Protecting institutions must start with accountability

With the parade of accusers testifying at the trial of Larry Nassar, the US Olympic gymnastic physician who sexually assaulted hundreds of young females, the finger is now being pointed back at Michigan State University, his employer. The university leadership allegedly did not take seriously previous accusations. It is alleged MSU brushed it under the rug to protect the institution.

The same could be said about Barry Bennell, an elite youth soccer (football) coach in the UK who sexually abused young boys for decades and yet no one did anything about it. Or, Penn State University where the University President and legendary football coach turned a blind eye toward Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of young boys and men. And, by far the worst example is the Catholic Church which long knew of sexual assault in their ranks and chose to hide it, move priests around or, in a horrible failure, try to train the sexual proclivity out of the predatory priest.

Now, the #metoo movement is providing support, encouragement and a window for women and men to come forward. And, they need that support. Harvey Weinstein is more than an individual predator, he represents a business, as do Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, Charlie Rose, etc. These men represent institutions that have revenue streams and reputations that are bigger than that of the individuals.

What happens to the victims who dare come forward are they run up against institutions that first and foremost think of protecting their reputations and/ or revenue streams. Weinstein had a mountain of people helping him threaten and pay off victims who accused him. The movie “Spotlight” on the investigative work of The Boston Globe (about sexual abuse by priests) revealed how there was a secret list of about ninety priests in the Boston area who were known by the church as to having sexually abused young boys as the church settled the cases.

The first step to addressing these issues must be for the institutions to be accountable. They must investigate these accusations with accountability, responsibility and due diligence. If they find fault, they need to admit it and take action. If they do not, the institution betrays the trust of people who support that institution. Leaving a predator in place is beyond poor stewardship, it is criminal.

The movie that angers me more than any other is called “Mea Maxima Culpa,” about the sexual abuse by a Catholic priest in a Milwaukee home for deaf boys in the 1960s. It is revealed later that some church leadership knew of the abuse and did not act. Sadly, there was a similar home for deaf boys near The Vatican that had the same kind of abuse. What would Jesus do? – he would not let a predator prey on more children.

Sexual assaulters prey on people. They use their power of control to abuse, silence, deny, defame and refute their victims. And, if needed, they pay off the victims asking for silence in return. Institutions must stand up more for their victims and less for the assaulters they employ. Believing the predator will stop after a settlement has been proven time and again to be a pipe dream.

To close, I am reminded of the true story of the Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, who effectively ended her soaring career when she tore up a picture of the Pope on live TV in protest over the silence of church leadership on sexual abuse by Irish priests and other failures. She was booed off every stage after that and unjustly ridiculed. Twenty years later after the Irish priest scandal broke, she was proven correct. Yet, how many more boys were sexually abused in those twenty years?

This story is why it is important. How can these institutions and companies allow these predators to abuse more children and adults after they know? Again, that is criminal, in my mind. Sadly, these kinds of sexual assaults occur too often in everyday organizations affecting everyday workers. We must shine spotlights on these activities and efforts to mask them from the public if not remedied.

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Be not afraid – a memorable hymn

We attended a funeral today for the father of my daughter’s friend who passed way too early at age 53. Growing up Catholic and singing harmony with her father in a small church, my wife recognized immediately the encouraging hymn “Be not afraid” that the congregation was asked to sing.

I knew this would be both memorable and melancholy for my wife as she sang it beautifully next to my whispering voice. She and her father sang well together. Here are the words, crafted by English author Alfred J. Hough, which are poignant next to the beautiful music of Charles Hutchinson Gabriel.

“You shall cross the barren desert but you shall not die of thirst
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand
You shall see the face of God and live

Be not afraid, I go before you always
Come follow me and I’ll give you rest

If you pass through raging waters in the sea you shall not drown
If you walk amidst the burning flames you shall not be harmed
If you stand before the power of hell and death is at your side
Know that I am with you through it all

Be not afraid, I go before you always
Come follow me and I’ll give you rest

Blessed are the poor, for the Kingdom shall be theirs
Blessed are you that weep and mourn for one day you shall laugh
And if wicked men insult and hate you all because of me
Blessed, blessed are you

Be not afraid, I go before you always
Come follow me and I’ll give you rest”

Whether you are religious, the words offer a great example of the comfort that be gleaned at a time of grief and need. These hymns are mileposts in our lives and can remind us of earlier moments. To me it reminded me of the times my wife would rehearse on Saturday evening with her father and perform in the church service the next day.

“Be not afraid” are comforting words. I hope they were for my daughter’s friend and her family.

 

Help me understand

In probably the best example of tribal thinking in America is the stark contrast in character between the last two Presidents and how Evangelicals have papered over the holes in that of the current incumbent. The reason is the current President will do their bidding, which is questionable, but let’s set that aside for now.

Help me understand how a man who does very little to exemplify Christian behavior is given a hall pass while his predecessor who is devout, raised a wonderful family with his only wife and had no scandals in eight years is demonized?

Help me understand how a man who is a habitual and prodigious liar, an admitted and accused sexual assaulter, a demeaning bully and a narcissistic man can be viewed without concern. How can a man who is such a negative example to Christians and non-Christians be permitted to bring out the worst in us?

For the ultimate goal of whom he might appoint to the Supreme Court and other courts, we have a President who is making America into a pariah around the globe, galvanizing white supremacists into action, diminishing civil rights, demonizing the media while he is such a prolific liar and attacking anyone who dares criticize him. Jesus would weep at such a man for the hatefulness he has espewed.

Help me understand how I can be proud of the man who is in the leadership role of our country, when he embarasses us on a daily basis? I wish I did not have to say this, but I do not believe a word the man says. Help me understand why I should?

Side of the Angels – Richard Shelby

I am not a huge fan of many of the positions of Republican Senator Richard Shelby, the senior Senator from Alabama. He tends to unyieldingly favor the banking industry at the expense of better regulations, for example.

Yet, I must give him a huge shout out for his political courage yesterday. He went on a televised political talk show to state his opposition to Senate candidate Roy Moore in his home state. He noted that he will not be voting for Moore saying the Republican Party can do better than this and he feels there must be a fire under so much smoke of sexual assault and harassment of teen girls. He will be writing in the name of another candidate.

I sent him note complimenting his courage as he will likely be unmercifully demeaned by the President, