In a serendipitous bit of typesetting, two opposing views of human nature are posted in Saturday’s Times. On the op-ed page are Gail Collins and Greg Weiner, each propounding the justice of forcing Al Franken to resign; the former stressing his refusal to accept total responsibility for his vaguely remembered misdeeds, the latter insisting that a statesman’s character is paramount in his calling and his role is to “refine and enlarge,” not simply reflect the public’s views (Federalist 10 NYT op-ed 12/9/17) Then, on the back page is an article about Judge Jack Weinstein calling for more alternatives in sentencing violent offenders facing prison.
The Al Franken lynch-mob sees his non-violent transgressions as rendering him unfit for his elected office and have no pangs of conscience on drastically affecting his career and life. The judge is worried about violent men “who have been trapped in a gang culture, and condemned to a life of poverty and probable crime.” The particular young men in this case broke into a family’s apartment where five children under ten witnessed the gun wielders terrify and rob the victims. Collins and Weiner have no truck with mercy for Franken, a comedian at the time he committed the heinous act of posing for a picture that simulated groping a sleeping woman. The judge has so much mercy that he surely short-changes those law-abiding men of East New York who have sufficient character and determinatiion to graduate from school, get jobs and avoid lives of crime. The giveaway is his viewing the criminals as “condemned” to their lifestyle, as opposed to having opted for it as a quicker more lucrative path than the daily drudge of school and work.
Kristen Gillibrand, our New York senator who got the job largely through monetary and political help of both Clintons, had this to say about the current epidemic of cleansing society of abusive males: “I think when we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping you are having the wrong conversation. You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is ok.” (Capitol News Conference) What would Judge Weinstein say to this type of non-differential thinking if the senator were representing one of the criminals in his courtroom? Is an unwanted grope really no different than a rape? And if we condemn those who are tried in the court of public opinion for deeds committed ago years and decades ago, why not ask Ms. Gillibrand to resign for having accepted the favors of a man who committed perjury and didn’t need to search his memory. All of us could see the truth as plainly as that finger wagging across our tv screens protesting the he “had not had sex with that woman” - the one whose dress was stained with DNA from an appendage that yielded far more credible evidence than that lying finger.
Democrats and feminists who supported Bill then, now have to decide whether it’s better to admit to being hypocrites or stick with being too dense to make distinctions between sexual harassment and sexual assault. They also must ask themselves how their movement has failed to give its constituency the necessary gumption to stand up for themselves in the workplace. Rules about sexual harassment have been in place since Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and many women have availed themselves of this recourse. After all the talk of giving women a voice, are we really willing to settle for applauding women who, years after the fact, slink into the groupthink hashtagmetoo? What can we say about the women who preferred saying nothing and collecting large sums of money for their silence? At the same time that we accept the stories women tell without the need for independent corroboration, we are encouraging a stampede of indiscriminate firings that give the lie to the notion of due process. Senator McCarthy had more to go on than the senators who just killed Al Franken with an act of meaningless hypocrisy. Al would have had a better shot in Judge Weinstein’s criminal court than with the esteemed jury of his senatorial peers.
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