whatever happened to sexual harassment?
i'm a bit of a late-comer to lithwick's 6 february culturebox piece, but try to think of it as saving the best for last.
what prompted the response at all was actually another slate article, this one by perennial heavy-weight timothy "don't call me timmy" noah. i'll get to that in a second.
lithwick's piece is about a reality show, or something. i've never seen it. i've never seen survivor or queer eye for the straight guy or american idol or, to the best of my recollection mr. chairman, any reality show ever at all--a fact of which i am immensely proud.
on this particular reality show, a team of men competes against a team of women to get hired by donald trump, or something. to succeed, the women have been flaunting their, uh, assets and the men have been pulling long hours, working hard, stuff like that. needless to say, it's a bloodbath. trump actually had to put the few remaining men on teams with women just to keep a handful of them on the show. face it guys. they're the stronger sex.
but that's not what i'm here to talk to you about. what i'm here to talk to you about is a commercial, and not just any commercial, but one of my favorite commercials of all time. it was on the tube a few years ago, but i haven't seen it for a while. it features this shrewish little prude whose face could sink a thousand ships being propositioned by her manager, the classic angry white male. he's telling her how she's not using all of her, uh, assets. it's sprouting a drag-chute behind her career. "with a body like that," he says as he lustily eyes the merchandise "you could really go places."
ah, then comes the show-stopper, the camp classic, the "i've fallen and i can't get up" moment of the sexual revolution:
"no! that's sexual harassment! and i don't have to take it!"
i actually forgot what this has to do with lithwick's article. something about the death of feminism, i think. it's just a really funny commercial, and i guess i think it's cool that the angry white sexual harassing male gets laid after all.
which brings me to little timmy noah, who, to the best of my knowledge mr. chairman, has never, ever gotten laid in his entire life. timmy's piece is about a certain powerful democrat banging cocktail waitresses or figure skaters or flight attendants or his seventeen-year-old niece, or something. this is news, it seems. except it's not really news, as timmy points out in his oh-so-very-clever way, it's news that it's news, ya dig? you're such a good boy, timmy.
yes, it's time for some serious soul-searching on the moral and ethical responsiblities of the professional journalist vis-a-vis angry white sexually harassing males notching their gunbelts with quivering little interns because, hey, why do the folks need to know about this? i agree, timmy. we don't need to know about this. just like we didn't need to know about thomas and packwood and gingrich...
hey, interns are women too. they've got nice bodies and they're really going places. all the way to the top. what's so wrong with that?
locdog hopes to see them there
"well senator kerry," says howard dean "you have disgraced yourself and your nation by committing indecent acts with an intern. what do you have to say for yourself?"
"i want to say that i really, really didn't support the war in iraq."
"but senator kerry," says al sharpton "don't you know what a terrible, terrible thing it is to violate your marriage vowels? marriage is a sacred institution."
"yes," adds kucinich "it's the fundamental building-block of society. the Holy Scriptures bare witness that the blessed union between a man and a woman was established and consecrated by Almighty God as the means by which we are to procreate."
"and how can we the american people trust you when your own wife cannot," chirps clark, back from the dead.
"i did not have sexual relations with that intern. and although i did, it was just about sex. anyway, i'm in favor of a strong military. and the less we spend on it, the stronger it will be. anyone want to talk about healthcare?"
from the gallery, gephardt screams "how dare you victimize an innocent child, practically a babe in arms! her head swimming from the hustle and bustle of washington d.c., the steady buzz of power ringing in her ears as intoxicating as any wine...you, sir, are the lowest form of scoundrel."
"look, dick, i'm sorry about iowa but--"
"don't you say one more word. haven't you wasted enough of the tax payer's money with your sleazy shenanigans? and to think, ronald reagan wouldn't even remove his jacket in the oval office. i know people, kerry. someone get me starr."
and somewhere, bill clinton smiles...
a bit like locdog, actually
er, senator kerry...
forget all that.
locdog thinks you probably have your hands full right about now
dear senator kerry
three times you were wounded in combat and twice you were decorated for valor, putting your life on the line to defend your brothers in arms, and the ideals of freedom. i have no doubt of your heroics in vietnam and i'm deeply grateful for your service to your nation.
but there's something i need to ask you. something i've been wondering about and i'm pretty sure i'm not the only one. here's what i want to know: why i should take your distinguished military record seriously when you so clearly do not?
