Ruth Bass: Time to build a wall against sexual assault

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RICHMOND — This presidential campaign wears on and does not wear well. Its length and its content have tired us out, even the most political among us. It makes some of us look across the Atlantic to Great Britain (once our parent) and envy their rules that limit campaigns to six months. Perhaps we could settle for nine as a compromise. If a woman can produce a baby in nine months, we could probably produce a president in that time.

Speaking of women, it's possible that the female half of America will eventually benefit from the most despicable parts of the campaign. One of the candidates has railed against being "politically correct" and has backed up those assertions not only by being politically incorrect but by being exposed as super-duper incorrect in private life.

The candidate's public assertion that he never engaged in the kinds of assault he bragged about through an open microphone caused a growing string of women to speak out after years of silence about terrible events in their pasts. Those who want to discredit those women question why they kept silent until now.

Of course they did. They are members of a national culture that blames the woman, shames her if she comes forward, questions her honesty, talks about what she was wearing, where she was walking, whether she was using glamorous mascara, whether her skirt was slit up the side, whether she'd been drinking. It's only recently that the ivory towers of the nation's colleges have squarely faced the matter of date rape as sexual assault, criminal and a matter for the police. (And some of them haven't yet.)

Many women who have spoken out about sexual assault, in the past and in the present, have had the tables turned against them because of our cultural bias. Victims (female) are blamed while predators (males) are excused. If such cases land in court, what happens next is enough to make most women run for cover – they don't want to testify because public exposure of their tragedy may be worse than suffering in silence.

It's devoutly to be hoped that good things will evolve from the language and actions of the celebrity running for president – and, not incidentally, the language and purported actions of that other celebrity we once enjoyed as the source of truly great comedy. Perhaps the country will wake up to the fact that domestic violence and sexual assault are prevalent and unforgiveable.

It's distressing to hear an American man assert, in a sampling interview, that he doesn't care whether a presidential candidate has been accused of assault, that he's just interested in jobs and the economy. It doesn't matter to him that he could have a president who judges half the U.S. population in terms of their shape, their faces, their legs, etc. He will vote on what he considers the "real issues," which exclude the importance of respect for women. One wonders if he knows that, with Barack Obama at the helm, long-stagnant wages have started to move up, and some 14 million jobs have been added. The economy has a heartbeat.

One presidential candidate has tried to make us believe that politically correct people don't face reality. And then he employs disgusting language about women, about religion, about race, about ethnicity, just to prove that he's outspoken. Telling it like it is. What he's peddling is demeaning and hateful, an appeal to the worst in us.

Political incorrectness is apparently, in the candidate's view, a way to say whatever you want, whenever you want, to whomever you want. That's certainly a quick road to damaging and downgrading the national brain and the national moral standards. We should build a wall against the onslaught.

Ruth Bass is a former Sunday editor of The Berkshire Eagle. Her web site is www.ruthbass.com.


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