The Sacrifice of Al Franken
These are indeed difficult times in America. The widespread accusations of sexual impropriety are causing upheaval as we try to figure out how to handle each new revelation. Our wives, moms, daughters, and sisters are being harassed, groped, coerced, and assaulted to an extent that is unfathomable. The incidents range from unwanted comments to powerful and wealthy men committing serial rapes. Almost daily a new buffoon is being exposed. Most of the accused either vehemently deny the allegations or say the claims are distortions or misunderstandings. Whatever the truth is, the smell of scandal is not easily washed away. Despite the mess we must ask ourselves if zero tolerance is the answer.
As we all know, Mr. Franken behaved in a totally inappropriate manner with LeeAnn Tweeden. His foolish actions were permanently captured on film. In addition to trying to kiss Ms. Tweeden, Mr. Franken is accused of trying to forcibly kiss or grope seven other women. One of his accusers quotes Franken as saying, "It's my right as an entertainer." Would Mr. Franken have actually said something like this and been serious? Was it a stupid remark uttered by a comedian thinking it was glib and amusing? Did he say it at all? Would he have been so stupid as to grope women at public events in plain view of everyone while in his role of U.S. Senator? How will we discover the truth?
While the accuracy of these accusations is hard to know, it is very troubling that four of the eight accusers have spoken out anonymously. Is it fair to men that any woman could make anonymous claims about something that happened a decade or more ago? Roy Moore and President Trump have been accused by women who had the fortitude and courage to lay it all out publicly, risking the backlash that was sure to come! In our haste to expose wrongdoing, we can't allow people's lives to be ruined by unnamed sources.
The Dangers of Zero Tolerance
In the heat of the moment there have been calls for a "zero tolerance" (What are Zero Tolerance Policies in Schools? https://www.lawyers.com) policy in these matters. Unfortunately, these policies don't work because frequently the penalties are severe no matter what the circumstances. In schools, kids have violated drug policies by having ibuprofen or prescription medications with them resulting in suspensions. Any grammar school child could be expelled for innocently sneaking a toy weapon to school to show his friends. We must insist on bringing good and fair judgement to bear and handle each case individually.
George H.W. Bush has been in the spotlight because of his "David Cop A Feel" joke. While this is totally inappropriate, it would seem that our former President used bad judgement, but really didn't mean any harm. Should these incidents really negate a lifetime of service to his nation in both the military and the government? How can we equate the former President's actions with the monstrous actions of Harvey Weinstein? This is the danger of zero tolerance.
Now that the Washington Post has given out the formula for verification of claims, are men more vulnerable? Could this really become a political weapon? If you wanted to ruin someone could you round up half a dozen old acquaintances, get them to make up a story, and then verify each others' accounts? You don't even have to give your name. This is a dangerous path to travel.
Truthfully, how many men could review their own lives and not find incidents of offensive remarks or behavior? The teens and early twenties would be fertile ground for memories of ridiculous and immature behavior. Many men never grow out of adolescence and continue to act like fools. However, acting foolish must be treated accordingly.
If the allegations are of a more damaging nature such as unwanted contact, exposing oneself or using one's power to coerce someone into sex - the response must be swift and strong. To be clear, this problem cannot be taken lightly or minimized and women must be shielded by all of us.
Clearly and sadly Al Franken was sacrificed by his Democratic colleagues in a thinly veiled political ploy. Once again, a party devoid of substance seized the moment to force Mr. Franken out for the sole purpose of giving the illusion of moral superiority. This smug and self-righteous attitude was both insincere and disgraceful. However, this controversy did help defeat Roy Moore in Alabama but the big fish in The White House escaped seemingly unscathed. Did the Democrats really think taking the high road would prompt Donald Trump to resign? Now it's January, Al Franken is gone and Trump just rolls on. Mr. Franken should have given a full-throated and sincere apology and kept his seat! It seems that he was a good Senator and had many strong supporters - including members of his staff.
Here we come to the key question. Was there truly no way that Al Franken could have redeemed himself? As we know, many men have acted and spoken inappropriately, and should acknowledge their errors and apologize and be prepared to atone. However, not all behavior should be cause for banishment. Perhaps these men could fully support women's issues by giving educational speeches about the terrible damage that can be done by abusing, even in small ways, a woman's body, mind, spirit and above all - heart. Let's hold each person accountable for their misdeeds, but have the consequences fit the offense.
So now Al Franken is out, the President and Representative Bobby Scott deny wrongdoing and Trent Franks resigned under cover of his wife's illness. Two other Representatives are staying Congress until their terms expire. It should concern all Republicans that their Party has been very quiet through all of this. Christian values and morality have fallen by the wayside when control of the Congress is at stake. This was horribly illustrated with their buckling stand and reversal on Roy Moore. Even more concerning is the now silent Democratic Party. The show is over until the next shoe drops and Al Franken went down in flames for nothing.