“Evil Triumphs When Good People Do Nothing”

POSTNOTE, Dec. 8: A thought provoking commentary of the last days, here.

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These thoughts seem random, even to myself. Hopefully, you’ll find some “hook” for thought and conversation.

(click to enlarge, from June, 2000)

With Al and Franni Franken at a political event in Lake Elmo MN June 15, 2006.

Middle of the night I awoke with a few words in my head: “evil triumphs when good people do nothing.” I remembered a quotation similar to this from some past time, and, as I often do, I looked those words up on the internet.

There is no definitive answer; there are many possibilities.

Probably the closest I can come is Edmund Burke, here:

“Thoughts on the cause of present discontents”.
“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

This was in 1770, when the word “men” was the word for power, when storm clouds were gathering in the insolent colonies in North America. It is a good quote.

Perhaps the problem is who commands the use of the words. We are all “bad”, perhaps even “evil” to someone. In a forced choice, even on a very bad day, hardly anyone would self-describe themself as “bad”, most preferring “good”. As Mitch Daniels, President of Purdue University, discusses effectively in a column headlined in today’s Washington Post,
“Is anyone ever wrong anymore?”

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The first e-mail today was my favorite digest of daily national news, “Just Above Sunset”, this one titled “The Next Enlightenment”, focusing on Time Magazines Persons of the Year, “The Silence Breakers”. Todays Sunset is worth a full read. Donald Trump, Roy Moore and Al Franken are prominent in the cast of characters.

Earlier this past evening I had written two good friends – both women – about my feelings about the issue du jour as it seemed to be developing re Franken:

“I try to separate emotions from rational thought in this. I admit it is not easy, as both a man, and as a person who admires Franken for lots of reasons.

Without belaboring the point, I think what most troubles me in the “sex” cases, of all sorts, over a lot of years, is the tendency of people to leapfrog over due process, where someone is presumed guilty based on allegations, without hearing, for offenses that occurred years ago, before even running for office. Ironically, the only people who will get their due process are Trump, who can afford to obstruct and delay any charges against himself forever; and Roy Moore, whose followers don’t care if he’s guilty or not.

So, on we go….”

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Picture an eagle flying with only a single wing, or with simply a head….

I began this post yesterday afternoon, with a tentative title “The politicization of sex”. The draft contents of the blog when I woke up this morning are below, unchanged. Maybe this will give some impetus for conversation.

Sen. Al Franken is probably soon to be political history (I write before he speaks publicly). he has been politically killed – that is exactly what is happening. I wonder if champagne glasses are clinking in the office of D. J. Tice, editorial page editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who wrote about Al Franken’s new book back in August, as follows. Tice did not seem much of a fan of Franken.

I happen to think that Sen. Franken has been a very good Senator, a credit to the United States of America. The American people – and I mean that regardless of station in life – have lost an articulate witness. And the issue is strictly a political issue. If sexual allegations were applicable to all, Donald J. Trump would be long gone already; and Roy Moore would also have disappeared from public view, rather than endorsed as the next U.S. Senator from Alabama.

A few days ago, about when the Franken thing erupted – shortly followed by the Keillor thing? – I had occasion to dust off a sermon made by a Presbyterian Minister at a prestigious church in St. Paul in Feb. 1999. You can read it here: Morality and Civility001. The homilist was Dr. John M. Miller, and I think this person is the same as the John Miller who delivered the remarks in the wake of the Bill Clinton impeachment.

If you read the remarks, and I hope you do, note especially the last page (of the six) where this Christian minister, near 19 years ago, laid out his concerns. The six pages are worthy of discussion.

If I’m correct in my ID of the minister, apparently Dr. Miller didn’t last very long at House of Hope.

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It would be nice to have a “Christmas spirit”.

I’m experiencing the opposite….

COMMENTS:
from Joe:
Folks might want to respond to the Doug Jones [Alabama candidate] requests for contributions…

from Jane: As I said to them, this is murky territory all around. All allegations are not equal and all sexual harassment is not equal. Franken’s acts are distasteful, but I and many woman friends feel that these allegations are not proven to be true and pretty mild compared to all the other Mighty Men who have fallen. That includes the president (no cap on purpose.)

