The Silence on the Bus | Sojourners

The Silence on the Bus

Screenshot, via Washington Post/Access Hollywood.

Donald Trump’s voice is jarring in the video as he brags about sexual assault in extremely vulgar terms. There’s another voice that’s jarring, too — the one that laughs at these horrific things and encourages them. That other voice disturbs me just as much as the first one. So does the silence from the other men on the bus.

You’ve probably seen the video: The presidential candidate essentially describes himself as an out-of-control sexual predator. It’s so dark and twisted that it makes me ill. And with each horrific sentence, that other voice — the one of television host Billy Bush — provides a laugh track and heaps praise.

“Yes, the Donald is good! Oh, my man!” Bush gushes as Trump’s comments get more vulgar.

Finally, when Trump says he gropes women and inflicts whatever he wants on them because he can get away with it, Bush exults, “Whatever you want!!!”

There are other men on the bus, too. We see them get off before Trump and Bush. We can assume they’ve overheard the conversation. Not one of them interrupted and said, “You did what? That’s repulsive!”

Their silence is bothersome, and painfully familiar, too. We’ve all had times when we were in a group and something was said that violated our values, but we didn’t speak up and later wished that we had.

Speaking up can be difficult, but it’s the most necessary thing to do. And this is a good time to remind ourselves.

When we come across bullies and predators in our world, we can respond with revulsion, or with silence. Bullies and predators want to have cheerleaders around them, encouraging their awful words and deeds. If we won’t applaud them, bullies and predators want us to at least abstain from criticizing them.

That’s why we’ve seen such a pushback against so-called “political correctness” by hate groups.

Some people want to go back to the days when they could openly use racial, sexual, ethnic, and religious slurs — all types of hateful language — without consequence. They don’t want to be held responsible for the pain caused by their words and their actions. Instead, they want everyone to condone them by deciding not to challenge them.

And it’s at times like this that people need to stand up and say, "No! This is unacceptable!"

It’s unacceptable to suggest that all men act in these lurid and pathological ways. They do not. To try to drag all men down to your level shows how far you’ve lost your way.

It’s unacceptable to write it off as just "locker room talk," all fun and games. Sexual abuse isn’t a game. Fortunately, we’ve seen a pushback from professional athletes saying that such language is not acceptable in their locker rooms.

It’s unacceptable to say that other men have done equally horrific things, so it’s OK to do the same horrific things. It’s not OK — those actions and attitudes are still horrific.

It’s unacceptable to try to shrug the whole thing off as just "boys being boys." Instead, we need to describe it for what it is: A man being a monster.

It’s also unacceptable to go to the other extreme and say that one man’s attitude and actions can be dismissed as rare. The comments on the video remind us graphically that a rape culture exists. While not everyone is a bully or predator, there are far too many bullies and predators in the world who think this way and treat women this way, and however they want.

The only way to stop them from preying upon people is to stand up to them.

We must not encourage them in any way. Nor can we remain silent. Bullies and predators persist because of others’ silence. This goes for the bullies and predators in our politics, our families, our communities, our religions, our organizations. We have to stand firm and say that what they’re doing is wrong and must not be tolerated.

That’s not being politically correct — that’s living our values. And if we’re not willing to stand up for what we value, then we don’t really have values.

We live in a society founded on the idea that all people are created equal and must be treated with equal respect. We come from religious backgrounds that recognize we are all equally beloved children of God and must be loved as such. Each of us has a responsibility to defend those whom the bullies and predators want to prey upon.

What bullies and predators want is our laughter and approval. Or, at the very least, our silent capitulation. We must give them neither.

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