A couple of weeks back, I opined all this sexual assault business had a good chance of going too far and could end up ensnaring some men - and women - who might be innocent of major wrongdoing. Seems now, it probably has.
An innocent friend’s experience years ago has made me leery of taking every charge and every complaint at face value. Not to say some high profile cases we’ve seen aren’t true. Most evidence has been convincing. And perpetrators exposed.
But, the sudden spate of instantly going after each big name is also a shameful example of the “herd” mentality of our present day media. All running after the latest personality in order to shine the light of guilt on a fresh face. With nothing more than a charge. Not asking for evidence or other substantive facts. Guilty as charged.
I’m not going to defend the guilty nor offer alibis for anyone. Not just yet. But a learned friend has suggested we may need another step in the process. And that is some sort of gradient scale while taking into consideration what was acceptable 30-40 years ago, given the morality and other factors of the times.
For those of us who lived through the ‘60's and ‘70's, much of what’s now considered “over-the-line” wasn’t. We remember that era as one with damned few lines. “Free love” we called it. Musicals (‘Hair,’ ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’) and others were common fare. Songs about open sex and nudity were on the radio and in record shops. Topless marchers and bra burning were not unusual. Pairing off on a whim was acceptable. Bedding down with someone whose name you didn’t know was commonplace.
In other words, without excusing acts of perversion or violence nowadays, there should be some consideration of the times then - and the times now - when considering punishments.
Yes, some of the big names in the spotlight were abusers. Some charges have been accompanied by ample evidence. But, is it all on the same par? Is a case of rape on an office couch the same as giving someone a hug who might have been offended? Do all of today’s charges require the same career-ending punishment?
Then, there’s the issue of massive media exposure after someone simply makes a charge. Has the media become the judge, jury and executioner when someone - anyone - says they’ve been wronged? Seems so.
It’s handy when a charge is made and the guilty party confesses so societal punishment can begin. But what about those who’re either not guilty or simply violated someone’s “personal space?” Are public banishment and embarrassment proper punishments for both examples. Seems to be. And it shouldn’t be.
I’m a hugger. Always have been. I was raised in a family of huggers. Church, service clubs, reunions, social gatherings - we hugged. Now, hugging is not for everyone. But it’s who I am. And many of my friends, too. We don’t do it wantonly or to be invasive. We’re social beings. Anyone who wants to call that “assault,” needs some special help. So, we hug less today. That’s a shame.
When I lived in Washington D.C. 50 years ago, I remember women at cocktail parties and other social gatherings prowling for someone important in politics and the media. One young lady walked up to me at an embassy cocktail bash and asked “Are you anybody?” At that time, women outnumbered men about ten-to-one locally And many were there to meet Ted Kennedy or other males in politics and do what they had to do to get their attention. Anything.
While sexual abusers need to be exposed and reckoned with, let’s consider what that reckoning should be. There are misdemeanors and there are felonies. Is punishment for a serial abuser like Charlie Rose or Matt Lauer or Roy Moore fitting for Garrison Keillor or Al Franken? Given evidence so far, I don’t think so.
If we’re going to demand punishment for the guilty, there has to be some correlation between gravity of the crime and the punishment of ending someone’s career.
At the present time, that doesn’t seem to be the case.