As a child, it was weird watching the news and seeing the media abuzz with Bill Clinton’s sex scandals. I was probably about seven years old. I remember how my parents, staunch Republicans and conservative Christians, were disgusted by the parade of lurid accusations and shameless lies.
“He’s an embarrassment,” they said. “He’s a sick pervert.”
Even then, long before I realized that my dad was a pedophile, I found their disdain to be ironic. This was during a window of idealistic childhood for me. My dad had molested me when I was about three, but my brain had blanked it out. And of course, this was before he began planting porn on my school computer or exposing himself to me when I was about ten.
Some of my readers will re-read that last paragraph over again. Trust me, I’ve metaphorically re-read my childhood hundreds of times, and it doesn’t help it make any more sense.
Fast forward to 2016. I am now an adult, old enough to vote. On the one hand I had Hilary Clinton, who had been apathetic to her husband’s accusers and had even humiliated and discredited a 14-year-old rape survivor, who I strongly related with, in court. On the other I hand, I had Donald Trump, who said things like “grab them by the p***y,” who obsessively harassed Megyn Kelly, and whose name was mingled in the news with Clinton’s and Jeffery Epstein’s.
I voted third party that year. I voted for Evan McMullin. I knew he wouldn’t win, so if you’re laughing right now cork it. I knew my vote might not even be counted, but at least I hadn’t voted for an abuser or an abuse enabler. I viewed my vote as sticking it to the GOP and DNC, who both seemed to give a free pass to the evil of sexism and sexual abuse. My vote was a statement. While everyone else voted for the lesser of two evils, I chose not to vote for evil at all.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
This is absolutely true. I remember the silence of so many people. I forgave my father for abusing me long before I forgave my mother for letting it happen. I can think of two or three people who have abusively hurt me, but dozens of others who knew and did nothing. I am honestly not sure which is the greater crime; the act of abusing, or the act of covering up abuse.
I do not care if someone is Republican, Democrat, rich, famous, or powerful. If they are perverts, they are perverts. This isn’t conservatives versus liberals, or men versus women. This is good versus evil.
To every person who made excuses for the sins of the Clinton’s – I do not trust you, and I never will. To everyone who wrote off Trump’s vulgarity as “locker-room banter,” – do not tell me that you understand how I feel, because we both know you’re lying.
Today, as accusations against Garrison Keillor and Matt Lauer rise to the surface, tales of the sexploits of Roy Moore continue to swirl. I feel oddly as though my reality has been invaded. You see, I used to live in this alternate universe where, if I dared bring up the reality of sexual abuse, people would shush me. During my early marriage I tried to tell my OBGYN how upset I was over childhood memories, and she said, “We don’t talk about those things here.” I once brought it up during a women’s Bible study, and the teacher pursed her lips and handed me a Kleenex box even though I wasn’t crying.
It’s surreal as a survivor seeing people register shock and horror over what feels predictable to you. Everyone’s been avoiding the elephant-in-the-room for so long, I’d started to think I was one of the very few who’d ever admit to seeing it. Suddenly, everyone is saying things like, “But he’s supposed to be one of the good guys. I never thought he would do that.”
It’s as if I’ve been living alone with this sensation of betrayal for years, and millions of people suddenly understand how I feel. I was speaking in a different language before, and then one day, everyone simultaneously inserted a Babel Fish. My universe, where abuse is normal yet suffocatingly taboo, has been invaded by thousands of voices who seem just as surprised to be here as I am to see them.
Humorously and ironically, I think we may have Trump to thank for this shift in cultural attitude. Had we had another suave president, another politician skilled at sweeping their sins under the rug, millions of people might still be hibernating in blissful oblivion. Trump doesn’t sweep his sins under the rug. He chews them up and sticks them in his hair, and frankly seems quite please with them.
Since Trump smashed through America’s moral fog of denial like a PR wrecking ball, he’s stirred up the ire of a lot of people who may not otherwise have been vocal. Abuse is tolerable as long as it’s behind closed doors. Sexism is OK as long as you don’t advertise. Crime is alright as long as it’s your party committing it. Being a bully can be excused if you pay off the right crowd. But then America met Trump, and Trump finds offending people to be very entertaining. He marched in with his head held high and his manners held low. He worked like a bucket of ice-water on the morally apathetic of America. He spurred them into action, because apparently, you can harass America’s daughters all you want, so long as you don’t rub the public’s noses in it.
I hope that I am wrong. However, I fully expect that America’s new-found conscience will disappear as quickly as it was discovered. Some new scandal, horror story, or tale of Trump-caused woe will take the place of abuse in the news, and no one will care again. Doctors will go on silencing their patients. Pastors will go on proclaiming lifestyles of sin forgiven. Feminists will continue to care only about themselves. Perverts will still be perverts.
Am I a pessimist? I hope so. But this is a pattern I have seen before.