Dear Donald…

I have remained silent online with regard to the 2016 Presidential Election face off between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Believe me when I say that the silence has not been anything to do with lack of material – there has been no shortage of that in the last year. Primarily I have remained silent out of love and respect for the people in my life and in my church. I am the pastor of a local church and it remains important to me that I do not alienate folks simply because of something that I write on social media or on a blog post. I have not and will not shy away from any conversations with individuals – respect, dignity, and love can be communicated in a face to face conversation in a way that it can’t be in a Tweet, a blog, or a Facebook post.

Social media silence has been my way thus far – but not any more.

At the end of last week a 2005 video of Donald Trump in conversation with Billy Bush was leaked to news networks. The storm of controversy which has followed that leak has been nothing short of sensational and shocking,. It also truly set the tone for the opening exchanges of the second Presidential Debate.

When I watched the video I found myself being quite shocked that anyone would talk the way he did. He was describing, with pride, how he could just grab females by their genitals, and how if he felt attracted to a woman he would just kiss her because he could not help himself. My shock arose because this is just something that would never, ever come to mind for me to do. I am as red blooded as the next male, and I find women attractive just like women, no doubt, find men to be attractive…but never, ever would I consider touching a woman anywhere on her body without permission; never, ever would I consider kissing a woman without her consent. NEVER. I was shocked by what Trump was saying because it is so far from my personal experience.

But that is not all. In the aftermath of the release of the video, Donald Trump made and released an apology for the things he had said. His remarks later became described as “locker room talk.” I found his apology to be canned and lacking in genuineness. He was speaking the word sorry to those who were watching but remorse seemed to be far away (I realize that this is just my personal opinion of the apology video). I also found the “locker room” analogy to be thoroughly weak. I played rugby for 25 years as a school boy and as an adult. During that time I spent time in sporting locker rooms up to 3 times every week and not once can I recall any conversation like this taking place. If any one of my club mates had spoken in this manner we would have been disciplined by our club at least, and possibly even shunned by our fellow players. Talk of sexually assaulting women is unacceptable anywhere.

I stumbled upon an article about the responses to a tweet by Kelly Oxford of the New York Times. In her tweet she invited other females to share in 140 characters their experiences of sexual assault and misogyny, and she invited the responders to use #notokay in their descriptions. After seeing the article I found the Twitter feed in question and began reading. It is no exaggeration when i say that I was almost sick as I read the short testimonies of women who had been assaulted or abused in their childhood, teenage years and even in their adulthood by their doctors, dentists, teachers, fathers, step-fathers, uncles, friend’s older brothers. It was a sickening collection of short stories which made me become painfully aware of the following:

1. I have never been a woman in the work place and therefore have never experienced unwanted advances by men who think they are wanted or who think they it is okay to make such advances uninvited. Not having experienced the fear, creepiness, stomach churning nature of such a moment means I will never fully understand the impact of misogyny on females. As I read those accounts I realized that this is something that is very live and very real in our culture and that it is absolutely and categorically wrong in any context. Before reading these stories I would have placed myself in a camp which was aware of sexual abuse and misconduct in the world, but was actually blissfully unaware of the reality and breadth of this issue. As i read them I began to think of what it would be like for my daughter to be in a position like this. What if her doctor, her dentist, her teacher, her friend’s dad or brother was to put her through an experience like this; an experience in which she would feel both powerless and objectified. As I thought of my wee girl i was nearly sick and had to stop reading, making a commitment to have the conversation with her and help her know that it is NEVER EVER okay for anyone to touch her or speak to her in a way that she has not consented to, or that makes her feel fear and lack of security.

2. This is a real problem in our culture. As I read these stories I thought to myself that this could be happening anywhere – in my church, in the local school, in our youth group, in any work place…anywhere – and the biggest problem is that there are boys growing up to become men who think that it is okay to treat women as sexual objects. Shame on us, as males, if we ever think like that or if we ever place a woman into that position through our words or actions. And for my part – if I have ever in my life even come close to making a woman feel like that – I am profoundly sorry for doing so.

3. There can be absolutely no justification for such behavior. Ever.

Which brings me back to Trump.

