Going into the new year of 2018, has there ever been a more confusing and troubling time in our 21st Century lifetimes?
Sure there have been, you say. Remember the Bush years? The 9/11 attack? The Iraq attack, ostensibly to find WMDs that never in fact existed? The financial meltdown in 2008?
These were far and away more terrifying events than anything we’re dealing with now, when the stock market keeps breaking records and the economy seems to be in better shape than any time since 9/11. Yet for many of us this has only underscored the wealth gap in this country that seems to be getting wider all the time.
But hey, let’s face it, the problem starts and stops in one place – with the sleazebag-in chief, who is remaking the country in his own toxic image, repealing Obama’s protections, stuffing the courts with radical conservatives, blundering through the world making horrific foreign policy mistakes and generally poisoning our daily discourse.
And what can we do about it?
Just sit around and dream about Robert Mueller’s investigation undoing the wrongs done by the outmoded electoral college system.
At such times, it helps to think of reasons to feel good about living right now.
Think of ice cream – so much better now than it used to be! So many more excellent flavors than in the bad old days, such wonderful texture, with ingredients not even imagined in the ’70s!
Think of cars – so much more streamlined and efficient now than the gas-guzzling, fume-spewing models of the 1970s and ’80s!
Think of sexual abuse allegations – sexual abuse allegations? Yes. The country is much better-informed now, the difficulty of coming forward is so much better understood, and the accuser is so much more likely to be believed, and not vilified and shamed as before.
I should know, as I certainly experienced the consequences of our previous ignorance.
It was the year 1970, I was a Junior at Horace Mann high school in NYC, and while on a 5 day school trip to Washington DC, the supervising teacher had snuck up on me in my hotel room, spun me around and stuck his tongue down my throat, then threw me down on the bed. When I scrambled away, the teacher claimed that he was only doing what I had wanted him to do. I walked out of the room and nothing more had been said about what happened. But I was in a state of shock and didn’t know what to do.
When I came back to school, I felt like I had to tell someone, but who? The headmaster was an old man who I didn’t feel any affinity towards. I went instead to the assistant headmaster, who was younger, a gruff practical man who I found more approachable. “Sit down,” he said, doubtless expecting me to talk about some course that was giving me trouble. Instead I told him that the teacher had touched me in a sexual way. “Sexual? How?” he asked, sitting up, paying closer attention. I described what had happened as unemotionally as I could. It was surreal, the words coming out of my mouth reluctantly, as if embarrassed to be associated with such a tawdry event.
“What evidence do you have?” the assistant headmaster asked. “Like what?” I asked. “Any witnesses?” “No,” I told him.
He informed me that, in the absence of compelling evidence, the school’s policy was to side with the teacher. And that if I made my accusation public, that the school would advise the teacher to sue me for defamatory comments. “And he would win,” the assistant headmaster told me, “and your parents would have to pay him a lot of money.”
This prospect was terrifying to me on so many levels. Still, I tried one more time, talking to the school guidance counselor. He was even more emphatic, telling me to drop any thought of going public or “you will only tarnish yourself and destroy any chance you have of getting into an Ivy League college.”
And so I did. I dropped it. And I did get into an Ivy League college. And then I dropped out. Not telling anyone what had happened almost destroyed me, causing me to lose my sense of confidence, my sense of purpose, my sense of self.
So yes, I am overjoyed that there is more understanding of how difficult it is for victims of abuse to come forward, and a greater willingness to accept the victim’s story as truthful without judging the victim.
Now if we could only give the women who were sexually abused by our president a chance to be heard – and the kind of understanding and empathy that we’ve extended to other victims – well, that would really be something to celebrate, wouldn’t it?