Let’s Talk About People Touching People


What could possibly go wrong with THAT conversation starter?

Much media in recent days has been covering Joe Biden being too much of a touchy sort of guy. My initial reaction to all this was to not devote any blog space to the subject. Goodness knows, there are enough other sites talking about it. But the way the story has developed over the last few days causes me to rethink my position.

We Live in Complex Times

When the story first broke, I had two thoughts.

First, that this should not surprise anyone. If you have watched videos of Biden over the years, you know he is a serious touch, hug, squeeze kind of person. With everybody. I have long thought this was not wise on his part, even though none of it ever seemed sexual in nature. A lot of us have known people like this. They seem compelled to contact beyond what other people are comfortable with experiencing.

My other thought has been that while this deserves attention, this was not a MeToo case. It should not be lumped into that category. Even the two women who raised the issues said they felt there was no sexual intent. They felt their personal comfort zone was violated.

I am disappointed that some media and some political types did not see any such distinction. That some of those politicians who spoke out so quickly see Biden as a competitor is a consideration as well. Several said immediately that they believed those making the complaints. That would be fine, except that Biden never denied the incidents. He has not challenged the veracity of those making the charges. Biden said he never thought he was inappropriate, that he had no evil intentions. He acknowledged taking on board what was being said.

His conduct was incorrect. Knowing what we know about Biden, I expect he is telling the truth here. It never occurred to him that he was making anyone uncomfortable. That does not make it right, but it is not an insignificant factor in judging him.

I appreciate that there has been further reflection about all this. Several journalists, of both genders, have said that nuance and context count. We should be careful not to make every offence a professional death sentence. Joe Biden, imperfect though he may be, is not a Donald Trump.

The next point is a more difficult one to discuss. Some people give women who tell of harassment or worse a hard time for not reporting what happened at once. There are many good and powerful reasons why women in such circumstances do not speak out. They deserve the benefit of doubt and the right to be heard. But in this case, the woman who first raised this matter seems to me to be a different case. She was not an employee or someone under Biden’s power. She was running for a high office and he came out to campaign for her.

When she raised this matter, she said she wondered if no one had ever advised Biden his conduct made people uncomfortable. Given the circumstances in this case, I wondered why she did not ask him that question. She was an established personality, with her own campaign and only a narrow professional relationship with Biden. She could have done a good thing by speaking her mind. It does not seem to me too much to ask in this particular case.

I have made it known before that there are things I like about Biden and some I do not. More of the former than the latter, but I do not think he should be a candidate for President. I hope he decides not to run, but I would not wish it to be so because of this matter.

For much too long, women were not heard on the matters raised by MeToo. I would wish to do nothing to slow down the corrective ambiance beginning to take hold, at last. But I also want to ensure we get it right. Every case is not the same. We should be able to make the distinctions and call for the right corrections.

What say you, readers? Am I missing the boat here?

Finding Grace in an Unexpected Place

Let’s take a moment to talk about a completely different story about people touching people. I would like to share a local, lovely story with you.

A few days ago, my wife went out for a pedicure. As I have noted before, this process is a complete mystery to me and to most men. What the advantage is of painting one’s feet seems unknowable. Still, a lot of people like to have this done. If it makes you happy, have it.

While they were talking, my wife asked the person doing the pedicure if she ever found the job difficult or unpleasant. She wondered about people’s attitudes and the condition of their feet. I am paraphrasing the reply here; it was a beautiful response.

She replied that no, she never found it a burden. In fact, the work she does feels a bit like a personal ministry to her. She said she often had people came in who felt tired, frustrated, worried. The bit of time and attention she gave them soothed them and left them better able to deal with life’s challenges.

Often times she knew that the person she was touching lacked any other human touch, perhaps for a very long time. The gentle, human to human touch she offered, in a caring manner, was food for their soul. She felt satisfaction in the work and gratitude for the opportunity to serve others in this way.

It was a profoundly human, warm perspective. I was blown away by its sensitivity and sense of joy. I hope when she retires from this career, she finds a way to spread that mindset. We could all use more of that.

Maybe I should get my feet painted….

         Bill Clontz

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3 replies to Let’s Talk About People Touching People

  1. Great article Bill. I feel the same way…Biden is a good man, who just didn’t realize what he was doing was making some people uncomfortable. You mentioned the pedicure – I know some people who get a facial or massage because they lack the human touch in their everyday life. Communication is so important… it needs to be done effectively.. and in a non confrontational way…
    keep the blogs coming!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts and observations. Who knows – the second half of this post may prove to be more important that the Biden part!

  2. Thanks, Bill for this article. I agree and think we have gone too far with this issue. Biden is the last person who should be accused of sexual abuse. I also think he should not run because I’m afraid he cannot handle the vicious vitriol that
    Trump will dish out. Hayes Fletcher

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