Our sexism comes out, and the campaign to stop the Trump investigation boots up
by Rob Tiller
Early Friday morning, I completed my hundredth spin class at Flywheel. I did not meet my goal of 300 points (285), but I made it in in the top three, and I certainly got my heart rate well elevated (low 160s). Afterwards I drove over to O2 gym for some upper body resistance work and stretching. Then I came home and fixed a green smoothie for breakfast, this time with orange juice, almond milk, kale, banana, baby carrots, celery, and blueberries. That’s a lot of health in one glass, and it was also tasty.
I’m exercising to feel good and increase the chances that I’ll still be here when Donald Trump is gone. It helps my mood, which needs all the help it can get these days. In particular, the recent flood of stories of powerful men sexually harassing women is depressing. It suggests our problem is a lot worse than I thought, and we may well have not hit bottom yet.
It’s no surprise that some percentage of males are dangerous sexual predators, and that there’s a larger percentage prone to crossing the line. What’s new is the level of tolerance for such behavior. Last year almost half the population voted for a presidential candidate who bragged on tape about sexual assault. Now a candidate in Alabama with a well documented record of molesting young teenage girls and lying about it stands a good chance of being elected to the United States Senate.
I formerly assumed that we all — Republican, Democrat, or other — would agree that it is beyond the pale for middle-aged men to sexually assault fourteen-year-old girls. That is, there are plenty of close questions when it comes to the boundary areas of sex, but there are some, like that one, that I thought were beyond debate. But apparently not.
What does this mean? I think we’re seeing something that has been right in front of our noses all our lives but seldom noticed. That is, we have a system in which women formally have equal rights, but in certain respects are regarded as unworthy. In the US, we allow women to vote, attend school, work, and wear what they want. But we also systematically pay them less, give them less authority, and accept as normal that they’ll be subject to some degree of sexual misconduct.
Ferguson and Black Lives Matter began a wrenching process that exposed a hidden strain of racism. Similarly, the disgusting and illegal behavior of Trump, Weinstein, Moore, and others may be the start of a process that shines the light on our entrenched sexism. We may expand the dialogue and expand the population that considers and treats women as fully human, and get to the point that nothing less will be tolerated.
I hope so. Meanwhile, I’m worried by the new effort to discredit and undermine the investigation of Russia’s interference in the last presidential election. The evidence of Russian assistance to the Trump campaign is already extensive, and the evidence of ties between Trump’s top aides and the Russians is growing. Now, as the plot thickens, Robert Mueller and the FBI are being accused of being partisan hacks out to get the President for no good reason.
This campaign of slime is being led by Trump, Fox, and several Republican Congressmen. There’s a good Washington Post piece on this by Paul Waldman here. There’s also an account of the House Judiciary Committee’s work along this line here.
I was sufficiently astonished by this idea that I decided to get out of my own bubble and watch, for the first time ever, an hour of Fox News.
So we saw Sean Hannity’s show on Thursday night, and it was both better and worse than expected. Hannity and his guests are very skilled at weaving together uncontested facts with unfounded speculation and outright falsehoods so that they’re hard to distinguish. The people are well-dressed and look serious and intelligent, and they all agree with each other on their key points.
Thus several people at once will assent verbally and non-verbally to a proposition like “Hillary is the real criminal.” They repeat their basic points over and over, but with enough variations that it isn’t completely obvious. Unless you bring to the table a body of background knowledge, you might not notice the leaps in their reasoning, or the lack of any supporting evidence.
So if you were to get all your news from Hannity, you might well believe that Trump is basically a good guy doing his level best and being unfairly thwarted by evil liberals. And you might end up thinking that there’s no reason to worry about Russia taking over our political process. At the same time, you might not be much concerned about electing sexual predators to high office.
Hannity and Fox are really good at big lie propaganda. Ordinary journalists can’t counter them as long as they are constrained by honesty and actual facts. Reality based reporting doesn’t always fit neatly with our prejudices, and it just isn’t as exciting.
Despite the effectiveness of Fox and Hannity, Trump’s poll numbers continue to sink. I was heartened to read last week that his support among evangelical Christians had dropped by 17 percent since February. Maybe it’s a trend.
I took these pictures last weekend when we visited my brother in the Virginia Beach area. We got out on the Intercostal Waterway and did some kayaking. The water was smooth and peaceful.