i'm not going to lie to you. i'm a dyed-in-the-wool conservative who wouldn't vote for you if you'd single-handedly killed more communists than rambo and chuck norris combined. but i would like to respect you as a war hero and leader of our nation for, rather than in spite of, the man you are today.
see, i don't understand the mentality of a person who braves bullets and bombs to fish a foundering comrade out of the drink, then goes home to tell congress how men just like his soggy buddy were raping and pillaging ala genghis kahn all over the 'nam. i don't get how someone single-handedly chases a communist into a hut in the heat of a fire fight, kills him, recovers an RPG that was threatening the safety of his boat, then comes back home for photo-ops with hanoi jane fonda. and i really, really don't understand how somebody throws the medals he got for doing all those brave things--hell, not even his own medals, someone else's medals--back over the wall of the white house. were you throwing your buddy back in the river? were you throwing the RPG back to the communist in that hut? were you throwing the gratitude of the american people back in their faces? or were you merely rejecting the evils of the military-industrial complex and the symbols of fascist oppression they bestowed upon you for doing your part to crush the workers of the world? did you really think you could have one without the other, have your cake and eat it too? i guess not. guess that's why you threw someone else's medals.
and now you want the american people to climb that wall, pick up those medals, dust them off, and pin them back on your chest. well i'm an american. why should i?
because you say you support the military? that while you haven't voted for every defense initiative to come along, you want to keep our armed forces strong. but in your 1984 senate run--the height of the cold war--you said you wanted to cut billions from defense spending and eliminate the f-14, -15 and -16 fighter jets, the apache helicopter, the b2 stealth bomber, the tomahawk and patriot missile systems, the bradley fighting vehicle, and the m1 abrams main battle tank, among others. people who've never spent a day in the armed forces in their lives recognize these names. they've won us our last three wars. then you voted to cut military spending or block increases four times in the nineties--including one vote in which you were one of only three democrats to vote against pay raises for members of our armed forces. all this is nothing new: you've been promising to cut defense spending since your 1972 run for congress.
that's quite a few medals over the wall.
maybe you would make a good president in this age of global terrorism. but not because you're a war hero. you've told us quite clearly your vietnam heroics are out of bounds. if we can learn anything from your post-vietnam record, it's that you will always do what's expected of you at the time, regardless of what's come before. so maybe you would keep up the fight, like when you voted to authorize president bush to go to war with iraq. or maybe the winds would shift and you'd shift with them, like when you said that you only voted to authorize "the threat of force." why should any american take that chance?
locdog thanks you for your time
newsweek has a four page story on gibson's the passion and the anti-semitism debate it's riled up. i've dealt with the charges of anti-semitism against the gospel at length in other places, so i'm not going to go into all that again, but there has been one recent development that's changed the debate a bit and is worth a look:
[Pilate] is again improbably resisting the crowd, the picture of a just ruler. Frustrated, desperate, bloodthirsty, the mob says: "His blood be on us and on our children!" Gibson ultimately cut the cry from the film, and he was right to do so.
i first heard of this a few days ago when the story broke, and my initial reaction was one of deep disappointment: gibson finally caved. the new york times had reported that an unnamed associate of gibson's had said the blood-curse scene "didn?t work in the focus screenings," and i'm left wondering "didn't work for who, the evangelical Christians who will be shelling out most of the bucks to see it?" it would have never even occurred to most evangelical believers to reject a scene that came word-for-word out of the Holy Bible. i can readily imagine the reaction that anti-defamation league types would have had to the scene, but they've been in hysterics since day one. why would mel change now?
gibson has been tight-lipped about the decision, but if you'll indulge some totally unfounded speculation, i'll wager that "test screenings" had next to nothing to do with his decision. this movie has never been about popularity or commercial success. gibson funded the 25 million dollar picture out of his own pocket and at an expected loss--even finding someone to distribute the film was a battle. now he's suddenly so concerned with focus groups and test screenings? now the ultra-orthodox faith that led him through the valley of the shadow of political incorrectness has departed on the basis of a few jeering popcorn-munchers? i think not.
put yourself in gibson's shoes. you're a devout Christian who wants to make a film about Jesus' death that's as true to the Biblical text--which you believe sacred--as humanely possible. you don't see that text as anti-semitic in the slightest, it's simply the infallible record of what happened two thousand years ago. but for months you've heard nothing but horror stories of passion plays preceding outbreaks of atrocity throughout history. now you start to worry about this blood-curse scene, the scene that's been used more than any other to justify anti-semitism, and suddenly you're not so sure it's a good idea. on the one hand, you want to stay true to the Word of God. on the other, you have a moral responsibility to protect innocent life. what if, after seeing your movie, someone goes out and shoots up a synagogue? would you want that on your conscious?
