The recent onslaught of sexual assault and harassment accusations against men in entertainment, media and politics would be an ideal example of an issue immune to the partisanship that dominates so much of public discourse.
It would be if there were such things as nonpartisan issues, anyway.
Which of course there are not.
And so, instead of a sort of equal opportunity condemnation of abhorrent behavior by men in powerful positions, we witness the grim ritual of selective outrage based on the political proclivities of the accused.
Is Roy Moore worse than Harvey Weinstein? Whose accusers are more believable?
The answer, or so it seems based on what I’ve been reading and hearing, depends for many people on whether they lean left or right on the political scale.
I try to walk as close to upright as I can manage, mainly to avoid a persistent ache in my back.
But as for men who seem to believe their standing in society entitles them to grope women, or worse, my level of disgust is influenced not a whit by whether the man has an “R” or a “D” on his voter registration card.
Or any other letter, come to that.
(Although I’d like to see some of these cretins end up with a long number after their name, of the sort prisons use to identify the inmates.)
I don’t mean to imply that the reactions to this spate of accusations — and it’s an unprecedented volume, so far as I can tell — are wholly partisan.
Indeed that’s probably not even a majority attitude.
I’m gratified when Democrats lobby for investigations against members of their own party, and when Republicans castigate their colleagues.
I doubt we’ll ever know with anything resembling certainty how many of these accusations are absolutely true. In some cases there seems to be no way to corroborate the accusers’ stories.
And I suppose it’s possible that the wave of revelations — they seem to arrive more by the hour than by the day — has enticed a few people to either exaggerate a distant episode or even to invent one. We certainly shouldn’t, as a country, allow the momentum of this scandal to stifle our commitment to fairness and justice.
Yet I am as certain as I can be that a large majority of the claims are legitimate — in many cases, of course, the accused abuser hasn’t even attempted a defense. I believe it’s more plausible that the proliferation of accusations, rather than encourage fabrications, instead has emboldened victims to finally unburden themselves of their traumatic experiences.
Which is as it should be.
Indeed, if any part of this sordid trend troubles me more than the sheer scale of the abuse, it’s that so many prominent men got away with so much awful behavior for so long — in some cases violating the law as well as any reasonable standards of decency.
Their prominence was the strongest part of their shields, of course. And although I’m no psychologist, I also understand how common it is for victims to endure abuse in silence — sometimes forever.
I try to avoid pessimism but it seems to me likely that not only will the accusations continue, but that the scandal will spread, in the manner of a noxious fungus, from its current relatively narrow slice of society into other spheres.
Certainly there is no shortage of men in other fields — business, for instance — whose power, if not notoriety, is comparable with that of the actors, producers, politicians and journalists who thus far have dominated the headlines.
It shouldn’t be an epiphany to anybody, of course, that men sexually harass and abuse women.
I wonder, though, whether this is more common in the higher echelons of society — or at least the more famous ones.
It’s tempting to believe so.
And it’s tempting because it’s comforting to conclude that such things are largely confined to people whose salaries, and indeed lives, are beyond our ken. We’d like to believe that serial abuse is much more rare among “regular” people, which of course is most of us.
I’d wish that were the case, but I’m having a hard go of it.
Mainly I can’t get around to believing, with anything like confidence, that the personality flaw that enables men to abuse women — a flaw we know has more to do with exerting power than with satisfying sexual desire — is largely confined to men with large incomes or an outsize influence in government.
That seems to me a conclusion that defies biology and psychology.
Every abuser we can identify is progress, to be sure.
But I hope that as we continue to expose the slime that lies beneath so many well-known rocks, we also empower those who have been harmed by people whose names are known to very few.
These revelations won’t make the news.
But all abusers should have to answer for their transgressions, and all victims deserve a chance to tell their tales and to begin the process of healing.
Jayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald.