Are you feeling just a little bit dirty? Slightly slimy? As if your skin is wearing a thin film of scum — scum that, no matter how hard you try to rub away, doesn’t seem to come off completely?
Lately the endless barrage of news stories has made me feel sullied and soiled, not to mention increasingly worried. Staying sunny while being exposed to one grimy detail after another is truly testing my fortitude. Regardless of how high the stock market soars or how robustly our economy grows, keeping a positive attitude seems more and more like a fool’s errand these days. Our value as a society, after all, should be measured in more than GDP and dollar and cents.
So, where oh where to begin? But more important: When will the shamelessness end?
Every morning brings a fresh batch of sexual harassment accusations aimed at some idiot who didn’t know how to keep his mouth shut, his hands by his side and his … well, you get the picture. Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, a prominent supporter of the Democratic Party, kicked off the most recent epidemic of confessions, each woman’s story sounding more head-shaking and jaw-dropping than the other. I’ve lost count of how many have accused the once-powerful man.
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Weinstein, however, has had plenty of company. At last count, 38 women have accused Oscar-nominated writer-director James Toback of sexually harassing them, some cases dating as far back as the 1980s. The women have detailed sordid incidents, including one occasion in which he rubbed against the woman until he ejaculated into his pants.
Other names in the growing roster of the accused: Mark Halperin, a prominent MSNBC contributor and former ABC political director, who apologized for “inappropriate” behavior but denied that he grabbed a woman’s breasts and pressed his genitals against others. Former President George H.W. Bush, who apologized to the actresses who said he had copped a feel without their consent. And also celebrity chef John Besh and the now-fired Nickelodeon creator of “The Loud House.”
This spate of accusations proves that sexual harassment is not about political party or race or religion or even industry. Sadly, it’s another reprehensible chapter in a book that includes Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump, who bragged on an “Access Hollywood” tape that he groped women — and then went on to become president anyway.
My yucky-mucky feeling transcends the sexual harassment complaints, however. As the Weinstein et al story unfolded, two other incidents added to the country’s polluted atmosphere. A days-long spat between President Trump, a Gold Star widow and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson devolved into … honestly, I can’t even come up with an appropriate word. It defies explanation.
That Myeshia Johnson, grieving over Army Sgt. La David Johnson’s death in Niger, was insulted by a tone-deaf president I have no doubt. Nor do I doubt Wilson’s version of the event. Yet, I don’t think Trump’s ham-handed consolation call was intended as malicious — and I write this as a voter who considers the man ignorant, arrogant, narcissistic and elected to a job way beyond his abilities.
In refusing to admit that he possibly could have insulted a grieving widow, he proved yet again that instead of elevating himself above the fray, instead of coaxing us to our collective best, instead of unifying an increasingly divided country, he prefers to add more than his fair share of dirt to any debate.
Adding to the already toxic brew was the verbal feud between retiring Republican senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, who lamented the “coarsening” tenor of U.S. politics and the debasement of the presidency while also pointing out Trump’s very visible faults. Trump reacted as, well, Trump does. The result? A verbal brawl that, at the very least, erodes the remaining faith we have in institutions and those in power.
So, yes, I feel yucky. I feel grubby and grungy and foul. We all should. And the worst part? No hot shower, no soak in a scented bath, no industrial soap or brush wire scrubber will keep you or me clean. At this dismal point, I’m not sure anything can.