Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20–
The situation had to do with a man who had a position of authority in our town. He was married and had multiple children. My job was to follow the workings of our town–requiring our paths to cross.
I guess he pegged me as divorced, struggling, and lonely. Divorced and struggling, yes. Lonely? Not that lonely.
His inappropriateness was subtle yet clear. He liked me. “Did you dress up for me today?” he asked once.
“No,” was the easiest answer–the one I gave him. But what I was really thinking was this: “Yes, I picked this dress out just for you. I don’t own another dress that covers more of my body. I chose it because I knew you would see me today–and I didn’t want you seeing more of me than is absolutely necessary.”
Too many other people were standing around. Saying that would have been embarrassing, perhaps more so to him than to me. But I still didn’t say it.
On another day, he was visiting my office–we were the only ones there–when I made myself crystal clear. “I’m not going to do anything wrong.”
Years later, I told one of my sons that story. His response was classic:
“Why didn’t you tell me that story then?” he asked.
“You were 12 years old. What would you have done?”
Sexual harassment is and has been a common problem. I escaped unscathed–aside from the unpleasant memories. Others have not been so fortunate.
Nearly seven decades after the dawn of the sexual revolution, America seems to be realizing we have a problem with sex.
In the 1960s we were supposed to learn that we could have free sex–sex without consequence–at least for ourselves. That is the root of our problem today. We are thinking only of ourselves.
But the men in the news, most lately Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, are emblems of a new day–a day when men cannot lord their power over women, especially in the workplace.
It’s a discussion that’s come up before, a blip on the radar that gets close, then disappears. That makes the problem seem intermittent and infrequent. It is neither. It is ongoing.
Maureen Dowd wonders whether this “war against preying on women” would “be blazing so fiercely had Hillary Clinton been elected?” Would Hillary’s friendship with Weinstein have put the brakes on revelations of his actions? Is what’s going on now simply a reaction to the election of accused accoster Donald Trump?
It’s sad to think it’s all about politics. And that the sacrifice of liberals like Lauer is only political fodder on the altar of some greater cause–taking over Congress–replacing Donald Trump.
A simple change of ideology for those in power will not solve our problem. We need a restoration of character. For there can be no greater cause than simple respect and decency from those in authority.
If the effort to purge our legislative offices and newsrooms of abuse is simply political, the issue will go away. Harassment and abuse will continue.
The sexual revolution was supposed to have stopped this kind of abuse. Women and men are equal partners in the workplace. All are empowered. All have a voice.
But the sexual revolution also brought us a philosophy of un-responsibility and unaccountability. It brought us to a place where self-fulfillment trumps (no pun intended) respect, the Golden Rule of putting others first.
An honorable married man who respects his wife does not betray her. Nor does he proposition a colleague.
In fulfilling our own desires, we disregard the welfare, self-respect, and hopes and dreams of others. The welfare of intact, stable families. The self-respect of those we would use only for our own pleasure. The hopes and dreams for a life of faithful love and devotion.
We live today in a mess of our own making. Can we succeed in calling our nation back to character and honor?
Only time and persistence–or lack of it–will tell.
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