Respecting women: If not now, when?

Throughout the last month, the parasitic mistreatment of women has been thrown into the spotlight of our nation once again. Be it in the halls of parliament, or those of our schools, it’s clear we’ve got a problem.

Initially, I decided to avoid writing anything on this topic because I didn’t think it was my moment. I’m not a woman, nor can I claim to have a true understanding of the adversities they face within our society.

But I was wrong. It is my moment. It’s your moment. It’s everyone’s moment. Our moment, as human beings, to take a stand, to confront the fact that the behaviour we are hearing about isn’t okay — it’s appalling, and in most cases criminal, too.

The issue isn’t that all men are bad; they’re not. The issue is that women are all too often subjected to inappropriate physical, verbal, and sexual behaviours from men. Enough men that we see the following statistics in Australia:

1 in 6 women over the age of 15 are victims of sexual assault.[1]

1 in 6 women have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner.[2]

One woman a week is killed by a current or former partner.[3]

85% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment at some point in their lives.[4]

These statistics are not right, they’re not fair, and are just a handful of the many which depict the frightening reality for women in our society.

Janine Hendry, the organiser of last Monday’s March 4 Justice in Canberra, further articulated the prevalence of gendered violence in an article published in The Guardian.

The reality is this: within society, there will always be bad apples. People who’ve lost their way, and subject others to things that no person ought ever to be.

But right now, far too many men aren’t just bad apples. They’re conscious participants in (and beneficiaries of) a system that protects them from inappropriate behaviour, and supports its generational perpetuation.

So, to my fellow men, I say this: it comes down to us to confront and end the actions, big and small, which have and continue to lead to the damaging attitudes held by far too many among us.

It’s about making the choice to not laugh at that questionable joke with your mates. It’s about having the courage to take a stand, even when it feels awkward. Put a stop to these attitudes while they’re in front of you, because while it might not be the ‘cool’ option, it’s always the right one.

Changing inappropriate behaviours and attitudes is not a big ask. It’s a simple request to treat others with basic human decency. The issues that presently exist could be solved overnight if every man were to instantaneously develop a fundamental sense of respect for others.

In reality, though, these issues cannot be solved overnight. However, with time, effort, empathy, and education, the only place we’ll hear about the widespread mistreatment of women, and the men who engaged in it, will be in history classrooms.

Let’s make it happen.

A sinking ship

Like every other decent human being, and (apparently) the President of the United States, I was appalled by Wednesday’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

For months, Donald Trump has recklessly sown doubt over the legitimacy of the U.S. presidential election. He has called his unwaveringly loyal supporters to arms. And now, we’ve seen the consequences — an act of domestic terrorism at the fount of democracy, conducted in the name of a sitting U.S. president.

What happened earlier this week is exactly what Trump and his loyal band of disciples wanted: to bring unprecedented disruption to an established, constitutionally-mandated formality.

And yet, despite this disruption, the Electoral College certification process was completed, culminating in the official declaration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next president and vice-president of the United States. In eleven days, they will assume those roles.

So, what happens between now and then?

First and foremost, Trump needs to go. Eleven more days at the helm is eleven days too many. While every major social media platform has deemed it too high of a risk to remain on their platforms, Trump remains in unilateral command of the world’s most powerful nuclear arsenal. Through his actions, he has demonstrated an inability to continue to act in the best interests of the United States, and the “free world” he’s so frequently purported to lead.

Republicans argue that removing a sitting president eleven days out from the end of their term sets a bad precedent.

To those Republicans, I’ll tell you what I think sets a bad precedent: allowing a president to permit a large, radicalised element of their voter base to become so blind to reality to the point that they commit an act of domestic terrorism on the U.S. Capitol. And then, as that act is unfolding, to tell that radicalised element that said president “loves them” and that they are “very special”, and failing to deploy readily available troops to end the conflict.

Allowing that to go unpunished? That sets a bad precedent, and that’s why Vice President Mike Pence and Cabinet must invoke the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to remove Trump from office as quickly and decisively as possible.

Should that fail, impeachment should (and will) be pursued. While it’s unlikely a trial will conclude before Trump’s departure from office on the 20th, should the Senate find Trump guilty, it would disqualify him from holding public office ever again — putting an end to any suggestion of a return in 2024.

Shutting down Trump’s future ambitions is an important step forward, but it’s by no means a catch-all solution.

To echo a sentiment I expressed in my last post, The end of the road, Trump is on his way out — but Trump-like figures are not. Just this week, Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley have proven a willingness to put their own ambition above acting in the interests of the greater good of society. It’s people like these who represent the long-term threat that American democracy faces.

To be complacent is to be complicit — and far, far too many have been complacent.

That includes social media companies, especially Twitter and Facebook. Twitter has allowed Trump to post a variety of dangerous tweets in recent years, including threatening to commit war crimes against Iran. Facebook, on the other hand, has allowed Trump’s campaign to use its targeted advertising tools to prey on everyday Americans by selling his deluded vision of “making America great again”.

