It’s no secret I detest Donald Trump. I don’t particularly hate the man himself, because it takes too much energy and effort to become enraged at people I don’t know personally and will likely never meet when there are more than enough humans in my immediate orbit who fit the bill. He isn’t evil, he isn’t Hitler, he isn’t the Angel of Death.
The thing that repels me about Trump is the arrogance and bellicosity he inspires in his followers. It’s hardly unprecedented, given our hardscrabble political history. We lived through Adams-Jefferson, Lincoln-Douglas, Nixon-Kennedy and the violence of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. But this year has been particularly vicious, distasteful and garbage-strewn given the added narcissism fueled by social media.
That said, not everything bad can be laid at The Donald’s Ferragamo-clad feet. Some events have been blown out of proportion precisely because the GOP frontrunner has created such a toxic environment that people jump at the opportunity to paint him and his campaign in the worst light (not that he needs any additional help).
And because he’s fomented such toxicity, it’s poetic justice that, when he really hasn’t done anything horrible or criminal, people think he has.
Which brings me to Corey Lewandowski. Trump’s campaign director was indicted last week on misdemeanor charges of battery in Florida after he allegedly manhandled a reporter at a Trump press conference. Michelle Fields, formerly with the Breitbart organization, claimed to have been grabbed by the arm and pushed away from the candidate when she tried to ask him a question. Later that day, she tweeted photos of a bruise on her arm.
Initially, Lewandowski denied knowing Fields, much less assaulting her. The Trump campaign called her a liar. Then, video was released (by the Trump campaign) that clearly showed Lewandowski grabbing Fields and pushing her back. She didn’t fall but that was only because of her great reflexes, not any chivalry from Trump.
Now, Lewandowski has lawyered up, and Trump is defending his guy. Because, you know, Trump is loyal. He also refused to apologize, which is straight from the bully playbook.
I find all of this to be distasteful. But hang on — you might be surprised where this is going.
Even though I’m disgusted with Trump’s brand of politicking, the thing that is beginning to really anger me is the attempt to frame what happened to Fields as violence against women instead of a regular, albeit unacceptable, political street brawl.
Almost immediately after Fields tweeted her bruise, commentators started conflating Trump’s established misogyny (a full-throated, old fashioned, anti-metrosexual strain) with abuse. Conservative female commentators, not the kind you’d expect to be whiners, came out with a manifesto demanding that Trump fire Lewandowski.
Now, I’m no fan of the macho swagger displayed by Trump, but I also don’t like the reflexive “woe is me for being a woman” in evidence whenever a woman is not treated like a Faberge egg.
Let me be very clear: I condemn any use of violence against innocent victims, be they women, children or men. I am also acutely aware of the scourge of domestic violence in the U.S. and in the world, having experienced it personally as well as in my immigration practice. I defend abused women against deportation. I am close to women who have been abused. I know, intimately, about broken bones and bruises.
But it’s wrong to conflate what happened to Fields, something that has happened to me when trying to squeeze on a train at rush hour, with actual abuse. It politicizes a very serious subject, and trivializes it for greater entertainment value when it should be treated gingerly and with respect.
I knew the minute I saw the tweeted bruise and the fact that the alleged victim was a woman that this would last throughout several news cycles. I mean, if making gross attacks on Megyn Kelly’s propensity to bleed became a weeklong headline, it was inevitable that a case of actual, physical contact between a male Trump supporter and a woman would be a cause celebre. And while Trump deserves all the criticism in the world for his buffoonery, boorishness and arrogance, it doesn’t mean that he should be painted as some political Bluebeard. It’s lazy opportunism and harms a worthy cause.
It’s the same thing that’s been happening with this ridiculous crusade against date rape and the so-called rape culture on campuses. To equate a bad date and mixed signals with the real violence of rape leads to cases like that of Rolling Stone and the University of Virginia, and false accusations. It’s wrong, it’s dangerous and it dishonors real victims.
That’s why I’m angry about this attempt to frame what happened to Fields as abuse. She was pushed, she was pulled, she was probably assaulted under the law. But she should not be an example of domestic violence or proof positive that the Trump campaign supports beating up on women.
Trump is a lot of things, but he’s not Stanley Kowalski. This just doesn’t pass the smell test. And that’s saying a lot, for such a foul-smelling campaign.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.