On Al Franken and the birth of a new era

On Al Franken and the birth of a new era

I awoke to the news that Minnesota Senator Al Franken has been accused of a sexual harassment incident in 2006.

I am here neither to defend him nor excuse him. I'm not a hypocrite.

What I'm trying to figure out is this: Is abuse of the power and position which men have over women a feature, and not a bug?

Perhaps we're hearing only the horror stories. After all, papers have to be sold and clicks have to be garnered.

But the avalanche of stories coming out on hashtags like #MeToo indicate that, yes, there is a grave problem and it's not confined only to the rich and famous.

What is it in the male psyche that predicates that violating a woman's space is perfectly acceptable behavior?

I am far from a saint. I have my own sexual history. But I can aver that I have never groped, fondled, or pushed unwanted attention on a woman. Maybe it's because I was raised by strong women. Maybe it's because I have strong bonds of genuine friendship with many women. Maybe it's because I've always preferred the company of women to that of men. Whatever the reason, my question is this: If I can avoid inappropriate, abusive behavior, why is it so hard for others? I'm not someone special.

That it's now Al Franken's turn merely shows that this problem cuts across ideological lines. Men of all political stripes believe it's just fine to push unwanted attention on women. And women have had enough.

What we've been witnessing over the past few months is nothing short of a revolution. The loci of power are being rocked as women are no longer holding in their hurt, their shame, their silence. Roy Moore or Al Franken: it doesn't matter. Ideological shibboleths won't protect them.

In many ways, the times through which we're going are the birthing pains of a new era. It will be an era in which the accepted norms of the previous one are not only questioned, but jettisoned. Those who are on the short end of the power dynamic are no longer accepting their fate, but actively seeking to upend that dynamic. We see this happening along gender and racial lines. Those who voted for Donald Trump thought they were setting things right; what they don't realize is that it's merely their death rattle.

I'm saddened by the allegations against Al Franken. But I shouldn't be surprised. This behavior is endemic. Only a full airing out will allow us to correct it, and move on to a place where its occurrence lessens to insignificance.



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