It’s 2 a.m. A loud shattering of glass awakens the occupant of a darkened home. An old man, 82 years old, is confronted by an attacker in his own home. The assailant, armed with zip ties and duct tape, terrorizes this frightened old man, ultimately shattering his skull with a hammer.
Fortunately, a 911 call saves the man’s life as he’s transported to the ICU where he will spend a week recovering, grateful to be alive. Now imagine the old man, bloody and beaten, is not Paul Pelosi, husband to the U.S. Speaker of the House, but your grandfather.
What happens next ought to bring shame upon every human with an ounce of decency in this country. Conspiracy theorists suggest Mr. Pelosi and the assailant were lovers and that this was a homosexual sex game gone wrong. Elon Musk tweets an opinion article from a right-wing news site that argues this was a “dispute with a male prostitute” before deleting the tweet.
I am literally sick as I write this. Have we lost any sense of human decency at all? I thought we’d reached rock bottom, but then Donald Trump tells his zealots, “Nancy Pelosi is an animal.” Donald Trump Jr. refers to John Fetterman, after the man has suffered a stroke, as “mush for brains.” Then, Republican Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona can’t resist a hammer joke at the Pelosis’ expense. Their audiences roar with laughter. An 82-year-old man had his skull cracked open by an attacker in his own home in the middle of the night, another suffers a stroke, and people laughed uproariously. This is the funniest damn thing these people have ever heard.
What has happened to decency? Morality? Sympathy? Are these the values that we want to model for our children? That the near-death assault upon an old man is something to laugh at? That making up a complete fabrication about the victim of a violent attack for entertainment is OK as long as that victim is not aligned with our political affiliation. That sympathy for someone who nearly lost their life is undeserved if that person is in the opposing political party? What the hell has happened to us?
According to the Anti-Defamation League, “There is a relationship — if not a direct connection — between what young people hear in the public and political discourse and bullying in schools.” At the same time, the National Bullying Prevention Center reports that “20.2% of students report being bullied. Students who report frequently bullying others and students who report being frequently bullied are at increased risk for suicide-related behavior.”
What in God’s name are we teaching our children? Because they are listening, watching and observing how we treat others. We are, in fact, teaching them that abuse, cruelty, lying and bullying without empathy for those affected by our cruelty, even if the result is violence, is perfectly fine. And we should be ashamed of ourselves. Because our acceptance of this egregious behavior is literally killing our children.
In my house, we follow the Golden Rule and treat others the way we want to be treated. We are kind, tolerant, accepting and helpful to people with disabilities, seniors and children. So, when I witness bullying, coming from the upper echelons of the Republican party, I ask myself: “Why do we not expect better? How has the abuse been allowed to become mainstream and when will it stop?”
It stops when we say “Enough.” But we have not gotten to that point yet. We’re still willing to accept, and even embrace, the verbal assaults and insults coming from the Republican leadership. I guess many think it’s funny to laugh at the expense of others. But these leaders are nothing more than bullies, and our children are following suit.
I hear the criticism now. How dare you suggest this is a Republican problem? The Democrats are just as guilty. To them, I say “prove it.” The assault on public discourse took a nosedive with Donald Trump. His insults were directed at anyone he didn’t like, the list of victims of his verbal abuse too numerous to list, his name-calling the drivel of schoolyard bullies. Trump made the lack of civility acceptable and commonplace. Now some in the GOP think it’s hilarious to perpetuate this stunning lack of decency. But I, for one, am not laughing. And I hope you are not either.
As I write this, Trump has announced another run for the presidency. I ask you to carefully consider not only his candidacy but the candidacy of anyone running for higher office. It is time to reject the notion of a bully-in-chief and embrace the values our moms would be proud of, kindness, compassion, respect, civility, decorum and decency. It’s time to expect our leaders to act as role models for the behavior and values we want to see in our children.