Three years ago today I saw these images for the first time. They were shocking, and they made me angry, and they just made me really sad. I simply could not believe that a country full of mostly good people would elect a man who so poorly treats and talks about women. A man who didn’t value commitment in marriage. A man who looked at wives as an adornment in the lives of men.
A man who speaks about women like this: “We could say, politically correct, that look doesn’t matter, but the look obviously matters. Like you wouldn’t have your job if you weren’t beautiful.” And this: “Look at that face. Would anybody vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
I’m not really a good citizen. I know I should care, but I just do not when it comes to things like interference in the election and phone calls with government leaders. The days of my naive belief in a country of people with values that holds leaders to a high standard ended long ago, when Bill Clinton stayed in the White House after his impeachment. I was genuinely surprised at that outcome – I thought he’d been caught in his lies, then tried and impeached, and that the consequences would rain down and he would no longer be the President. I wanted him to leave the office, even though I’d voted for him. It was my first of many lessons about how government and politics actually work, and more importantly about what people are willing to sweep under the rug or conveniently forget so that they can get their way or so that they can live in a world that is not so hard and not so messy.
We’re spending all this time and energy and money on research and investigations and hearings…to accomplish what? Impeaching another President who will not leave office?
If we aren’t capable of making the choice to not vote for a man who believes these things about women, it feels like our problems are so much bigger and deeply rooted. We aren’t just on the wrong path. We aren’t even close to the path.
I believe that one day we are all going to be accountable for how we voted (or failed to vote). We may have thought we made the best choice we could, we may have told ourselves and others we were actually voting against the other person, we may have voted for him because of a single issue we thought he would support and so we decided to vote for him because of that one issue. But when you vote for a person – when you support a person – you actually endorse them as a whole. You don’t get to pick and choose parts of them.
You essentially say I’m willing to accept a compromise on gun control so that I can support people with pre-existing conditions always having access to health care. Or I’m willing to accept bigotry because I want a certain kind of supreme court justice. Or I’m willing to accept someone who commits adultery because I don’t want to vote for a person who supports abortion.
Or in our personal lives…I’m willing to accept inappropriate behavior with employees or vendors because my business may be at risk if I fire them. Or I’m not going to call out my friend’s bad behavior because maybe then I won’t have a friend.
Compromise. Compromise. Compromise.
And yet the reality, with politics at least, is that we’re always choosing a candidate who isn’t perfect and all of the people in our daily lives are human.
At the same time that I can acknowledge we’re all human, I’m just disgusted with our compromises. Disgusted by how the election worked out. Disgusted at the thought that people continue to support this lying man. Disgusted at our waste in these impeachment efforts and our partisanship while children are on lockdown in our schools fearful of a shooter and Americans can’t get insulin because they have to make a decision between meds and food. Disgusted that the person who represents our country is not someone I would ever want my children to emulate or even be in a room with.
I think what most people want is a world that just does not require us to think about and confront uncomfortable things. We want a daily life where we ignore how the people around us behave because we’re too afraid to not have friends or to be left out or to be alone. We can’t imagine how our life or our business can be without someone or something, and so we settle. Or maybe we are hiding and need a world that does not hold us accountable, and so we hold others less accountable.
We must all choose, literally every day, in what ways we’ll compromise. Will we vote for people who support health care if they also support tighter border policies? Will we choose to be a real friend and call out bad behavior in our friends and family, or will we offer what is actually our quiet acceptance of bad behavior because we’re too afraid to upset the peace? Will we choose what’s easier now or what is right?
We can’t keep thinking someone else will do something or someone else will say something. The reality is that we’re all going to have to compromise on some things but we have to be mindful when we do and we have to be able to explain it when we do. We have to admit what “whole” we accepted, not just focus on the parts we liked. And most importantly we must not compromise on the things that really matter – on the matters of right and wrong. We must always, always, always choose our children. And we must always, always, always choose right.