Where do we go from here now that Roy Moore has been given a justifiably ignominious political burial and the sexual harassment genie is out of the bottle for good? How long will the victims of harassment and abuse continue to come out of the shadows? The stream must be endless. How much harassment and abuse do you think exists in America today? My guess is a lot.
But, as usual, I am more interested in the tougher questions surrounding these atrocities and controversies. For instance, frankly, I do not know how much longer these accusations will last. While I believe that harassment and abuse are rampant today, I am not so sure about the desire of every victim to go public. We see so many Hollywood stars each of whom has their story of harassment and abuse. Naturally, they get a lot of attention. They are in the attention business.
But what about the girl down the street whose “uncle” has his way with her? What about the grandmother who, as a young woman, was denied a job or equal pay after failing to subject herself to some humiliating situation with an employer? And what about “dirty old men”? You know, the kind of elderly fellow who seems to have no physical boundaries. Should we expose them (no pun intended)? My wife had an elderly but handsy male relative who never failed to touch her inappropriately. Should we try to correct the family historic record and besmirch his name?
Where do we draw the line? Fact is, everyone in my wife’s family knew, perfectly well, what this elderly relative did around his teenage nieces. Evidently, that was enough for her family – everyone knew and everyone would uncomfortably excuse him and the girls learned not to go near him. How is that different than our aged President Bush who seems to be in the tush-grabbing business these days? It is kind of understood such things will happen. But is that understanding just an excuse to otherwise protect the good name of people or are they moral failures among us personally and throughout society?
Here is another difficult consideration: What about the perpetrator? Are these men irredeemable? How does forgiveness apply to them? Certainly, forgiveness must apply somehow because we know there are cases of harassment and abuse that do not get reported. Surely, every failure to report cannot be just because of the shame of it all. Surely, one human being has, at some point in time, forgiven another. Even so, we do have laws to abide. Is a victim breaking the law, de facto, by not reporting an abuse?
Many of these reports are allegations. Do we still believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty? It doesn’t seem so and perhaps we now have a new standard profession-wide to handle such things. Perhaps so much of America now involves a monetary transaction that corporate image, not the actual crime, is all that counts. Has this new corporate ethic replaced genuine justice?
But this new ethic being applied to politicians, corporate leaders, Hollywood moguls and celebrities does not seem to apply to the average girl-next-door case of harassment or abuse. Those dire and traumatic situations are forced to drag out in a court of law. How do we fire a father or an uncle or a neighbor boy or just a bully? We don’t. These are the cases that involve evidence of a crime. These are the cases that test our moral and legal processes.
In the rush of public relations, a new ethic seems to be governing these celebrity cases. Meanwhile, the girl-next-door is required to slog her way through the justice system on top of her deep human emotions. The ending to so many of these stories is not always that the bad guy goes to jail and the victim finally sees justice served. The victim is a child of God but so too is the perpetrator and the victim is often the first person to see that. For the very reason that every aspect of these cases is sad, we should not rush toward a one-size-fits-all answer to any of it.