In defense of decency

Published 6:27 am Friday, October 14, 2016

I was as shocked as anyone when I heard the hot mic recording of Donald Trump’s conversation with Billy Bush from 2005 as part of an Access Hollywood TV show segment.

While I’ll not repeat the exact language in a family paper, Trump brags about molesting women without their consent. Suffice it to say, this is alarming and disgusting but what is more surprising is the defense I’ve heard of this indefensible language. Since the tape’s release last week, Trump and others have said repeatedly that it’s locker-room talk. Meaning this is just how guys talk when they’re alone with each other.

I do not normally write about national elections, because national elections are largely showpieces that have no relevance to daily life in rural America. But this does have relevance to any community.

For decades I have heard complaints from certain quarters that America is becoming too PC, as in too “politically correct.” Those who have been censured for saying something offensive are typically the ones to make these complaints, as if it is somehow a noble right of privilege to offend and denigrate other people.

True, our First Amendment guarantees no one will be thrown in jail for saying nasty things, but if we are to live in a safe, decent society then we must do what we can to be voluntarily decent people. What this means is, we should not live our lives in public or private to the extent that we’re bordering on criminal conduct. Decency is choosing to be better than we’re legally required to be.

I’ve always been of the opinion that we should treat other people the way we would like to be treated and that obligates us to respect people in our hearts, if we’re to respect them in public. In fact, I suspect if one does not respect people in the privacy of one’s own heart, one cannot show respect in public.

The aim of decency is to help our communities get along better, to function better and to increase trust and tolerance as opposed to fear and hate. Defending indecent slurs and vile language is the antithesis of improving our communities and our shared experience. Those who defend Trump’s remarks as no-big-deal and mere locker-room talk are not encouraging free speech and open debate, but boorish language that offends millions.

And, to be very clear, none of Trump’s defenses are even accurate.

I am a guy and I’ve many guy friends and I’ve been alone with them plenty of times. I have never once heard any of us at any time make light of sexual assault, let alone brag about it. This isn’t just male banter. And, judging from the dozens of angry tweets I’ve seen from pro athletes, this isn’t literal locker-room talk, either.

Vote for whomever you like. Forgive whatever you like. But let’s not accept weak, false defenses of indefensible talk. Such language is nothing but indecent and, in a civilized society, such talk cannot be defended.

Jesse Wright is the managing editor of The Daily News. You can email him at or call him at 985-732-2565, ext. 301.