George H. W. Bush a Sexual Assaulter?

By | October 29, 2017 | 5 Comments

George H. W. Bush and other former Presidents

As part of the recent flood of complaints of sexual harassment, a woman declared that 89-year-old former President George H. W. Bush touched her buttocks through her clothing while he was seated in his wheelchair. She added that Bush told her a mildly off-color joke: “Who’s my favorite magician? David Cop-a-Feel.”

The former President has been confined to a wheelchair for years because of Parkinson’s disease. This disease causes tremors and rigidity, but also dementia in its later stages. For example, recall the late Muhammad Ali, who was reduced from a world-champion athlete to someone who could barely speak. Or recall the late Saint John Paul II, who was reduced from an inspiring speaker to someone who could not speak at all.

All this raises important questions:

● When a man is physically impaired and confined to a wheelchair, if he attempts to give a standing person a hug, is it amazing that he can only reach as high as the buttocks?

● We are told that women are fully capable of serving in ground combat. But we are also told that women are so fragile that being touched on the buttocks through clothing by an old man in a wheelchair causes them trauma lasting four years. If you want to be taken seriously, should you take care not to contradict yourself so blatantly?

● If you compare yourself to an old man with Parkinson’s disease who is confined to a wheelchair, how can you see your young, healthy self as the victim?

● In view of the flood of disgusting allegations against people like Harvey Weinstein, does calling what may have happened to this woman “sexual assault” only serve to trivialize and belittle this serious charge?

● If you expect others to have empathy for you, should you feel empathy for others ‒ especially the elderly and the sick?

Am I saying that women should simply accept sexual harassment? Absolutely not. We are all conditioned from earliest childhood to react to a woman’s voice saying sternly, “No, no!” What was to prevent this woman from doing so, while grabbing the man’s hand and removing it from where it didn’t belong – rather than harboring a grudge for four years?

What I am saying is that just was we move aside and hold doors open for women with strollers or men in wheelchairs, we should also make allowance for the elderly and the confused. Unless we choose to live in a shack in the forest, we learn to live with other people, who ‒ like us ‒ have many flaws. Or at least some of us learn.

Nor is this woman’s lack of empathy an isolated incident. Some time ago, I heard a female physician call a talk show. She complained that when she leaned over the bed of an elderly patient, she caught him looking down her cleavage. She found this offensive. She did not explain why, if she was so modest, she did not button her blouse up to her neck or wear a turtleneck sweater.

As a physician, I was disappointed by her lack of empathy. Perhaps, as a physician, she thought of herself as elevated above her patients. I would bet that a nurse probably would see similar behavior by an elderly patient as amusing, even life-affirming: “The old geezer still has some life in him.” But not this doctor. No, she saw him as a repellent old creep: “Of course he finds me attractive, but I don’t find him attractive ‒ therefore he shouldn’t stare at me.” How egocentric.

I recall a patient I had during my fellowship in medical oncology. As a result of her age and her disease, she sometimes became confused. On morning as I approached her bed and greeted her by name, she called me a “dirty black dago.” It turned out that she was greeting everyone that way. So instead of filing a racism complaint with Human Resources, which back then was called Personnel, I merely smiled and went on with my duties. Never, for one instant, did I imagine that I and not she was the victim here.

My wife and I used to frequent a restaurant, now closed. One of the other customers was an elegant old lady. We learned that she was approaching 100 years of age and was the widow of a prominent Hollywood personality. One day a young server approached us and related how the old lady repeatedly made sexually explicit proposals to him. He found this amusing but also uncomfortable. Of course, he never would have considered complaining to the management. No doubt he felt it would be beneath his dignity, and also would make him look like a jerk. But, you see, he was not a narcissist.

● I knew a man who had a stroke in his 50s. In addition to slurred speech and a weak right arm, he had emotional lability. When he couldn’t find the right word or couldn’t reach something, he burst into tears. This was totally unlike his prior stoical, uncomplaining nature.

● I knew a woman who became a bit senile in her 80s. When her children irritated her, she let loose with a stream of criticism and invective. This was totally unlike her prior caring, nurturing nature.

Fortunately, these people were surrounded by family members and friends who remembered their prior, healthy selves, and were willing to put up with their current behavior. They saw these people as afflicted and impaired, not as hostile and annoying.

Those who come in contact with the elderly or the sick should expect that sometimes they will be the recipients of unwanted looks, inappropriate words, or annoying touches. Dementia is terribly sad, but to appreciate the sadness, one must have a bit of empathy. Those who call themselves caretakers, or feminists, or humanitarians, or merely civilized human beings should remember this basic fact.

We can be narcissistic and self-absorbed, or we can be empathic and caring. We can see ourselves as perpetual victims, or we can recognize the misfortunes of others. It’s our choice.

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