Where is the proverbial breaking point for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump supporters? A 2005 video showing Donald Trump speaking to television personality Billy Bush about non-consensual kissing and grabbing women’s genitals has dominated the news cycle since the video’s release Friday. The “locker-room banter” between the two men should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the Trump campaign, known for its leader’s habit of committing one gaffe after another without apology — or in this most recent case, an insincere one. This particular incident is, however, different than the others to which we have grown accustomed. These marked differences led me to my own breaking point Friday night.
I made a promise to myself early on during this election that I wouldn’t provoke political debate with Facebook friends. I would, I told myself, let the handful of Trump supporters on my newsfeed pass by without comment. If the temptation to engage them grew too strong, I would simply unfollow them. This strategy proved successful until Friday night. Just before midnight, I was scrolling through my newsfeed, interested to see my friends’ reactions to the news, when I came across a post from a former classmate and Trump supporter. The post was a video of Donald Trump giving his rehearsed statement in response to the controversy, with a transcript provided in the caption. Once I started reading the transcript, I knew my personal promise was lost.
My resolve quickly faded, as I realized that this latest revelation was not a gaffe like the others. What Donald Trump described in that 2005 video was sexual assault -— the severity of which he now attempted to obfuscate with a rare “apology.” As the clock soon turned past midnight, I found myself drafting something that resembled an essay of nearly 500 words, not a comment. While the outrage justifiably focused on the indecency of Trump’s comments, I became doubly enraged by the content of this so-called “apology.” What struck me most, and became the introduction of my Facebook comment, was Trump’s reference to the 2005 recording as “more than a decade-old.” Was Trump really trying to suggest that he made these comments when he was younger and immature, and therefore deserves our grace? Trump was 59 years old, not 15 years old, when he spoke of his fondness of sexually assaulting women he finds attractive.
This appeal to time and maturity was the core of Billy Bush’s own apology. “Obviously I’m embarrassed and ashamed. It’s no excuse, but this happened 11 years ago — I was younger, less mature and acted foolishly in playing along. I’m very sorry,” Bush said in a statement. Mind you, in 2005, Bush was 33 years old and married with three daughters.
Both apologies fall hopelessly flat in that they excuse criminality as immaturity and perpetuate a rape culture in which we are told “boys will be boys.” Simply, Trump and Bush’s statements attempt to normalize attacks on women. However, we’re told that Trump and men like him are not the broken ones. Rather, “Washington is totally broken,” according to Trump’s statement, and Trump is the only person capable of saving our government from ruin. Though this might come as a surprise to Trump and his supporters, Washington has always been broken. Washington, like the rest of the world, is a place filled with corruption and greed and pain. Trump is not a savior. He cannot save Washington or the United States or the world, anymore than he could save his multiple businesses that are now bankrupt. As I am assured that Trump will not imbue any shade of greatness upon this country, I concurrently fear his capacity to make not only the United States but also the world a measurably worse places to live — especially for women.
Like Washington, Trump is driven by greed — an insatiable desire for power and status and wealth — and will conveniently apologize to save himself, while, in the next breath, continuing to spew a false gospel. Friday night, this false gospel finally shattered my self-control, leading to the longest Facebook comment I have ever written, which was deleted by my former classmate within a matter of minutes. Though my words no longer live on Facebook, they live here, without interference. While Trump attempts to conceal his abuse of women, I refuse to be silenced.
Bailee Ahern is a senior majoring in political science and international relations. “’Lend a Hand” runs every Monday.