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Manifesting the Worst Old Norms

A half-century ago I was a 17-year-old who had just been hired to do door-to-door canvassing for the Minneapolis Housing Authority to inform people in the poorest neighborhoods that they could nominate community members to serve on the board of the agency. We held trainings and exercises to develop our team and one of the supervisors, a very nice and somewhat chubby fellow, said he hoped in 10 years that the acceptance of heavy build—fatter—would apply to women as much as it did then to men.

I had certainly never thought about that but it made total sense. Overweight men were not nearly so rejected as were overweight women, and that of course would be a double standard that would evaporate as we created a new world based on equality.

Now, all these years later, we have the bizarre spectacle of Donald Trump as a viable candidate for the highest office in the land routinely expressing all the bad old values we hoped and assumed were headed for righteous extinction or at least extreme marginalization. Is this Trump’s fault that he cannot go a day without saying that Miss Universe is “Miss Piggy” because she gained weight after winning her crown, or that another woman’s face is unacceptable, or that Rosie O’Donnell is a “slob”?

No, Trump is who he is. I have personally never watched him on TV before this campaign and never patronized any of his businesses in any way. He’s in a world I have been able to ignore as crass, gauche, boring, patronizing, atavistic, juvenile, and shallow. Now it’s clear that he is deeply hypocritical, racist, and misogynist.

And now I’m faced with the sad truth that millions of my fellow Americans support these views. The levels of voter incompetence and horrific mores revealed make me question the goodness of a huge swath of my own countrypeople. Seeing his support is what is painful, not his own puerile adolescent behavior and character. That this spoiled brat born into privilege and clearly raised about as well as Uday Hussein can garner so much support from supposedly freedom-loving Americans is simply depressing. Rich boys who love to intimidate others have run the world far too long. Hillary is problematic but Trump is absolutely unacceptable.

I hope we begin some self-reflection soon in our country. The worst sexist and racist values of the 1950s are on full display and need to be soundly rejected. Trump stands for unfairness and he should be standing alone, not on the shoulders of real people who work for a living, who scuffle to make ends meet, and who know what unfairness feels like.

Leave Trump to his own devices. Let his poor values wither on his patriarchal bully vine.

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Tom H. Hastings is core faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and founding director of PeaceVoice

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