I have friends on both sides of the aisle politically. Some of those on the Republican side were very quick to accept Trump’s apology and challenge the world to move on from the video. one in particular is a long time friend of mine. She has sons of her own and grand-daughters too and she is the loving wife of one husband who adores her. When I read that she was accepting of the apology and wanted us to all move on, I could not help but want to challenge her to imagine for a second that it was one of her sons, or that it was her husband who was saying those things. How would she feel then about those words coming out of the mouth of someone that she raised, knows and loves deeply? Or what if the speaker of those words was speaking of doing such things to one of her grand-daughters without consent?

No. It is not enough for a man to brazenly boast about his sexual assaults on females, only to then say that he is sorry when the news unexpectedly breaks. Donald Trump has shown no remorse and no desire to repent and become a different man. He has proven himself to be a misogynistic, egotistic, narcissist again and again and again in this race. It is for this reason that he is profoundly unfit (not to mention inexperienced) for public office of any description never mind the highest public office in the land.

America – you must be smarter than to give this maniac an electoral mandate. America, you must waken up to the very culture which this man represents – a culture in which all people are not treated equally with dignity and respect. America, you must reject this man outright – even if you do hate Hillary Clinton. She is at the very least qualified and experienced enough to lead even if you do not like the manifesto from which she plans to lead.

Please America – wake up. You are already a great nation. you always have been. But that status will take an immense tumble if you vote the buffoon, Donald Trump, into office come November.

American Experience…

I was surfing through social media today when i happened upon an article posted by my friend. The article was about President Obama and commended him for the personal touch that he has been able to bring to his Presidency. Posting the article was an act of appreciation of how the President has gone about his business. After my friend had posted the article it did not take long before someone came back at him for having posted. People are so sensitive about their politics!

The person said that my friend (a resident of Northern Ireland) might feel differently about President Obama’s administration if he lived in USA and experienced personally the decline that has happened in USA.

As one who is from Northern Ireland but lives in USA, I felt the need to respond. Once I got going I rambled on a bit. Below is the text of what I said:

I am one who was born and brought up in Northern Ireland but who now lives in America. I experience a country which has vastly changed in the last 15 years. I experience a country in which ordinary people seem to be very angry and somewhat hurt/let down by those who govern them at local, state and federal level. I also experience a country which is gripped by fear – a fear which is fed by media and the 24 hour news cycle, and which has led to a wide spread suspicion of ‘the other.’

I experience a country in which many people seem to blame President Obama for the failings which they perceive to be taking place. This blaming of the President fascinates me because USA is not governed by a single individual or office, it is governed by many elected and appointed individuals who, more often than not, appear en mass to behave like petulant children.

I experience a country where individuals run rampant with weapons of destruction in the most unlikely of places: schools, churches, public buildings.

But I also experience a great country which appears to have forgotten how good things actually are:

While many politicians do behave like petulant children, there are also others who are working tirelessly for the benefit of their constituents – I myself have experience amazing support from my local Congressman and Senator in the midst of an immigration issue.

People have the right to free speech.

A free press operates.

According to US Dept. of Health and Human Services, an estimated 20 million more people have health coverage in 2016 than did in 2010.

Americans are still the most hospitable and generous people I know – aside of the Northern Irish/Irish đŸ˜‰

Everyone has the right to marry.

Teenage Pregnancy is at an all time low, according to CDC

I lived in USA from 2003 to 2006 in the Bush administration, and I have been back living there since 2013 in the Obama administration. I do see a great differences in how I experience things in the USA in those times. But in as much as there seems to be so much in decline, there is still so much that remains great about America.

I am a fan of President Obama. I think he set targets for his administration and despite much opposition has managed to see many of them come about. Is he perfect? No way. Has any president been perfect? Will the history books reflect well on his presidency? Time will tell.

In the mean time, I am going to enjoy the remainder of his presidency because I strongly believe that this time next year we will all be looking back and thinking that we did not know how good the thing we had was until it was gone.

Later that day, one of the members of my congregation got in touch to say that she had read what I wrote and enjoyed it. She asked if I would post it on my own Social Media feed. I refuse to do that because I do not feel it is the best place for a local pastor to air political thoughts – even though there is nothing controversial in the above.

So I decided to share it here.

I hope it helps!