By Vernon A. Williams
Lucy Flores, a Democratic politician from Nevada, alleged that former Vice President Joe Biden grasped her shoulders from behind and kissed the back of her head without her consent during a campaign event in 2014.
The alleged incident, which Flores discussed for the first time publicly in a New York Magazine interview in March, happened while Biden visited Las Vegas to campaign with Flores during her race for lieutenant governor of Nevada.
Flores, who was 35 at the time, wrote that while she was preparing to go onstage at a rally, Biden came up behind her, put his hands on her shoulders, smelled her hair, and kissed the back of her head.
“I’m not suggesting that Biden broke any laws, but the transgressions that society deems minor (or doesn’t even see as transgressions) often feel considerable to the person on the receiving end,” she wrote. “That imbalance of power and attention is the whole point — and the whole problem.”
It is time for a serious and open-minded discussion on the entire #metoo issue.
First, I won’t let anyone insult my intelligence by suggesting that people who won’t believe every utterance of sexual impropriety is unsympathetic to this serious issue. That would be ridiculous. The assumption of guilt of every man accused and total veracity on the part of every woman is the very definition of prejudice.
Though people only want to apply the principle where it is consistent with their beliefs, the fact is our system touts that everyone accused is innocent until proven guilty. It’s the Constitution of the United States. An accusation is not a conviction.
Secondly, even where guilt is verified, we have to be able to distinguish levels of appropriate offenses. Should a man who whispers a racy, unwanted or sexually suggestive comment to a woman – however abhorrent as that may be – face the same consequences of a convicted rapist? The degree and intent of any physical or psychological aggression, offense or suppression must mitigate the response.
Personally, I won’t even watch a movie or television show that objectifies women. Misogyny is an abomination. Anyone proven to have sexually, physically, psychologically or verbally assaulted, abused or disrespected a woman should be prosecuted and should receive the most stringent possible punishment. The first response of society should always be to believe and empathize with the woman.
But before the final dispensation of judgment, evidence should at least be overwhelming, if not irrefutable. Difficult as it may be to confess in this touchy discussion, there are lying, cheating, conniving, maniacal, scheming women in this world, too. Otherwise, there would be no need for girls or women’s prisons. Gender alone is not proof.
Remember the gruesome case of the 15-year-old Chicago boy Emmett Till, brutally slain after a white woman charged him with inappropriate aggression? Decades after his death, she recanted her story. There is no way of knowing how many Black men have been lynched as a result of false sexual-related allegations.
And where there is proof, let the punishment be aligned with the severity of the offense.
Most important, we have to apply the same rules across the board. We know that cowardly, money-grubbing, racist Republicans will never have the morale fortitude to call out their party leader on anything. That’s a forgone conclusion. But how do Democrats feign moral indignation whenever one of their own is accused, yet turn a deaf ear to the cry of two dozen accusers of the president.
All believers anxious to blurt “I believe the women” somehow become strangely mute when it comes to pointing an accusatory finger at the incumbent. Can anyone take such outrage seriously – when it is so conspicuously inconsistent? Only those unable to reason, those with no conscience, will accept the blatant hypocrisy.
Either we pull everyone accused in on the carpet and force them to answer for their indiscretion or we just stop shouting and concede that this whole situation is upside down and inside out when only certain individuals are held accountable. The leader of the free world is supposed to be held to a higher standard, not absolved of guilt by his title.
But those embarrassing pretenders who purport to govern this nation – on both sides of the aisle – nonchalantly abdicate their responsibility and reject oppression and suppression of women…only when it is politically expedient.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society.Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected]