  depictions of immorality, a great deal of which involves the degradation of women. It seems more than a little, I don't know, uhhh--hypocritical?

And then there are the athletes and celebrities who make fun of Donald Trump by saying that he's probably never been in a locker room, because men don't really talk that way in locker rooms. I beg to differ. The expression "locker room talk" existed before Donald Trump's apology and has always meant the kind of crude, bragging conversations that usually center on women. In some cases, it's little more than tall tales, but regardless, some men really do talk that way.  Let's tone down the feigned shock. If every newscaster or celebrity had tapes of their off-camera words and deeds, it would be quite a revelation to a lot of admirers.

And yes, NBC fired Billy Bush for his role in the "locker room" tape, but I noticed it did not prevent them from putting him on the Today Show in the first place. Only when they were stuck between exposing the "terrible immorality" of Donald Trump and showing their own media personality involved in the same thing did they take action. What else could they do?

Suddenly, prominent people who have never regarded the Bible as anything special are pulling out quotes to inform us all what "good Christians" should think about all this. While I'm glad to see anyone reading the Bible for guidance, I fear that many of these folks don't really give a flying care about what the Bible says; rather, their main goal is to maybe point out what they perceive as hypocrisy among Trump supporters. Where is the tolerance? Where is the very Biblical and Christian virtue of forgiveness? And that is an ongoing irritation, not only in this campaign, but in society overall: people who don't believe the Bible trying to convince the faithful about what the Bible says. Just something to think about.

Please do not take my comments as a rejection or endorsement of either candidate. Like many Americans, I'm struggling with this election. These posts represent what one of my teachers called, "thinking through my keyboard." I welcome your comments, but name calling, foul language, or general mean-spiritedness will not be allowed. Good points made logically and consistently (with maybe a dash of humor) goes a long way, even if you disagree.

And remember: no matter what happens in November, Jesus is still King of Kings and Lord of Lords!


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