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Columnist Joe Gannon: Might #MeToo become #NoMore in 2018?

  • Georgina Wu, left, and Olivia Fryer are two of the dozens who amassed on Boylston Street in Boston Nov. 13 after walking out of classes at Berklee College of Music to protest alleged assaults. AP FILE PHOTO



Friday, December 08, 2017

Well, whaddya know? A Christmas Miracle?

As a corollary to the rule that even a broken clock strikes true twice a day, (or a thousand monkeys pounding a thousand typewriters will one day transcribe a poem), it seems even the USofA can, on occasion, get it right.

Bless her heart!

So, instead of our very air(waves) being polluted with the poisonous prattling of pessimistic politicians, bitchy billionaires, and cranky Christians this Christmas season, we have — Lo! like a new star rising in the east — a bit of a marvel.

For rather than mere meek shepherd boys and wise 1-percenters standing ankle-deep in cow dung in a manger, we have an army of mad-as-hell madonnas kicking open the closet doors into which they have screamed their anger and pain these many, many years.

So take heart, the flood of sexual-predation revelations is a thing to be heartened by – not to be celebrated, of course — for what we are seeing is not revenge, but a reckoning. And that is good.

Of course, as always in America you must keep your eye on whether the country will move from outrage (which is to say, feelings) to politics or not.

It is a well-known principle that the health of a single nation can largely be judged by how that society treats women. Their personal freedom, health, economic power and political representation are the best benchmarks for the overall potential of that civilization.

In that sense, the reckoning is cause for good cheer — even though, as happens with reckonings, the less guilty will be purged with the most. So, let’s say we had to lose a liberal ally like Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota if the Harvey Weinsteins and even veteran liberal Congressman John Conyers are to be driven from the public sphere. (And the Democrats just might — for the sake of principle — rue the day they purged Franken, once they see who takes over.)

But after the reckoning, what? Here’s a pop quiz: What did we cheer louder at? The avalanche of revelations, or the news that Michael Flynn copped a plea and flipped on President Trump?

See? That we are easily distracted is the problem.

The exposure of these sexual predators is front and center in our attention. But wait a few years. What then? The systems of power in Hollywood and Washington, D.C., (in corporate boardrooms and the halls of power) that allow men to prey on women despite existing laws have not been touched — yet! But clearly what was (and is) missing was a system for outing sexual predation, rather than covering it up.

But the reckoning could change that.

For the strange phenomenon here is that our system of checks and balances is working better to stop the worst predations of Trump, than it did the predations of misogynists in Hollywood, Washington and the media in general.

Because the shocking news here is not that powerful men prey on women, but that they could do so openly and for years and at no cost other than other people’s money.

For this to be more than a moment, America must move from feelings to policy, and that is not an easy shift. Our feelings of outrage at the sexual predators, or disgust over Trump’s whatever latest offense, are righteous, true, but also easy. Policy requires us to master our feelings and be all-in for the long, dull, slog through policy options.

It requires the kind of political delayed-gratification that we are not good at. Americans in general, but liberals especially, tend to use a reckoning as a game of shaming musical chairs —the truth does not matter, just don’t be the last person standing, no matter who has to be knocked to the ground.

If we engage in that kind of overkill, the right will just use it to try and roll back any real change by focusing policy discussion only on the male morons who got caught up in the purge of true predators.

I don’t yet know the answers, but at times the circumstances of all these women’s victimizations sound like the arguments over civilian review boards for police complaints. When the police police the police, claims of brutality and discrimination often go unheard and uninvestigated.

All these places — Congress, Hollywood, Fox, NBC — had (and have) human resources divisions that failed to enforce laws and existing policies against the predators. You can’t go to Harvey Weinstein’s HR head and tell them Harvey Weinstein is a fing pig! So, these women found it was as futile as going to the police to complain about police brutality.

Police are most accountable in towns and cities where the civilian review boards are outside the purview of the police department.

What we most certainly do not need is one more Big Brother (or Sister) bureaucracy scrutinizing every time someone puts a hand on a colleague at work.

But perhaps a place to start is an agreement that sexual harassment claims against powerful people cannot be handled in-house. Thus, when a complaint is made against a Weinstein or an O’Reilly, the HR department would recuse itself and pass the complaint along to a pre-arranged outside HR group to investigate without fear or favor.

And as hush money and nondisclosure agreements have been used by serial predators to silence victims, one legal change could be to prohibit the payment of a settlement until a “finding of the facts” had been agreed upon and released. Thus, a wealthy perpetrator could use their fortune to avoid going to court, but could not use it to keep the truth of their villainy from going public.

So, yes, this holiday season let us celebrate the nice madonnas who are leading us into a happier new year when #MeToo might become #NoMore!

As for the naughties? They will be singing “Auld Lang Syne” with a particular melancholy this year, having found they did not even get coal in their stockings, but subpoenas.

Joe Gannon, novelist and teacher, lives in Northampton. He can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com.