Here is the tweet I sent to Al Franken Wednesday night: “@SenFranken I am a conservative Republican known as the Sarah Palin of Philadelphia. I urge you not to resign. Sexual assault is real, and as an asylum practitioner I know that better than anyone. Your resignation would diminish the harm that real victims suffer. Don’t do it.”
He obviously didn’t listen. I suppose one lonely tweet from the Sarah Palin of Philadelphia paled in comparison to his Senate colleagues, particularly the ones who have ovaries and daughters and “D” after their names.
Franken is the latest, but clearly not the last, piece of road kill on the hashtag highway, a dangerous and very slippery stretch of road where badly behaved men go to die. Rest In Perfidy.
The senator from Minnesota resigned Thursday after having been pushed to exit from the stage by his own tribe, liberals who showed that they were just as capable of eating their own as they are of going after President Donald Trump and his motley crew. In a way, that says something good about their equal-opportunity opposition.
I’m as conservative as they come, but I look at this from an entirely different perspective. As I’ve written before, this #MeToo moment has gotten unwieldy and unforgiving, mixing all sorts of conduct together and retroactively stigmatizing acts that — until the social media age — were considered boorish and brutish but not capital offenses.
Now, the white gloves are off, and women have decided that it is time for payback in full.
I know that many people disagree with me, and take the position that anything that makes a woman feel uncomfortable should not be sanctioned. The bar for social shunning has been lowered to the point where men are now afraid to shake a woman’s hand.
Some conservatives are thrilled about what’s happening to Franken and others like him and to see the resurrected female ghosts of the Clinton era. I can’t really blame my tribe for this tendency to exult, because we’ve been tarred and feathered as the people who hate women and want to use their bodies as incubators for an unlimited supply of babies, who can be turned into conservative foot soldiers.
But I’m angry that the people who should see through the dangers of agitprop and exaggeration are themselves falling victim to it because, now, the other guy’s bull is getting gored. Out the window fly the values and principles we supposedly hold dear, because a liberal is being vilified. I see the newsfeeds on Facebook and Twitter and wonder what happened to the idea of personal responsibility and due process.
I’m not denying that women have been abused and assaulted. Again, I have intimate knowledge of women who have been bruised, bloodied and bludgeoned. It happened, it still happens and it will continue to happen unless we make sure that the perpetrators are arrested and convicted.
But an old man in a wheelchair copping a feel is not a predator. An 80-year-old actor who made lascivious comments four decades ago to an intern is not a predator.
A senator who, as a comic, played fast and loose with his female colleagues is not a predator. He was a smarmy, supercilious comic who liked to ridicule conservatives, and he’s a person who regularly looks down his nose at those who don’t share his progressive ideals. (Although I agree that sloppy kisses are probably on the outer edge of those accepted ideals.) I put him in the “he’s too smart for us” category.
But he is not a sexual predator.
There are too many real predators out there, and we make it easier for them to blend into the background when we shine a spotlight on the famous men who transgress. Writer Lisa DePaulo said as much when I interviewed her on my radio show last week. She made the excellent point that it’s the waitress, the nurse, the office intern that we need to worry about, not the woman who can hire Gloria Allred for a photo op.
She’s right. Trying to hook the big, shiny, wriggling marlins for a public feast helps us to ignore all the other predators in the sea. This #MeToo moment is an exercise in revenge, not redemption.
I’m sorry Franken folded.
Christine Flowers is a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.
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