As a society we have entered a new period of social awareness that is focusing on two areas. The first is the rampant sexual abuse that has been occurring in various industries and the second is the whitewashing of history to make us feel better about our past.
It has been interesting in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein scandal how many woman have come forward to make the claim that they have been sexually harassed over the years by Mr. Weinstein and now many others. Over the weekend this expanded to Kevin Spacey who was accused of making sexual advancements on what was then a 14 year old boy who was an actor. Mr. Spacey claims that it was years ago and he memory is foggy and he must have been drunk. He then goes further and announces that over the years he has had sexual relations with both men and women but he is now comfortable stating that he is living as a gay man. What I get from this is he is hoping that his position as a newly open gay man will give him some cover. I don’t think it should and I hope it will not. If there is one boy out there willing to make the claim there is probably others and in a short time we may see others naming him as a predator.
One of the interesting dichotomies of this issue is that it was addressed many years ago in the corporate world and appears to be significantly reduced in that environment. I am not suggesting that sexual harassment does not exist in the business world but I do believe it is much lower than it was years ago. The type of behavior that was exhibited in the television series “Mad Men” would not be tolerated today and women would not hesitate to call a man out for anything remotely similar.
In the media and entertainment industry common folk lore was this behavior was not only common but appeared to be an accepted practice. We have all heard the term “casting couch” and know exactly what it refers to when it comes to young actresses. There have been comments from in the industry that it was common knowledge about Harvey Weinstein. The irony of all this is that Hollywood and media types have been the ones to condemn sexual harassment in the corporate world while turning a blind eye to their own actions.
Fox News has been in the news over the past year for allowing a company behavior pattern of harassing women. Roger Ailes was forced out and the largest money maker for the network, Bill O’Reilly, was terminated over charges that he harassed women. This past week there was the bombshell report that Mr. O’Reilly had reached a settlement of $32M with a woman in an effort to keep her quiet. He claims he is innocent but I have a hard time believing that anyone would pony up that amount of money if they had not done anything wrong.
We then find out that one of the leading political commentators, Mark Halperin, has been severed from NBC and their family of networks. That makes it difficult for the liberal media to claim this was a Fox problem when it now appears it was industry wide.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that claims that have been made about President Trump and possible sexual harassment. About a dozen women have made claims against Trump prior to his becoming President and Trump has, no surprise, denied them and called them “Fake News.” I don’t know the true facts on any of these accusations but they should certainly be taken seriously.
The Democrats and liberals are open to hypocrisy on this issue because we all remember the multiple women that made accusations against former President Bill Clinton. His wife Hillary joined in his defense at the time and vigorously defended her husband and attacked the women as liars and opportunists. Since we know of his activities with Monica Lewinsky it makes his defense sound a bit hollow. The truth is predators of this type normally have long histories of abuse and until society makes it acceptable to make these accusations they have believed they could get away with this behavior.
The second issue that caught my attention recently is the trend towards whitewashing our history and removing statutes and names from sites and buildings. The latest that in my opinion reached the furthest in overreaction occurred in Alexandria Virginia this past week. At the Christ Church they have long been famous for being the church that George Washington attended. There has been a plaque on the pew where his family supposedly sat. The Washington Post reported that the some in the church membership did not feel “safe” in the chapel with that plaque. In the end they voted to remove it because George Washington was a slave owner. I wonder how they feel about driving into Washington DC or driving down Washington Street in Alexandria? There are similar efforts now underway to sanitize the names of universities. What will be the new name of Washington and Lee University? Will Thomas Jefferson be removed from any mention at the University of Virginia?
We start down a slippery slope when we begin to engage in this activity. The next generation might find the people we honor today as unacceptable and start removing their names. I know I am going out on a limb here but there have long been rumors and accusations about Martin Luther King being a womanizer and what if people started demanding that his name be removed and his statues be taken down. My point is this is that what Dr. King did in his life was to expose racism and to bring about racial harmony at a time when it was direly needed in this country. Did he have some personal weaknesses? Probably but they should not overshadow the great work he did. The same can be said for so many men in our earlier history. We try to judge them by standards of today without any historical reference and that is simply not possible. Sanitizing our history won’t change it and it starts to paint a picture that is inaccurate. We need to keep that historical record and understand the people based their ideas and morals on what was acceptable at the time.
All of this talk about feeling safe and having “safe zones” on campuses and in society is caving in to a few activists seeking some moment of fame. It would be far better to foster discussions of our history and how we can learn from our mistakes and to make all of us better people and our nation better.