It is with great trepidation that I am sharing my opinion on recent events in this forum.
As I have mentioned before, this is a business site — and while I have chosen to address controversial issues and share personal experiences here — I have also taken great pains to stick to apolitical topics.
The decision to do so is largely a matter of common sense, given the ugliness of U.S. presidential politics and the candidates currently involved therein. Furthermore, I am a private person who generally has little desire to air my personal opinions publicly.
However, there are times when I simply cannot remain silent. So today, I am writing to refute U.S. presidential nominee Donald J. Trump’s assertion that the lewd and vulgar remarks he made about women 11 years ago are of little consequence.
To begin with, let’s examine Trump’s claims that the remarks were simply “locker room talk” that he engaged in during a private conversation, and that they are not indicative of his true feelings about women.
There are two specific reasons why these claims lack merit.
The first is based upon my personal experience. Having been around plenty of public figures as a journalist, I can say with great certainty that you will very rarely, if ever, see the genuine person when they are in the spotlight. In public, every single second is contrived. Why? Because they know they are being watched. It is only in the private, unguarded moments when they feel safe and at ease, that you will see the person’s true character. So in my humble opinion and experience, the words Trump uttered when he had no reason to fear being caught are definitely indicative of his true character.
The second, and more important is that in Connecticut, where he once had a home and now owns at least one luxury high-rise that I know of, the activity Trump so callously described in his alleged “locker room talk” is a crime. The relevant portion of C.G.S. §53a-72a states that someone is guilty of sexual assault in the third degree when they compel “another person to submit to sexual contact (A) by the use of force against such other person or a third person, or (B) by the threat of use of force against such other person or against a third person, which reasonably causes such other person to fear physical injury to himself or herself or a third person…” The offense is a Class D felony, punishable upon conviction by up to five years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $5,000.
To brag about wanting to, or being able to engage in such conduct — specifically kissing women without their consent or grabbing them by their private parts — and then chalking it up to “locker room talk” is inane at best, and arguably symptomatic of depraved thinking at worst.
Now as Trump and his supporters rightfully contend, it is not illegal to say what he said, as long as he never actually acted on it. And, as Trump and his supporters contend, there are some people who may not find his remarks vulgar, offensive or morally reprehensible at all. Frankly, I don’t know who they are — and I don’t want to know. But I digress.
In the last few days, Trump has repeatedly attempted to mitigate his own behavior by drawing comparisons to things former President Bill Clinton has allegedly said and done. However, his insistence that his verbal denigration of women pales in comparison to Clinton’s alleged and actual sexual transgressions also falls flat for one extremely significant reason.
If elected, Donald J. Trump will find himself in a position where a poor choice of words can have very, very, serious consequences — because words are very powerful.
Throughout the ages, words have been used as weapons and used as tools to broker peace. They have spurred men to action. They have sparked revolutions. They have been used to ensure the punishment of the guilty, and for the wrongful indictment of the innocent. Historically, words have been used to lift people from the depths of despair and to beat them into submission. Words have shaped countries and cultures and people.
The greatest dissidents, the greatest thinkers, the greatest leaders of all time, were known not only for what they did, but for what they said, and what they wrote.
So actually, Mr. Trump, words do matter.