The Trigger-Warning Election

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Trigger Warning – this Presidential Election contains material that may be disturbing and traumatic for women who have been the victims of sexual abuse or rape, for immigrants who feel unwelcome in our country, for African-Americans who face racial discrimination, for Hispanics who face the assumption that they are not real Americans, for Muslims who fear that they are perceived as terrorists, for children who are victims of bullying… oh heck, this list is getting cumbersomely long, lets just say this election may be disturbing and traumatic for anyone who possesses a shred of humanity.

For the record, I am not in favor of the trigger-warning/safe spaces movement taking hold on college campuses across the nation. Shielding students from disturbing content, in literature and history particularly, is shortsighted and a threat to both academic freedom and freedom of expression. Where else do we better learn resilience, empathy, and moral maturity than in the pages of great literature? Where else do we better learn judgment, perspective, and moral discernment than in the story of humanity? And how can we learn to hone our own ideas and principles without challenging them in open debate? Allowing students to retreat into safe spaces with only people and ideas identical to their own is a recipe for weak intellects and a fragmented society. That’s my opinion on the academic issue. But when it comes to this election I think we’re all craving a safe space.

We have a presidential candidate in Donald Trump who from the beginning of his campaign has spewed hatred for any number of “others,” who has incited violence against protesters, journalists, and his opponent, and who has now dragged the nation into the gutter of sexual sleaze. For weeks now parents have had to shield their young children from the news. Or risk trying to explain why it was such a sensation for Donald Trump to talk about a kitten. Every day seems to bring a new low. This actually happened: Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes defended Trump on television by referencing Fifty Shades of Grey. If women bought eighty million copies of an erotic novel how could they complain about Donald Trump using crude language and groping them without consent went the preposterous argument. And this actually happened: Trump claimed allegations that he forcibly kissed a People magazine reporter were obviously untrue because “just look at her.” Contempt for women is the leitmotif of his persona, the stories too numerous to keep track of, from insulting beauty pageant contestants to firing women employees he deemed not attractive enough. With each new revelation or unhinged attack you can hear the collective gasps of women across the country.

How on earth will we get through the remaining 26 days of this campaign? It already feels like an eternity. Trump has vowed a scorched earth policy, a political Armageddon. But how much lower can he go? He has already called Hillary Clinton a crook and a devil and threatened her with assassination and jail. Will burning at the stake be next?

One of Donald Trump’s empty campaign promises is to keep America safe. But as long as he is rampaging across the nation spewing vitriol and venom there is no safe space for any of us.

 

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