Zero Tolerance: Trump, Schwarzenegger, and Strauss-Kahn

By Jim Wallis 05-26-2011

It's a constant storyline in the media involving powerful men in politics, sports, business, and even religion: Men behave with utter disregard for the dignity and humanity of women -- using and abusing them at will, and somehow believing that they are entitled to do so. These men seem to think that the ordinary rules of decent behavior do not apply to them. We have a never-ending cavalcade of disgusting stories about men cheating on their wives and mothers of their children; abandoning old wives for new ones; serial philandering as a way of life; sexually harassing and assaulting women; and even committing rape. But when all is said and done, the perpetrators are still playing basketball, football, and golf; they are still running for political office, and are still at the helm of the institutions of the economy, and even the church.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Donald Trump, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the (now former) chief of the International Monetary Fund, have all been in the media lately for sins and crimes past, present, and accused. The stories have now come out about a long-time affair Schwarzenegger had with a member of his house staff, Strauss-Kahn's alleged assault against a hotel maid, and Donald Trump's long and blatant history of sexism.

As the secret stories are revealed, there is great interest and perverse excitement in the media. The pain and suffering from the women involved, and the invisible hurt of the children, are brushed aside. Instead, the women are subtly, and sometimes directly, blamed. And sometimes, in all-male circles, there is a wink and a nod, and, most disgustingly, even a little envy of the powerful men who get to break all the rules when it comes to women. The primary outcry is from other women who, in the name of equality and dignity, lament this continual pattern of abuse.

What has been missing from this too-often repeated narrative is the condemnation of these behaviors and attitudes from other men -- especially men who are in positions of power, authority, and influence. While the primary blame lies with the perpetrators, we should look next at the good men who say nothing. It's time for good men to hold accountable those who abuse women. Those who abuse, assault, and rape are not real men. They distort and destroy any sense of healthy manhood. It's time to tell our sons that they must never act like these abusers and perpetrators, and to make sure to raise our own sons to love, respect, and be faithful to women.

While Schwarzenegger and Strauss-Kahn have provided ugly caricatures of the moral corruption of men in power, Donald Trump sums it up well. For example, the "Trump Rule," according to a book by a Miss USA pageant winner, required that all contestants parade in front of Trump, the co-owner of the pageant, so that he could separate out those he found attractive. Trump once said this about his own daughter, Ivanka: "She does have a very nice figure

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