Words matter

Dear President Trump,

Maggie Smith (still my new favorite poet) has a generous blog where she’s posted dozens of her poems. Usually I can’t anticipate what a poem is about from reading the title, but there is one in the list that I knew I knew from the title exactly what is was going to be about — “Panel Van.” My heart sank when I read the title because, of course, this poem was about the dangers the occupants of panel vans pose for little girls. Smith walks us through gingerly explaining to her young daughter that grown men who pull up next to her saying they are lost or asking if she’s seen their puppy are not really lost, in the conventional sense, and are not really missing a puppy. She reminds us that such grown men were once little boys whose mothers helped them zip their coats up and how these mothers never guessed their sons would search the Internet for images of cute puppies to lure innocents away from innocence. Smith generously conjures compassion for the lost souls who prey on children even as she passionately works to safeguard her children from them.

Protecting children is clearly an uphill battle and this week it got harder, not easier. Aside from your disgusting partisan bullshit of “if it happened” and the horrifying comparisons to messed up bible stories, virtually all the coverage of Leigh Corfman’s report of Roy Moore’s behavior completely soft-pedals the events. Both the NYT and the WP describe it as Moore having “initiated sexual contact” with Corfman when she was 14. I don’t know what the more conservative news outlets are calling it, but among the Times and Post writers, the only person I’ve seen correctly labeling it “sexual assault” is Gail Collins. People “initiate sexual contact” with peers who are able to give consent. Adults do not simply “initiate sexual contact” with 14 year olds; that is called “sexual assault” or “sexual molestation” or “rape.” Words matter, President Trump, and down-playing this is wrong and sick. Also, I am definitely with Mitt Romney in believing that “innocent until proven guilty” is for courts and not elections, so I urge you to withdraw support from Moore and to use whatever leverage you can to make him pull out of the race. Do the morally defensible thing this time, please.

May children be safe.
May children be able to play happily outside.
May children’s mental health not be burdened by abuse.
May grown-ups insist grown-ups respect children.

Tracy Simpson

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