At the park, I am putting my dog in the car after a long walk when I hear him — “Stop it,” he yells. “Sit down, I said sit! Sit, sit, sit. Knock it the hell off goddammit!” — and I turn to see the elderly man I passed half a mile ago on the trail, yanking his dog’s leash with one hand while beating him with the other.
The dog yelps and cries, cowering with each anticipated blow. I start toward them and that’s when I spot her, the man’s wife, continuing on down the trail as though nothing is happening.
“Mister, stop!” I say, waving my arms, trying to pull his attention my way. “My god, what are you doing, stop, you’re hurting your dog, please stop.” But he turns his back to me and keeps at it, his dog now upside down on the ground, and I realize I am making it worse, that now the man has to keep beating his dog to teach me a lesson, too. I take my cue from the wife. I get in my car, and I drive away.
This is also how Congress has chosen to deal with the onslaught of abuses perpetrated by this president. Whether he’s landing racist punches on Twitter or doubling-down on those attacks from the South Lawn of the White House, Republicans, who have to live in the same house with him, mosey on down the trail knowing there is nothing they can do to stop him and fearful of drawing the abuse their way.
Democrats, like me, wave their arms in the air begging him to stop until they, too, realize they’re only making the situation worse.
And meanwhile it’s the American people, the citizens on both sides of the aisle who elected these leaders, who remain left behind and upside down, taking a beating.
In his new book, The Man They Wanted Me To Be: Toxic masculinity and a crisis of our own making, author Jared Yates Sexton explains that men like the president “are prisoners of toxic masculinity, an artificial construct whose expectancies are unattainable, thus making them exceedingly fragile and injurious to others, not to mention themselves. The illusion convinces them from an early age that men deserved to be privileged and entitled, that women and men who don’t conform to traditional standards are second-class persons, are weak and thus detestable.”
Consider how often this president uses the word “weak” to define those he deems disloyal or, worse, critical.
About Joe Biden the president said, “I think he’s the weakest mentally. And I like running against people that are weak mentally. I think Joe is the weakest up here.”
He famously said about Michael Cohen, his personal lawyer for more than a decade, “He was given a fairly long jail sentence, and he’s a weak person, and by being weak, unlike other people that you watch, he’s a weak person.”
He even uses the term to define the laws of the United States he was elected to govern, tweeting on June 22, 2018, “The U.S. has pathetically weak and ineffective Immigration Laws that the Democrats refuse to help us fix. Will speak to Mexico!”
He recently called former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, ”weak, ineffective & stupid,”
but it was far from the first time, tweeting way back on October 11, 2016, “Our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan, had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty.”
After which Speaker Ryan, second in line to the presidency, went on, like the wife on the trail, to keep his mouth shut and live with him.
Weak weak weak.
In the world of Trump, there is no sin more odious than weakness, and he succeeds because, as Sexton describes in his book, “he is the personification of white American masculinity. His gruff demeanor, constant threats, boasting about his money and power, his wanton promiscuity, his propensity of blatant cruelty, and his bullying of opponents, which [is] like something out of a schoolyard socialization, are all traits we’ve come to associate with men in this country.” (p. 215)
I take a few weeks away from the park trail, and when I finally go back I note the man now carries the leash in one hand and a stick in the other. Friends offer advice.
If he beats the dog again, pull out your phone and record it, then show the police.
Walk right up, yank that stick out of his hand, and beat the living hell out of him with it! That’s what I would do.
Tell him you saw him beating his dog, that you understand his frustration, and ask if you can help! Offer him a hug.
Give him the stare-down. Make sure he knows that you know, and that you’re watching him.
In the end, my 30 year-old son is my most sensible advisor. “Do nothing,” he says. “You don’t know this man, and you are a woman alone on the trail with your dog. He is obviously full of rage, who knows about what, and you live in Kentucky where everybody has a gun. What if he shoots your dog? What if he shoots you?”
What makes an elderly man beat his dog, in daylight, in public?
What makes the President of United States denigrate members of Congress—elected by the American people—by making racist statements and saying (falsely) that they hate their country?
The answer is the same. He believes it is his right, and he knows no one has the courage to stop him.
Now tell me, what are we doing to do about it?
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