Most nights growing up, we had the television on during dinner for the first part of the nightly news. It was turned off after the major stories were covered. But on most evenings for most of my childhood, the happenings in the country and the world were pretty consistently the background noise to our mealtime conversation.
That changed in 1998.
1998 was the year the Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton sex scandal broke and given the content of the topics covered and the sexually explicit terms, the television was quickly turned off by my disgusted—and embarrassed—parents.
Nearly two decades later, and now I’m the parent. We don’t eat to the hum of the talking heads reporting the news, but you can bet, I am extra careful these days to keep my 6-year old and 4-year old away from the television when it’s on. Like 1998, it’s a complicated time to be a parent, and a dangerous time to be a kid.
I think what was most disappointing to me in the hours and days that followed the breaking story of Donald Trump and his own explicit and degrading comments about women was how much this was all about politics. Still.
How there was talk of Trump handing over the nomination due to his brazen and offensive language.
How there was mention of Bill Clinton’s own sordid past and Hillary’s complicit involvement.
How it was all, “Yeah, what he said was terrible, but let’s not forget how bad Bill was and Hillary’s own questionable actions!”
And, “Yeah, but Bill’s not running for president and that was years ago! You’re guy wants to hold the most powerful office in the world!”
Excuse me. Are we really doing this? Are we really condemning the words of Trump, but in the same breath, saying BUT, they’re nothing compared to Hillary’s legal indiscretions? Are we really sweeping under the carpet the embarrassing number of affairs and sexual assault charges former president Clinton had made against him, saying it doesn’t matter since he isn’t the one running this time around?
Excuse me. Aren’t we forgetting the real issue here? That this isn’t about politics at all? That insulting, belittling, humiliating and—yes, the word deplorable works here—words, used to describe women and acts done to women disregards party lines? That the dignity of women is not a problem isolated to one party?
That is the real issue. And we ought to be ashamed of ourselves if we can’t see that.
This is not a Republican misstep. And this is not a Democrat blunder. This is a culture people on all ends of the spectrum politically participate in and it is a culture that offends, degrades and insults half the world. Let’s put politics aside for a second, shall we? Let’s stop lowering the bar so much so that I can try to make my guy/girl look better than yours. Let’s have the gall to call it what it is on both sides. Reprehensible treatment of and talk about women that is unacceptable. And I don’t care how you vote. Character demands you call it what it is in both parties. Sick.
Have you ever seen or heard a telegram being delivered? At the end of every line it says, “stop”. It actually spells it out. “I’m coming home stop.” “I have great news stop.” Do you know what I would have loved to see more of this past weekend?
From the Republicans, “This language was inexcusable stop.”
From the Democrats, “We’re not proud of our history in this department either stop.”
I’ve been married for 10 years. Here’s what I’ve learned in the decade of life I’ve spent trying to love and honor, respect and serve my husband: The apologies that go the furthest, the messages that are communicated the loudest, are ones where I own what I did wrong, and I stop. Not, “But you did this!” Not, “But I’m still right even though I said this wrong!” Just plain and simple: “I did this, and that’s not okay.” Stop.
In our effort to one up each other politically in defense of our “guy”, we are actually lowering the standard of conduct to an embarrassingly low place. This is a cultural problem and it’s time we start believing—and acting like we believe—that it will not hurt our credibility to call what is wrong, wrong, even if it was someone in our own party who did it. And stop there.
And it’s time we start asking larger questions. What kind of society are we living in, what kind of ethos are we breeding, that makes this language and behavior acceptable? What cultural legacy are we leaving behind for our children? What are the future implications for our nation when we continue to zero in on party problems and not character problems?
I’m not worried about this country because I’m a Republican and these tapes were leaked. I’m not worried about this country because I’m a Democrat and the potential first husband has been accused of rape. I’m worried about this country because I’m a human. I’m a mom. I’m raising sons. And I think my party affiliation has little to do with whether I raise boys who see women as image bearers of the same God who made them. Because as different as these two parties may be, I pray to God we can find commonality in our quest for mutual respect, unmovable integrity and honoring treatment of all people, all genders and all backgrounds.
These days, I’m not pulling for a party. I’m pulling for people. For humanity. For us to be willing to stand up and call wrong what is wrong and to have courage enough to try better, party lines aside.
I want to be able to have the nightly news on and point out our leaders and our representatives to two little boys who I’m constantly telling to treat others the way they want to be treated, and say, “You know what kindness towards others looks like? You know what respect towards women looks like? You know what honor for all people looks like? It looks like him. It looks like her. Now go and do likewise.”