#TooManyMen Making #TooManyExcuses
A perfect fit.
Birds of a feather, peas in a pod, two putrid tastes that taste even worse together, a match made in the second, fourth, and sixth circles of hell: ex-Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore and President Donald J. Trump. The two have so much in common: an utter disregard for common decency, contempt for the U.S. Constitution, the fanatical embrace of the most deplorable segments of the American electorate, a steadfast conviction that the norms and laws of 21st Century American culture do not apply to them, impulsively violating those laws and norms with impunity, and a predilection for accosting, ogling, and fondling attractive women without their consent--including some so young they couldn't legally give it if they wanted to. No wonder Trump has, after weeks of squirming under the counsel of his staff and Congressional allies, enthusiastically endorsed the racist demagogue in his campaign to fill Jeff Sessions's Senate seat. In the process, Trump has dragged the Republican National Committee along with him, bringing its formidable campaign engine to bear in the tight contest. There are even odds that, come January, Republican Senators will again be holding their noses and acceding to the presence of yet another embarrassment into their midst for the sake of advancing their pro-wealth, pro-gun, anti-social-justice agenda. They need Moore's vote to pass their diluvian legislation almost as much as they need Trump's pen to sign it into law, so they'll look the other way as he foams at the mouth about Jews, Muslims, African-Americans, atheists, and anyone else he deems unworthy of being an American. And don't get me started on his increasingly-well-documented history of preying upon teenaged girls.
On second thought, that's the rancid kernel at the heart of this abomination, so yes, let's wade back into the morass of molestation entitlement. This country is having a moment that is becoming a movement, perhaps even an era, as women who have been silent or ignored are coming forward to denounce the impunity with which men have abused them. Many of those men are famous and powerful, but don't think for a moment that this is solely the province of prominence: sexual harassment runs through American culture like mold through blue cheese. It's been present in every walk of life that brings men together in hierarchical relationships with women, not to mention men who work with teenagers and adolescents (and yes, when we talk about the molestation of young adults and children, we have to include boys, as well as girls, as victims).
With the inclusion of those young people--and we have Roy Moore to thank for that, though our President's habit of barging into junior beauty pageant dressing rooms meshes well with Moore's dating preferences--as well as the more aggressive acts of these perpetrators, we enter the land of the illegal. Sexual contact between an adult and a minor is a crime, something Moore, who was a prosecutor at the time he was dating teenagers, should have known well. Alabama laws may have been laxer in the 1970s than they are now, but Moore's predatory behavior was creepy enough that it got him banned from a shopping mall.
In the case of Trump, and of most of the men whose public careers are ending over the allegations that continue to emerge, the behaviors in question probably did not cross any legal lines, though they may have violated workplace codes of conduct. That's been the excuse of many of the perpetrators: "I didn't do anything illegal." When caught breaking professional rules, many have turned to binding arbitration, paying out settlements in exchange for nondisclosure agreements.
If this was just about crime and punishment, we wouldn't be having a national moment that will hopefully signal the dawn of a new era of respect and equality. There could be talk about expanding definitions of sexual assault, and of stiffening penalties for those crimes, and that would be the end of it. But this runs much deeper than drawing lines around certain acts and consigning them to the realm of the criminal justice system. This is about what constitutes acceptable sexual behavior in all realms of life. The ever-growing tide of accusations and revelations of sexual aggression in all walks of life signifies a paradigm shift: women are fed up with brushing off unwanted advances, uninvited groping, and covering up assault for fear of recrimination. Empowered by the public humiliation of so many famous men, women are demanding a complete rewrite of the social code.
The excuses men have so often made--and which many continue to cling to--are providing less and less cover for their boorish conduct. It no longer takes being convicted of a sex crime to lose one's job: simply being accused by enough people can end an entire career. Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, John Conyers, Al Franken, Matt Lauer, James Levine, Garrison Keillor, on and on and on the list grows of men discovering boundaries they once took for granted have retroactively shifted, and yes, they are accountable for actions they had previously believed would be consequence-free. In some cases, these may even be acts they have forgotten they committed. I was reminded yesterday of details I had completely forgotten about a minor trauma--the loss, then recovery, of a family pet--that occurred 38 years ago. I can imagine the same is even more true of persons in their 60s, 70s, and 80s.
It may seem harsh to demand the resignation of a statesman like Al Franken for acting in ways consistent with men of his generation so long ago that he has difficulty remembering his sins--especially when one considers what a force for good he has been since entering politics. And yet, the women he touched, kissed, badgered into doing things they really didn't want to do, but felt they could not say "no" to, deserve some semblance of justice. Reparations, restitution, restoration, redemption, whatever you call it, there must be consequences. Going on with their lives, continuing to pretend or deny that anything happened, that there should be no loss of esteem or power as a result of abuse, is simply no longer acceptable.
This is what makes this a watershed: these powerful men are being judged based on the acceptability, rather than the legality, of their actions. This sets a higher bar than statute alone, and Republicans embrace its application to the opposition party at their own risk. It's why conservative cretins like Moore and Trump have chosen outright denial as their response to the large numbers of women accusing them of sexual misconduct: just as with the rapid embrace of same-gender relationships, the American ethos is turning, almost overnight, against masculine sexual aggressiveness. Trump has recently been denying it was even his voice on the infamous Access Hollywood tape--in effect, retracting the apology he made in October, 2016, when the tape was released. Behavior voters were willing to forgive just a year ago is, in the wake of the ongoing revelations of male sexual transgression, now considered unacceptable by even the voters of deep-red Alabama, where voters rejected arguments that Roy Moore's underage predation was nominally legal at the time it took place; hence the shift to accusing every single victim of lying, regardless of the evidence she speaks the truth.
The Trump legal and PR teams' efforts to mitigate the Russia scandal have followed also stressed, especially as earlier denials have been revealed to be outright untruths, that collusion is not in and of itself a crime. In doing so, they make impeachment even more essential to correcting the insult to the body politic that is the Trump regime: the framers created impeachment as a corrective to "high crimes and misdemeanors," sins against the state that need not fall under the rule of statutory law. Acting in ways that undermine the republic, including colluding with a foreign power to dilute an opponent's voter base, make Trump's ascent to the Presidency in and of itself a high crime. The unacceptability of his actions as a candidate parallels that of his misogynistic, opportunistic assault on women, and establish the criteria for how American society needs to handle future assaults by powerful men not just on women, but on society itself.