There is a profound irony but truth in the thought that as horribly degraded as Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has become, it could wind up having a beneficial effect on American culture. That is, if a sufficient effort is made by good people to take advantage of this unique “teaching moment” to offer something truly better.
The first point is that the “Trump Effect,” sadly, is not going away after the November election that will, we hope, bring this current ugliness to a merciful end. “The Trump Effect” is the rise of all the negative aspects of Trump’s personality in the American population, especially among young men and boys in our schools. Trump has provided entitlement for these to magnify their bullying, their stalking, their hateful talk, their demeaning of others, and their violence, including sexual violence. He’s a role model, all right, in the worst way, and a lot of victims are going to suffer as a result.
So there is going to have to be a fully-throttled, sustained and intense counteroffensive to remedy elements of our culture that have allowed this to gain traction. This is not about wining or losing elections. It is about the most basic elements of civility, decency, respect for persons and old-fashioned virtue.
Even before the post-World War II push for equal rights for women, for example, there prevailed in our culture notions of respect and honor in acceptable men’s behavior toward women.
As the feminist component of the overall surge in the demand of all Americans, regardless of color, ethnicity, religion, disability or sexual orientation, that began to peak in the late 1960s, a massive counter-revolution was unleashed that had been hatched in the bowels of the McCarthyite reactionary current after the war.
Feminism, in particular, was met head-on with the most degraded form of objectification and exploitation of women under the banner of the “sexual freedom” component of the so-called “sex, drugs and rock-and-roll counterculture.”
It is the testimony of so many young women who stepped forward to join the movement seeking to fight for social change in the late 1960s and early 1970s that what they encountered were not male counterparts focused on constructive social change in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, but lusty predators who operated under the guise of this movement, encouraged and rendered entitled to sexually assault women at will.
(This, by the way, is what led to an inalienable split between the gay male and lesbian currents of the LGBT movement back then which I, as a young gay activist, witnessed first hand. Some of us identified ourselves as “gay males in the feminist revolution,” but the overwhelming majority of gay men fell under the spell of radical “sexual freedom,” redefining the cause in terms of having as much sex, including exploitative sex, as possible).
Donald Trump and others who dabbled in the unrestrained free-for-all of that time soon became addicted to its fleeting delights and methods. Much of the counterculture underworld in places like Trump’s New York City, for example, was controlled by the Mob, and biographies of Trump show his strong ties to Mob elements in those days, including his intimate ties to McCarthy Era operative Roy Cohn.
The Mob, the five major families operating in New York and other urban centers, was in the business of the degradation of women, in particular, gays, children and everyone in general. The Mob ran ruthless operations of what became known as “Shylock loans” passed out to force victims into receivership and the takeover of their businesses, massive drug running operations, including pornography, prostitution, including child prostitution, often with the collateral benefit of blackmail, including of many prominent persons, and, of course, murder.
This was the cesspool world that shaped Trump’s behavior as he became an eager player in it.
The Mob may have receded in recent years, at least in terms of visibility, but its imprint has been left as a deep stain on our culture, as evidenced by Donald Trump and others from a generation of now older male creeps.
A forceful revival of feminism is one viable antidote.