December 18, 2017
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Welcome to the year of the groper

By Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post
Updated:

It seems more than coincidence that the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency coincides with a trend that was heretofore unrecognized — groping.

Gropers abound, it seems. From Harvey Weinstein to Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore to Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken — and dozens in between — it would seem women are swimming in groper-infested waters.

One can hardly turn on the news without landing on a panel discussion of groping and punishment. How long before groper-fatigue sets in? The challenge for everyone, but especially the media, is to not overwhelm ourselves with trivial pursuits and blind leads. Groping is wrong and bad and awful, but it doesn’t rise to the level of rape as we commonly understand it. And while a forced kiss is disgusting (and you want to brush your teeth forever), it wouldn’t seem to be a life-altering event. If it is, we’re talking about more than groping.

I’m not excusing anyone’s behavior. I find the whole bunch of accused men, including the president of the United States, revolting and pathetic. May every groper find a larger man’s hand down his britches and see how he likes it. Crude — my apologies. But this is what it’s come to.

While the debate about these offenses is, one hopes, constructive, there’s a tendency to put all these monkeys in the same barrel. There are notable differences of degree among them, and we should always give consideration to context and other possible extenuating circumstances lest we become blind to fairness and enamored of “justice,” with or without due process.

Do I believe every accuser who has come forward? I’m inclined to. In fact, without good reason otherwise, I’m inclined to first believe the woman in any case. This isn’t because I happen to be a woman but because men historically have been unfairly believed over women. Assuming no relevant pathologies, why not believe the woman?

In Moore’s case, of course, there is credibility in numbers. Several women unknown to each other reported similar experiences. But are these alleged offenses from so long ago sufficient to end his Senate campaign and his political career? The fact that Moore totes the Ten Commandments around like an ash sack of piety makes the allegations all the more repulsive — America hates the hypocrite more than the criminal — and makes people more inclined to send him packing.

[A moral choice confronts Alabama voters. The nation will be watching.]

But is it really fair to judge him based on unprovable recollections by women who were teens at the time? Is it not possible that Moore has repented or that, as he claims, these things never happened? Might four decades have changed him? Or don’t we care? We have to ask.

Franken is helped only insofar as he wasn’t yet a Minnesota senator when his guerrilla groping took place. The fact that he expressed remorse and didn’t deny his acts is hardly courageous given that we’ve all seen a photograph of him as he’s about to grab a woman’s breasts while she was sleeping. He and the woman, Leeann Tweeden, whom he reduced to an inhuman object for his audience’s amusement, were on a USO tour at the time.

In the picture, Franken, erstwhile comedian and, apparently, lifelong buffoon, is looking over his shoulder at the camera grinning like a baboon. It was a stupid, thoughtless and demeaning performance. Context for Franken may simply have been his outdated sense of humor. What’s funny for one generation isn’t remotely humorous to the next.

How does one punish a Franken? Democrats may be willing to sacrifice him since Minnesota’s Democratic governor would appoint another Democrat to replace him. If so, they gain the high road over Republicans, who are stuck not only with Moore but with the leader of their party.

Trump, whom more than a dozen women have accused, is the gorilla in the ointment.

[Audio reveals Donald Trump boasting about making sexual advances on a woman]

We know that he’s an admitted forced-kisser and a groper, thanks to the “Access Hollywood” tape. It’s easy to think he’s guilty as charged based on his generally dismissive behavior toward women and his alarming impulsivity.

What will happen to Trump is probably nothing. He, like Moore, stands only accused. We may not be at a point where recompense is possible for past aggressions, but there can be little doubt that groping, the trend that suddenly defined 2017, is on its way out.

Kathleen Parker is a columnist for The Washington Post. Her email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

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