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Monday, April 8, 2019

Touch n' Go with Uncle Joe

Joe Biden has become #enigma.

The former senator and later vice president now has several women explaining how he made them feel uncomfortable with his unwanted touching. In the #MeToo era, undesirable advances can quickly knock you out of the game. But the aging politician many refer to as “Uncle Joe” has not had to face the music yet and step aside from his presidential aspirations. The key word is “yet.”

Biden’s apparent pattern of “touchy-feely” politics came into the spotlight recently because of an essay for The Cut. It was here we learned that former Nevada lieutenant governor nominee Lucy Flores endured a kiss, big and slow from Uncle Joe, on the back of her head during a 2014 political campaign.

Other accusers are stepping forward. According to the Hartford Courant, a former political fundraiser accused Uncle Joe of putting his hands around her neck in order to draw her in and “rub noses.” Then there’s Caitlyn Caruso. This 22-year-old was at an event dealing with campus sexual assault several years ago. She accused the former Veep of resting his hand on her thigh at that event.

We can add another to the list. This takes us back to a 2011 fund-raising event in Minneapolis. A writer named D.J. Hill was in attendance with her husband. The two prepared for a photograph with Uncle Joe when he apparently put his hand on her shoulder and then started sliding it down her back. The action made her feel “very uncomfortable.” Ya sure.

The moment did not go unnoticed by her husband. He placed his hand on Biden’s shoulder and made a joke. It seemed to ease the tension of the moment.

Thus we have our human enigma. As defined, “a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand.” Uncle Joe seems to be staunchly defending his hands (or lips) on policy as quite innocent gestures. He has his supporters.

The New York Times reports of a supposed “counternarrative” beginning to emerge. The paper cites women like Stephanie Carter, the wife of the former defense secretary Ashton B. Carter. She claims “that a photograph of Mr. Biden with his hands on her shoulders has been widely misinterpreted.” Her view was that she saw the gesture as “means of offering his support.”

Obviously, his critics disagree. So…where does this leave us?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the Politico Playbook, “I don’t think it’s disqualifying.” Then she added, “He has to understand in the world that we’re in now that people’s space is important to them, and what’s important is how they receive it and not necessarily how you intended it.”

Biden himself recognized that damage control must be done. Last Wednesday, Uncle Joe released a video discussing the importance of personal space. In his words, “Social norms have begun to change. They’ve shifted, and boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset—and I get it.” 

Get it?? Got it? Good.

Actually, I have a bit of sympathy for Biden. Some of us naturally want to “reach out and touch.” You can even notice it in handshakes. Some folks stiffen their hand as if almost trying to force you to stay back. Others grab your hand—and maybe your arm as well—and try to pull you in. Some are huggers. Others aren’t.

But in our culture, you have to draw the line at rubbing backs and kissing. Cut it out, Uncle Joe. Check with your own wife before trotting down that road.

Biblical examples of human touch are worth noting. One in particular arises in this season. Judas…betraying his Master with a kiss. It gives us a lesson. You can’t always trust what is supposedly a gesture of affection. (Matthew 26:47-49)

With Uncle Joe, that situation can easily be “touch and go.”

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