Monday, July 2, 2018

What Will It Take?

A few weeks ago, comedian Kathy Griffin tweeted an interesting thread in which she outlined the seriousness of the backlash she faced after she took that infamous photo of a ketchup-covered Trump rubber mask. The thread was published around the same time that comedian Samantha Bee was facing backlash for calling Ivanka Trump feckless, which was in the immediate aftermath of Roseanne Barr's high-profile fall from grace for attacking former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett. And that was a few weeks removed from comedian Michelle Wolf's controversial roast at the White House Correspondent's Dinner.

In each instance, the President of the United States saw fit to weigh in via Twitter. He called Kathy Griffin sick. He questioned why Samantha Bee hadn't been fired. He claimed that Michelle Wolf bombed and was filthy. Instead of saying anything about Roseanne directly, he questioned why he had never been offered an apology by ABC for things said about him.

In addition to taking aim at female comedians who've heckled him, he has also enthusiastically attacked political opponents such as Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, Rep. Frederica Wilson, and Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand. He has chided a fellow world leader and a Supreme Court justice. He took time to attack actress Meryl Streep and media mogul Oprah Winfrey after they gave awards show speeches that were critical of him. He issued a counter-attack on journalist Mika Brzezinski by deriding her intellect and then mocking her for allegedly getting cosmetic surgery. He even took aim at small business owner Stephanie Wilkerson (of the Red Hen restaurant), presumably to avenge the hurt feelings of his press secretary.

To those who see nothing wrong with the President of the United States taking the time to personally respond to negative statements made about him, each of these recipients deserved those clap backs. After all, why should the Leader of the Free World tolerate being criticized for his lack of empathy, for his overtly racist/sexist dog whistles, for his policies, for his lies? Who do these bitches think he is?

He certainly isn't Ronald Reagan, who granted amnesty to nearly 3 million immigrants in 1986. And he isn't George H.W. Bush, who signed an executive order to reunite families separated at the border dubbed as Family Fairness in 1990. He isn't Bill Clinton, who protected 40,000 Haitians here illegally from deportation in 1997. He isn't George W. Bush, who promoted a balanced approach to immigration that would provide border enforcement and a path to citizenship. And he damn sure isn't Barack Obama, whose Administration issued the executive order that deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA). No, despite the fact that he lives in the same house as those men, and has the same title as those men, he is nothing like them.

The 45th President believes that compassion and empathy and diplomacy and grace and respect and honor and statesmanship and every other quality of leadership that was exhibited by his predecessors are signs of weakness. He said as much last week when he reversed the policy on separating families at the border.

I began this effort by highlighting the incidents involving presidential ire directed at women who dared to call out his behavior because of my theory that his overt sexism is becoming socially tolerable. We know that this President is no respecter of person when it comes to hurling insults and taunts, as plenty of men have been targeted by his Twitter fingers; however, he picked those fights: the eight years he spent obsessed with Barack Obama; the taunts he unleashed on the NFL owners; the needling he gave his opponents during the GOP primaries; the jabs he has taken against John McCain and other members of his party; and the outright disrespect he has shown to his own Cabinet.

In classic bully fashion, this President attacks foes whom he believes he can humiliate, disgrace, vilify, and vanquish in 280 characters. He chooses targets who either have no inclination to take him on or those whom he regards as weak. He spent years trying to torment Barack Obama because he knew it was not in Obama's nature to respond, but also because he knew that if Obama were to take the bait, it would backfire. And then he's been able to claim victory after every non-confrontation because he's demonized virtuous restraint as weakness. But merely calling Trump a bully is an insufficient barb.

If we look specifically at his treatment of women, including those in his inner circle, we might see that he is the classic narcissist abuser. He clearly has an affinity for abusive behavior towards women--he endorsed an accused pedophile in the Alabama special election and offered sympathy for the aide who was accused of spousal abuse by two ex-wives. While we don't know the intricacies of his personal relationship with Melania Antoinette, we could identify many of these behaviors in his savage responses to the women who've stood up to him. He demeans their intelligence, their appearance, and doesn't stop at mere insults. Against Hillary Clinton, he waged a campaign of character annihilation that continues two years after the 2016 election...and they were once friends. His spats with Kathy Griffin and Maxine Waters have earned them death threats.

Has the irony set in that it has been the so-called weaker members of our society--people of color, religious minorities, young people, and yes, women who have been the most vocal and visible in standing up to this President? That despite his claims about the crowd sizes of his campaign rallies, his inauguration, and his official White House events, it has been the millions of us protesting in the streets since January 22, 2017. That it has been our brown bodies (Puerto Ricans without electricity and children separated from their parents), our Muslim bodies (stranded at the airports), our children's bodies (Parkland, FL and Santa Fe, NM), and Heather Heyer's body on the line.

What will it take? Does he have to physically hurt someone personally or is it true that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue with no repercussions? While the pundits and historians debate his impact on our democracy, has anyone acknowledged the real-life havoc his presidency has wrought on the lives of actual people? How close are we to the point where his rhetoric and verbal abuse have gone too far? 

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