December 13, 2017
What can I say about the debate currently taking place on many of the television news magazine programs, and talk shows? It really does feel as if we, as a society, have finally begun to turn a page. With all the show business, television, and political people being shown the door based on allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, it feels like a new day has finally dawned in our society.
I say, “feels like”, because I’m not convinced—but I am worried.
Yes, it is far passed time for those who believe it’s perfectly all right to practice sexual harassment to be stopped. Passed time for those who use their positions of power to threaten those under their aegis if they don’t submit to their demands for sexual gratification to be shown the door. However, we need to go forward in this apparent “social cleansing” with great care and due process.
I am completely uncomfortable with the concept that a person can lose their livelihood on the basis of unproved allegations alone. I heard one person on the side of the “throw all the bums out” brigade actually say, “it’s not like they’re going to starve to death”; and this person also said, “they’re just losing a job.” What a totally asinine comment to come from a so-called enlightened and intelligent person. The accused are losing more than a job. Their reputations are in tatters and they have been transformed into social pariahs. Just losing a job? Hell, they’ll be lucky if they ever get one of those, ever again.
This cleansing would be problematic even if there was no such thing as a person who would lie in order to seek revenge for past wrongs, or for the fulfillment of a personal agenda. But we all know, unfortunately, humans do lie. They especially appear to have a propensity for lying now that that particular sin is practiced and even celebrated with new, clean sounding labels like “alternative facts”. And in case you take exception to my calling “lying” a sin, I will point out that I didn’t decide that. Exodus 20:16 did.
But I digress.
My point here is simple. Yes, using your position of power or authority over another to coerce or try to coerce sexual favors is wrong. Yes, touching another person without permission, especially in an inappropriate way or an inappropriate place is wrong. Yes, we need to have a discussion on these issues, and not just one gender but both genders must stand in solidarity on these principles and stand for what is just and fair and right.
That discussion needs to delineate and spell out the difference between brushing one’s hand against another’s posterior, and grabbing another’s genitals outright; between an adult who tries to kiss another adult, and an adult who molests a child. These transgressions are not the same, they are not equal, but they are all transgressions and need to be stopped.
We have to take care as we go forward that we do so with careful, thoughtful deliberation, and not with our emotions in the driver’s seat. We need, all of us, to work together to make our work places safe for all people, and to ensure that no one forces themselves in any way, shape or form upon another. And if we deign to take from a person their career as a punishment for these transgressions, if we’re going to destroy a person’s reputation, then we better make damn sure that such charges are proven—or at least credible—and that such penalties are warranted.
Because to continue to proceed headlong without due process down the course we’ve already embarked upon is to risk the very gains and the principles we seek to claim. To continue to lash out as we have been doing, painting all the people accused of various wrongdoing with the same brush, is to diminish the case against the child molesters among us, equating that crime with groping—and to risk the very principle we’re trying to enshrine in reality.
We must take care that those who are accused are truly guilty; because accusers are human, and humans lie. So let’s get our collective anger under control, put shackles on our personal thirst for vengeance, and stick to the high ground and do the right thing.
These words come to you from one who in the past has been a victim of the worst kind of sexual predation. It’s not easy to let go the need to “get back” at those who did wrong to us in the past. But it is the right thing to do.