The Human Touch

For some time, I struggled with a draft about Joe Biden being called down for his “tactile” approach to politics and life in general. I wanted to get it right, given the sensitivity the topic of not only for those that have felt uncomfortable with Biden’s style but also for those who also practice a similar hands-on approach.  

I’ve posted that piece, which I title “The Democratic Party’s 11th Commandment,” on my Earthwise Blog. In it, I quote Speaker Nancy Pelosi who noted that times have changed. People are more sensitive about “personal space.” I agree with Pelosi but also hate it.

“I not only hug trees,” I write, “I hug people. And sometimes give a buss on the cheek or a peck on the lips.”

I also express concern that the Democratic Party, should it continue onto the path of demanding 99.4% purity in behavior and on issues, is in danger of becoming a Doppelganger of the Republican Party in which there is no separation of church and state.

But while re-writing the umpteenth iteration of the column, I happened onto an insightful piece about Biden on the conservative website The Bulwark titled “Joe Biden Deserves Better Than This.” It was written by Tim Miller, former spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

Miller’s thoughts are plain-spoken, a pointed, clear-eyed overview of a man with whom he has disagreed considerably on issues and policy but, nevertheless, respects. He recounts the tragedy that broadsided Biden as a young man and newly-elected senator when his wife and daughter were killed and sons seriously injured by a tractor-trailer. He describes how Biden eventually embraced the tragedy and became a sensitive, caring consoler who, albeit gaff-prone while campaigning, always warmly and compassionately speaks the right words when helping others come to grips with loss and move through their grief.

Miller includes a 2012 video of Joe as vice-president talking to a gathering of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a network that assists those that have lost a military loved one to accept, cope, and live with their loss. It’s Joe at his best.

Miller takes on Biden’s critics on the left and those on the right chortling at Joe’s discomfort.

“Here’s the deal with Biden. He’s a toucher. And the fact that he has been invasive of people’s personal space has been documented by CSPAN for decades.” Thus, it stands to reason “If the Democratic pols, Bernie bros, and progressive activists trying to kill Biden 2020 on the launchpad were serious in their concerns about him, they had eight years to make the case.”

They didn’t, and the old truism—What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger—might hold true.

Miller launches a fusillade as well on the Trumpist right.

“And as for the Trumpy Republicans going after Biden . . . ayfkm? Twenty-three women have accused the current president of sexual misconduct, almost all of them mirroring the sexual assault modus operandi that Trump bragged about on the Access Hollywood tape.”

The recent hoopla about Biden speaks more about America rather than about Mr. Affectionate. America is becoming an atomized society. Individuals, unable or unwilling to clearly differentiate between Bidenesque and Trumpian behaviors, establish boundaries, creating and maintaining personal space like suburban backyards with six-foot privacy fences. NO TRESPASSING! No entry without permission.

Deb Kozikowski, Massachusetts Democratic Party Vice-Chairperson, said it well. “All I know is if you can’t touch someone without their permission anymore, then put my picture on the wall at the post office. How do we know how to behave with each other? Do we walk into a room and say ‘Hey, are you a hugger? I’m a hugger.’”

The much-needed addressing of the culture of abuse has come with a cost. Something wonderful that transcends our differences is being lost: The human touch.

Read “The Democratic Party’s 11th Commandment” at jerryfabyanic.com and Miller’s at https://thebulwark.com/joe-biden-deserves-better-than-this/.

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