I am afraid that Franken will be the sacrificial lamb so Congress and followers can stop talking about the harassment of women. There needs to be deep and frank discussion and decisions on how to deal with this problem. They lack a policy of procedures for addressing this in Congress. Thus the response seems to be more based on 2018 elections than anything truth-finding or justice. Should these cases for elected officials and potential elected officials always automatically go to the Ethics Committee to be proven? Does confession and apology avoid this step? Then what are punishments that actually fit the crime?
I very much disagree with forcing elected officials out of office on hearsay. That is not how the judicial system works, and I wouldn’t think that is how the legislative system should work.

A side note. Here in SE MN our state legislator Greg Davids, was investigated for fraud. No one forced him to resign. There was some scooting around the law and threading needles that allowed him off the hook and should not have. They were very blatant charges, but his party never asked him to resign. Were there loop holes in the ethics investigation? Yes.

None of this is easy, but Congress needs a plan to patrol itself.

from Peter:T he broad range of behaviors that now constitute “sex” in various contexts reminds me of the speed limit. As a professional driver, I am constantly being passed, and not legally or skillfully, by drivers who sometimes express annoyance at me, some by getting a foot from my bumper. I pull over to let them pass when I can. One stopped, and I said, “Is there some problem?” “I’m trying to go the speed limit.” “Well, it’s fifty right here, so you were.” the boy roared away contemptuously. However, my point is that the police can just dip into the traffic stream any time they need to boost the revenues a little, because nobody but me pays any attention to the speed signs.

Yes: I’m implying that an awful lot of men have a history, somewhere in their past, of unpleasantries such as groping, propositioning, and much, much worse. Almost all of my close female friends say they have experienced this, and many more than once.

And in the current atmos-Fear, it no longer matters whether a story can be verified. That is a symptom of a paradigm shift I’m writing about these days, which occurred when technology allowed one person to drop a million or so others into terror and xenophobia in the same moment. It is the number of eyeballs looking at something, and not what that something may or may not be, that now is the most lucrative commodity. Aggregated attention is power.

I am afraid we will see a lot more of this kind of attack, whether it is actually a counter-attack or just an assault, before humanity gets it right; and a lot of good people will be injured, both the accusers and the accused. All political figures’ personal histories are now being mined for such information. This is going to change the makeup of leadership, but it will not necessarily be an improvement.

from Fred: Feeling sad with lots of mixed emotions. I had hoped that Senator Franken might be chosen as a VP candidate next election cycle as I thought he had the fortitude to ask the tough questions and to speak out on the issues and get to the truth. So not only do I mourn that he is not sitting in the Senate representing regular people like me I mourn the dream I had of the future. Anyone that has watched him work in committee knows that he did his homework and asked the questions that needed asking in a way that demanded respect. He was one of us in a lot of ways.

from Lydia: As a feminist since age 14 (almost 45 years) & as a survivor of child sexual abuse (age 9 to 12), while a teen sexual harassment by adult men (age 13 to 17) & sexual assault/rape twice (at 20 by a stranger–he bragged that I was “# 19”) & by a “friend at age 25…I am APPALLED at the SCAPEGOATING of Sen. Al Franken–by mushy spineless “liberals”. Even if the allegations are true (& I have big DOUBTS, given the first accuser LEEANN TWEEDEN has been a right-wing FOX News commentator who worked with Sean Hannity to SMEAR 2 Obama Admin. people(Shirley Shrrod & Van Jones) based on LIES)—these allegations are so minimal. These allegations of KISSES & butt-pats TRIVIALIZE serious sexual harassment on the job much less those who are predators against girls (like ROY MOORE) and the epidemic of sexual assault/rape where TENS OF THOUSANDS of rape kits gather dust & are NOT E4VEN TESTED in pooice departments across the country. “Date rape”, “acquaintance rape” & on-campus sexual assaults are DISMISSED without serious investigation—& the perpetrators are free to continue.

But, AL FRANKEN–a CHAMPION of women’s rights and equality is BURNED AT THE STAKE? It’s disgusting. The Democrats claim is that now they will be “pure enough” to go after ROY MOORE if he’s elected to the Senate. What fools! The Republicans will give Moore a pass–since he’s “a Godly man” who has been falsely accused for political reasons”.