so gibson cuts the scene. at least, that's my hunch. and while my hunch mitigates quite a bit on his behalf, i still think he made the wrong call. here's why.
first, if gibson truly believes that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then surely he must recognize that, ultimately, it is better for him not to tamper with the text.
secondly, Jesus died for the sins of the world. the Bible makes this clear in so many places (most famously John 3:16) that i won't waste space arguing it. whether or not you as a non-believer personally agree is immaterial since Christians do believe it, and Christians are the ones we're worried about here, right? they're the ones who are going to reconvene the inquisition after seeing gibson's movie, right? "let his blood be on us and our children!" is a chilling line to be sure, but it doesn't prove "the jews killed Jesus." it proves the jewish mob assembled before pilate wanted him dead, and it establishes the rejection of Jesus as the Christ, the jewish messiah, but it doesn't shift the blame for his death. why not? the jews didn't kill Jesus. and no, neither did the romans.
14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
"the jews" can't claim responsibility for something they had nothing to do with, whether they wanted to or not. Jesus Christ laid down His own life, of His own free will that there might be "one fold, one shepherd."
if only one man had ever lived, and had fallen into sin, Jesus would have came to die for him--even though he would have been the only one there to nail Jesus to the cross. His sacrifice was for everyone, and in that sense, we are all equally to blame for the death of Jesus. i don't deny that jewish contemporaries of Christ were the effective cause of his death--the Bible plainly states they put the romans up to it. it's for this reason that i don't hold with the convenient it's-all-the-roman's-fault explanation so popular today. rome wouldn't have killed Jesus if israel hadn't put rome up to it, but--and this is key--israel wouldn't have killed Jesus had Jesus not allowed them to, and Jesus allowed them to so that He could die for us all. it was His choice alone.
finally, "generational curses." the line "let his blood be on us and our children" invokes exodous 34:7, where God says He is just,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
many Christians take this verse as evidence of "generational curses," whereby God punishes children for the sins of the fathers for multiple generations. i don't personally hold to that interpretation, since in the broader context of scripture it becomes clear that this verse is referring to the consequences of sin itself affecting our loved ones, rather than God visiting supernatural wrath upon them. as a modern-day example, if you as a young, single person screw up your credit, that's going to create problems for potential offspring whether you think it's fair or not. i've seen families where there's generation after generation of alcoholism or spousal abuse that can all be traced back to one weak individual. conversely, i've seen families where there are generation upon generation of Godly children stemming back to one Godly individual. in essence, this verse is another way of saying "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." we know this to be true from common experience. there are always exceptions, but for the most part, bad parents have bad kids.
careful reading of the scriptures indicate, however, that many jews had come to believe in generational curses. this is explicitly argued against, in fact, in two old testament passages found in ezekiel 18 and jeremiah 31. the ezekiel passage is particularly compelling:
2 What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge?
one can see from ezekiel's great care how deeply ingrained generational curses must have been in the world view of the average jew. some argue that ezekiel's prophecy doesn't disprove the notion of a generational curse, but rather looks forward to the coming of the messiah, in whose day all such curses shall be broken, and, indeed, jeremiah's version gives credence to this belief:
29 In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge.
i think that both passages taken together show God's attempt to dispel a widely-held misconception, with the ezekiel passage arguing against it in the present and the jeremiah passage suggesting that, when messiah comes, the evidence will be irrefutable. regardless of whether or not generational curses exist or, if they do, at what point they're broken, the one thing that is indisputable for Christians of today is that Jesus' death, the "new covenant," invalidates them all. although we've seen that first century jews are no more culpable for Jesus' death than the rest of us, if someone still wanted to point fingers, they could go no farther than the destruction of the temple 70 AD.
this is getting longer than i'd intended, so i'll wrap it up by revisiting the first and most important reason gibson should have left the blood-curse scene in tact: if the Bible is the word of God, then in the long run, things will be better off for having left it alone rather than tailoring it to the sensitivities of this group or that. had gibson left the scene in his film, there would have been controversy and possibly even violence--but as far as that goes, would anyone who was not already a raving bigot come out of gibson's movie ready to hold lynchings? please.
