No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Let me repeat that — No good deed goes unpunished. Sadly that may come to pass as one major political party becomes ever more unmoored from basic decency and ethics and determined to place the retention of power over the retention and protection of our Constitution, our institutions, and our very democracy. Meanwhile the other tries to maintain standards, to “Go high” in the words of our previous First Lady and is rewarded for this by seeing itself losing the ability to protect those very institutions because the Democrats are bringing nerf balls to a fight where the Republican’s have machetes.

I was going to write up my thoughts about sexual harassment and sexual assault and my concern that if everything is the same then nothing matters but now my thoughts on that matter have to be folded into the events surrounding Senator Franken’s retirement from the Senate.

First, let’s set some basic ground rules. Not every offense is the same. There has to be agreement that there is a scale, a range of behaviors that cannot and should not be treated exactly the same. Otherwise we risk a tremendous backlash at a time when we finally have a chance to change this age old gender dynamic in the workplace.

At the top of that scale is a Roy Moore who has been credibly accused of the predation of underaged girls or a Harvey Weinstein who has been accused of grotesque behavior up to and including rape. Obviously these men have engaged in criminal acts that could have been prosecuted if they had been brought to light at the time of the malefaction.

That’s the top of our range. So how do we react to lesser offenses? Should mansplaining cost someone their job? How about telling a dirty joke? Making suggestive remark? Now we are starting to get into situations that can make a woman in the workplace deeply uncomfortable. Add to that the surroundings. I was forced to attend meetings alone with my boss at nine at night after everyone else had left the office and there I was the recipient his salacious remarks. The isolation and vulnerability made the remarks even harder to endure.

Next step — the unwanted and unsolicited touch. I’m a hugger, always have been. Now I wonder am I sending a signal that could be misconstrued? How much more difficult for a co-worker to parse that decision, or an underlying to refuse the embrace from a boss. Should a boss never embrace an employee? I don’t know the answer to that, but my instinct now is to say no, no more hugs.

But there are touches that go beyond the hug. There is a man touching a woman’s butt. I’ve had men say, what’s the big deal? I can’t explain why, but it is a very big deal. It feels more like possession than friendly affection. It’s just not the same when a man does that to a woman than when a bunch of male football players pat each others rear ends. My new rule is keep your hands where they can be seen.

The kiss. There are layers to this too. The air kiss, the continental peck on each cheek, a very affectionate kiss on the cheek. How about on the lips? In some cultures that’s accepted. When does the kiss become predatory? When you feel like you can’t refuse it. That’s when.

And then there is the man who currently occupies the White House. He has admitted on tape that he has not only forced kisses upon women without their consent he has forcibly groped their genitals because his position of power allowed him to treat those around him as objects. Nineteen women have accused Trump of various levels of sexual harassment and assault. (Personally I’m beginning to think this is the initiation ritual to join the League of Extraordinary Creeps since it happened to me. And yeah, you want to feel violated and humiliated that will sure as hell do it.) But back to Trump. He has denied the allegations, called the women liars and threatened to sue them — and he’s still President.

The pièce de résistance is Roy Moore. A man who was banned from a mall, from the YMCA, where police officers at high school games were warned to keep him away from the cheerleaders. A man who approached a fourteen year old girl at her mother’s custody hearing, and lured her to his home where he undressed and forced her to fondle him. Despite overwhelming corroborating evidence Moore, taking a leaf from Trump, has chosen to deny and vilify his accusers. And he’s probably going to end up in the United States Senate where his Republican colleagues will tut tut and do absolutely nothing to have him removed.

Contrast that with the Democrats who have demanded the resignation of Senator Al Franken for admittedly gross and immature conduct. Franken admitted his bad behavior and taken responsibility, and for that he has been vilified from the White House podium as a creep while the far more offensive predator in the Oval Office skates because he denies everything.

In the House the Democrats demanded that Congressman Conyers resign over his harassment of staff and he complied. Meanwhile Blake Farenthold continues to serve after using tax payer money to pay off an accuser. A woman whose life has been ruined by his assault. There has been no call from Republicans for Farenthold to resign.

More importantly there has been no promise that Moore will be removed from the Senate or calls for the president to face consequences for his sexual assaults and harassment.

So what’s the take away from all this? Deny and skate I guess.
Look I’m disgusted with Franken’s behavior just as I was disgusted and infuriated by Bill Clinton’s debasement of the Oval Office. (Yes, she was of age, and yes it was consensual — sort of. When you have a profound power difference — President/Intern — it’s a little hard to see how a person says no.)

However — I’m very much afraid that in this modern day Washington Game of Thrones that the Democrats are Ned Stark and they and by extension our institutions and our very democracy are going to end up on pikes along Pennsylvania Avenue.

I get it that the Democrats are trying to show a clear distinction between themselves and the Grand Old Pedophile party, and it may make all of us feel warm and virtuous, but if the party leadership thinks it’s going to shame Republican leadership or bring over a percentage of the cult – like Trump voters…. well I have a bridge to sell them. We go high and all we get is a shiv in the kidneys.

I never though I would say this, but maybe it’s time for us, the majority of this country, to fight as dirty as the other side. Which is a sad commentary on how depressed and despairing I have become. I want to believe in the American experiment, but as we slid ever closer to authoritarianism I find my hope dimming. I’m going to hope that 2018 turns back the tide. That people who value decency, and a society and economy that work for all regardless of race, religion, national origin, gender or whom they love will triumph.

So let’s all work for that, and allow me to end thusly: If anybody votes for a Republican going forward… well, they can go straight to Hell.

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