I could argue all day about the merits some see in keeping Trump and others within the regulatory confines of these platforms, as opposed to allowing their opinions to ferment in darker corners of society — but in my view, the reality remains this: deplatforming works, and it’s regrettable that it took an armed invasion of the U.S. Capitol — the first of its kind since that led by the British in 1814 — for social media companies to see that.

This is a topic which isn’t going away, and one I’ll likely write about in more depth soon.

Now, finally, it’s plain to see that the Trump ship is sinking. Many of Trump’s longest-serving loyalists are now seeking to jump ship and distance themselves from him. Shame on them, and shame on anyone and everyone who has enabled this appalling chapter of history and now seeks to absolve themselves of responsibility for it.

Soon, the Trump era will be over, and the time for healing and, importantly, reform will begin. Joe Biden and his Cabinet nominees appear up to the task. In particular, Merrick Garland strikes me as an excellent choice to lead a Justice Department which will face the difficult task of handling the high-profile prosecutions which are bound to emerge from the current administration.

More than anything, I hope that a sense of normality returns to U.S. politics.

Beyond that, I hope for progress. I hope that those in government opt to be more than a cog-spinning kakistocracy. To actively make life better for actual people, rather than corporations and the ultra-wealthy. It’s the failure of governments to do this that has led to the socio-economic conditions that allowed Trumpism to rise — which is why something must be done to address it.

There is much work that remains to be done, but I’m confident that when we all work together, the fundamental principles which underpin our combined existence will prevail.

The end of the road

The American people have spoken. This is the end of the road for Donald Trump’s presidency.

By virtually all accounts, voting has gone as well as could be expected amid a pandemic. Despite the fears of many, widespread civil unrest has not broken out. Donald Trump’s reaction has been contained to the expected: angry tweets and frivolous litigation. The results we’ve seen so far speak for themselves.

At this point, I’m willing to call it: Joseph R. Biden Jr. will be the 46th President of the United States.

Watching Biden speak earlier today was incredible. For the first time in four years, I felt like I was listening to a president, rather than an irascible school bully. If, like me, you’ve got a few minutes to watch it while sitting through CNN’s irritatingly repetitive ad breaks, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

The reality is that this election could have gone either way. It certainly wasn’t the “blue wave” that many like myself had been hoping for. Had Trump received a few thousand more votes in the right places, we’d be staring down the barrel of a second term for Trump right now. Scary, I know.

My greatest takeaway from the last three days has been this: we need to stop pretending that Trump’s supporters are irrelevant — they aren’t. This election has unquestionably demonstrated that. In spite of the president’s innumerable wrongdoings, almost 50% of American voters have cast their vote for Donald J. Trump.

Since Wednesday, I’ve spoken with the few remaining Trump supporters I know, and one thing is abundantly clear: they genuinely believe the utter nonsense that comes out of Trump’s mouth — even the baseless claim that this election has been “stolen”. The thing I find most frightening about this is that these are people I consider to be relatively intelligent, and capable of thinking for themselves. If even they are willing to support Trump’s nonsensical views, it’s not at all surprising that 50% of America is as well.

I’ve come to the realisation that presenting these people with facts is futile. They simply don’t listen. It’s as if they’ve lost the ability to comprehend that maybe, just maybe, reality is comprised of more than what the imperious President Trump wants them to believe.

In the current social and political climate, the ability to think independently is more important than ever before, so it’s deeply concerning that people, smart people, seem incapable of doing so.

What do we do, then? How do we close the great divide that has engulfed political discourse not just in the United States, but the world?

Truthfully, I don’t know.

Answering this question will take time. Fortunately, there are few people better than Joe Biden to lead the effort to heal this division. A lifelong member of the D.C. establishment, he is brilliantly equipped to build a bridge between the Democratic and Republican parties, and restore political decency in the United States.

The next two months will be tumultuous as Donald Trump does everything in his power to undermine democracy. He will undercut faith in the institutions which have been sacrosanct in the United States for centuries. He will attempt to delegitimise a legitimate president-elect. The United States has weathered many storms in its 243-year history, and it will weather this one too.

There’s a longer, greater battle ahead. Soon, Donald Trump will be gone, but his cancerous grasp on society won’t. Bringing people back together will take time and work, it will be hard, and there will be setbacks — a Trump-like figure may well take the presidency once again, but I have faith that the people of the United States are capable of rising to this challenge.

Right now, though, there is real cause for celebration. This nightmare is drawing to a close. A woman of colour will serve as Vice President of the United States. Basic decency will return to the highest office in the land. For the first time in four years, the future is looking up.

For our sake, let this be the end of the road for Trumpism, and the beginning of the long road to unity. If it’s not, we’ll have bigger problems to address than Donald Trump.