Pressuring Franken out of office was a terrible thing to do that makes no wpman safer & in my view will only bring us closer to (inevitable?) BACKLASH on this whole topic. Soon enough we will no longer be discussing HOW to address rampant sexual harassment in the work-place or sexual violence in our culture. It will be back to (Big) Business As Usual. WHAT A WASTE that a decent Senator has been lost (& I disagreed with Franken on some issues–he ws never anti-war & he bows to Israel as does EVERY politician)—but, at least Franken GAVE A DAMN about every day people…when so many of those we elect (regardless of political party) serves the powerful & serves themselves. I hope Minnesotans will write Senator Franken at his St. Paul office and THANK HIM FOR HIS SERVICE. (I already did).

from Bruce: A wise man once told me that “good triumphs over evil. Nobody, however, thinks they are evil.” That I think is where we are today in the United States of America.

Observation #2: The argument that Al’s transgressions are not as bad as Moore’s or Trump’s is a version of “lessor evil politics” that has over the last 20 years given us the mess we are in today.

Observation #3: Democrats think that Al’s transgressions can be overlooked because of his politics, but have difficulty accepting that Republicans think the same thing about Trump and Moore. I suspect the Republicans practice the same hypocrisy.

Another observation is there isn’t due process in political discourse. To suggest there is is to blur protected speech. In the Franken mess, I suspect Al realized his political days were numbered and that he soon would be forced to resign from the beginning. At that point, he should’ve made the proactive decision to apologize to Franni, Tweeden and all those he inappropriately touched. He should’ve said he was ashamed by his caddish behavior and embarrassed by the rationalization that it was his privilege. At that point he should’ve said he was stepping down because today in the 21st century that way of thinking and acting was wrong and didn’t belong in the US Senate. He then should’ve demanded president Trump should do the same and that Roy Moore doesn’t belong in the US Senate either, and that he was going to form a movement to eradicate this type of behavior. But alas he didn’t. If he did history would’ve been kind to him, however he defaulted to the conventional political approach using apology-nonapology and waiting to see how many shoes would drop before he was forced to resign. It would’ve taken courage, but that is a virtue that today doesn’t exist in American politics.

from Florence: I’ve wondered often about what moved the women to come out now as victims of Sen. Franken’s “sexual over-reach”. Whatever their motive, I’m pretty sure that their grievances would have been (and maybe were) trivialized and/or dismissed. How have each of you handled these situations in your life whether as a victim or friend or confidant of a victim? Personally I never talked about my earliest “Me, too.” experience until I was over 40 and given a voice at a Take Back the Night circle. I was over-whelmed at the caring and support I received as I shed the bucket of tears I never could prior to then. Other sexual transgressions against me throughout my life made me wary and very protective and, fortunately, the perpetrators knew I was in charge of my own person. Did I tell anyone else? No, only my husband, after we were a committed couple.

Was I willing to give Sen. Franken a bye? Yes, and I wrote to him asking him to stay on as our Senator, but to “mind his manners” into the future. Others have disagreed with me. Their voices have prevailed. History will be the judge as to the prudence of Sen. Franken’s decision to resign, obviously with understandable reservations, and the DFL Feminist Caucus insistence that it was necessary to maintain the party’s integrity around the issue of sexual abuse.

from Jane (see previous comment, above): Here is a link to a woman writer who echoes my thoughts.

from Alan: Al Franken has been an extremely great Senator for Minnesota and these United States. Every other Senator would have let Sessions, the AG, mget by with lying but not Franken. The second woman that accused him of groping was during a picture at the State Fair. When my wife and I looked at that picture of that woman, she had the happiest look on her face as possible, and she was complaining? If he was squeezing her buns, it must have felt wonderful by the look on her face, but I don’t think he was. She wanted a picture with him and that is why she looks so happy. The Democratic Senators and others that have told him to resign are wrong, very wrong. They have railroaded him he decided to get on the train. I am going to write him a note asking him to jump off the train, but to fill out his term and run again in 2020. There is no one in the Senate to take his place and to do as well as he will do for Minnesota and the country.

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