the reason jewish/Christian relationships remain strained is our understandable tendency to run from controversy rather than embrace it. what if gibson had left his film alone, but ran a prologue explaining that Jesus died for everyone's sins, and that anti-semitism is antithetical to the message of the gospel? why couldn't we see a priest, a minister, and a rabbi (walking into a bar, and the rabbi goes, "hey, i'll bet you twenty bucks that..." sorry, couldn't resist) sitting down on one of these silly talking-heads shows and actually hammer out the Biblical texts pertaining to the infamous blood curse rather than endlessly obsess over not wanting to hurt each other's feelings? that couldn't help but be beneficial to all participants.
i've long maintained that the answer to uncomfortable Bible passages and the social problems they raise isn't to run from them, but to confront them head on. how will judeo-Christian relationships be harmed when we finally realize that we're all Christkillers, but Jesus loved us anyway?
locdog doesn't see it
bush on russert, first impressions
bush could have done a lot better, but he could have done a lot worse. i don't know if helped himself any, but i'm pretty sure he didn't do himself any harm--which in and of itself is quite an accomplishment given russert's unrelenting hostility.
one area where bush did consistently miss opportunities was on the status of prewar intelligence as it pertains to his decision making process. russert must have asked fifty questions presupposing our prewar intelligence was in err, questions that began with phrases like "knowing what you know now," or "since saddam apparently had no weapons," or "don't we need iron-clad, 100% certain intelligence to..."
what bush needed to do--and needs to do in his coming campaign--is establish the absurdity such thinking. a president cannot monday morning quarterback national policy. he's got to make decisions based on the information he has available to him at the time, not on hypotheticals and whatifs. that's what leadership is. what, exactly, was bush supposed to do when his predecessor, the CIA, the brits, france, germany, the u.n., and the rest of the western world were more or less unanimous in their conviction that saddam had weapons of mass destruction? sit there wringing his hands over the one chance in a thousand that the intelligence was false? that way lies jimmy carter.
russert--and the democratic presidential hopefuls whose playbook he was reading from--is living in the fantasy land of television where questions like "but what if we don't have 100% certain intelligence" pass for serious thought. there are no certainties in intelligence, and arguing that "preemption" ought to occur only when intelligence is "iron-clad" is equivalent to arguing that we may only strike at threats to our nation after they've struck us, that we must wait for the next pearl harbor or world trade center before we act. this is a delusional, frankly dangerous school of thought that will result in untold death if brought to fruition.
in the real world, intelligence comes in shades of probability. saddam has shown himself a scorpion time and again, and bush could not assume that he'd laid down his stinger out of the goodness of his heart, particularly not when the overwhelming preponderance of evidence goes to the contrary. in a parallel universe where bush had made such a dangerous assumption and the second iraq war had never occurred, russert would be demanding to know why it is, in this age of international terrorism, bush has done nothing about the threat of saddam when practically every reputable intelligence agency believes he's got WMDs and is fostering ties with terror. and he would be very right indeed to make such a demand.
the irony of the left's attempts to demagogue bush's prewar decision-making is that they are doing so on the basis of intelligence that is quite a bit less compelling than that which led bush to war in the first place. other than kay's failure, what have they got? contrast kay with the global unanimity of prewar intelligence, the fact that saddam had failed to account for large amounts of chemical and biological weapons when he kicked inspectors out in '98, his continued defiance through 17 u.n. resolutions--including his last chance to save his skin a.k.a. resolution 1441--the possibility that saddam destroyed or exported his weapons to syria shortly before the war began, and the fact that he is now known to have retained his means of producing WMDs (perhaps he was just being nostalgic?), and one is hard-pressed to explain how saddam never having WMDs is more likely than the alternative.
no use worrying what bush could have said now, though. it wouldn't have made any difference. the press apparently wrote up their take on the interview before it even occurred. here's an example from the AP:
Bush, who pledged after the Sept. 11 attacks to get suspected mastermind Osama bin Laden "dead or alive,'' said Sunday: "I have no idea whether we will capture or bring him to justice.''
in other words, bush could care less, or that's what the AP leaves us to infer since this little information nibblet is presented with zero context. check out what bush was asked by russert, and what he actually said in response:
Russert: Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican, said he is absolutely convinced we will capture Osama bin Laden before the election.
since the AP doesn't show you what russert asked, the reader has no idea that bush was responding to the question of whether or not osama would be captured before the election. the reader is left to infer complete apathy on the president's part, when his answer in context demonstrates the exact opposite, that america is very much engaged in the pursuit of bin laden, that the president is very pleased with the progress we've made in dismantling al qaeda, and that the war with iraq hasn't swept the events of 9/11 from his mind.
locdog may have more on monday, but have a great weekend either way