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Over the Lines

Apparently, bragging about predatory sexual assault is over “the line”. I have been wondering where the line was for some time.

We all knew this election was going to get ugly. We all knew this was going to plumb the depths of personal attack and warped reality, straying far from the many things we need to work out as a people. We all knew that it was going to be sick, weird, and ultimately just unreal.

So here we are, adrift in that spot on the map labeled “Here be Dragons”. Taking a metaphor from Columbus Day, we’re in that terrible moment when there is no sign of land and just about anything can happen. Our biggest fear should be that we’ve seen this story before and we can only hope that it doesn’t wind up with new horrors far away from the civilized authorities – horrors like genocide, slavery, and plunder.

Too much is always enough.

Too much is always enough.

Ahead of the second Presidential debate, it really seems like we have seen and said everything already – and so much more. Let’s not be confused about where we stand with Trump at this point. He was caught on tape bragging about the methods he uses as a predator. He is clearly guilty of serial sexual assault. You can pick whichever part of this appalls you the most – the assault, the stalking, or the bragging. They’re all bad and together they add up to a horror.

That’s why 43% of all Americans think Trump should quit the race. Expect that to climb.

If you are a Democrat, as I am, there’s a chance you may want to celebrate the complete destruction of our opponent – which is almost certainly still in progress. The press now has a pass to go into all of his past statements on women, and they will.

A recent cartoon from Sandra Boynton's facebook page.

A recent cartoon from Sandra Boynton’s facebook page.

But there is nothing to celebrate here. There is nothing good about predatory sexual assault in the headlines. There is nothing good about the destruction of the Republican Party.

For all of the great hope for our future expressed in Barataria there has always been one great caveat. The world is changing rapidly, for sure, and people are clearly overwhelmed by the changes. The only chance we have in this increasingly interconnected world is have open, honest conversations about who we are as a people and what we need from each other.

The future is ours if only we can prepare for it. We are indeed stronger together.

I certainly don’t agree with everyone who reads Barataria and comments here. That you are here in spite of our disagreements is nothing less than my greatest pride in this life. Those of you who school me and tell me where I am wrong only make me better. I can’t possibly thank you enough for that.

Many hands make lighter work. Many different hands make the work a triumph.

Many hands make lighter work. Many different hands make the work a triumph.

Our nation, as a whole, has to be in that same place somehow. The entire point of Barataria is to lead by example – to show where respect and empathy can lead us to new understanding. Any enlightenment which any of us might experience comes from new perspectives. If nothing else it gets us out of the hiding place which we all want to retreat into when the world simply looks too scary to contemplate.

I can only hope that the net result is bravery as much as respect.

There are lines, of course. There are places where civilized discourse cannot go. Racism and sexism always cross that line, but we know that we as a people often stray into that territory. Finding our way back home and away from that takes respect and love as much as anything, but it also requires the courage to stand on principles. We have to call out the lines carefully so that we don’t cross them at the same time we explain why those lines are indeed necessary.

This election has crossed nearly every line with no sense of how we’ll ever get back.

For all of the hope that we might one day actually come to a consensus on the new economy and the new morality might form in this new generation, we know this much today – we are not in a place where we are going to do that.

Fred Rogers.

Fred Rogers.

When I lived in Pittsburgh, my apartment was across the street from Fred Rogers. I saw him more than a few times on the street and always said, “Hello, Mister Rogers!” He smiled back, said, “Hello!” and we walked on. It seems like so very little, but it changed me forever. His life’s work as an example and a teacher crystallized into brief encounters which are enough to inspire me to this day.

That is real power. Yes, Mister Rogers is one of the most powerful people who ever lived – if only you let him into your heart. I could say the same about his inspiration, Jesus, but I want to reach the world in a place I think everyone can understand. Let’s just stay with Mister Rogers for a moment.

This world is scary. We all have two options – hide away and make ourselves feel safe or bravely confront the dragons of our world with respect, empathy, and even love when we can muster it.

Most of us will do both in turns, and that’s OK. Mister Rogers would understand. We are living in a time where lines are constantly being crossed and we are all offended, even appalled by the world we find ourselves in. I’ve had my fill and I certainly want to hide away and ignore all of this nonsense for a while.

Sometimes the coming of dawn requires a bit of faith.

Sometimes the coming of dawn requires a bit of faith.

Yet it is ultimately more comforting to stand up in the light of the day and confront it all. Let’s find some hope here. Let’s stop for a moment and understand that we now know where a disrespectful and selfish world can take us.

Good can come from nearly any example if we learn the right lesson from it. The lesson today is that this isn’t a place any of us can be if we want to have a happy and decent life. If it helps to hear that in Mister Rogers voice, please let him speak to you. Please take inspiration anywhere you can.

Nearly every line every person in this nation may have has been crossed at this point. We are in a place none of us can possibly tolerate. Let’s start with that and then we can discuss how we get back. Please?

12 thoughts on “Over the Lines

  1. You are so right that there is nothing to celebrate here! The fact that many continue to love, support and no doubt emulate Trump frightens me very much indeed. But I love your statement about Fred Rogers’ power. It is easy to forget the power of quietly setting an example. I must strive to do that. Thank you for this post.

  2. Politics has been getting dirtier for many years. This is just the culmination. It may even get worse but I can’t see how.

    • It is increasingly looking like that will indeed happen. I still wonder about the House. The generic congressional ballot has the Dems up +7, which may be enough to take it. We’ll see.

    • NBC was going to release the tape, or so they say, but the Washington Post got a leaked copy of it and beat them by a few hours.
      Whether or not he knew he was being recorded is an issue. However, this was part of his role on The Apprentice, as he was hanging around with Billy Bush. So I think consent is hardly an issue here, and it has not been raised (I checked).

  3. All true, but you know, he’s gotten away with it again. You can find lists of the outrages he has uttered and committed, and the minimal consequences that resulted, since he became a public figure. This is “the latest on the list,” and the reactions have been more serious and numerous, but they have not prevented him from going on spewing his toxic mix; they have not prevented his critics from pulling their punches (see: Paul Ryan); they have not prevented his slimy advisers (Christie, Giuliani) from laughing it all off and returning to their lies; they have not changed the behavior of his crowds of cheering, smug and poisonous know-nothings.

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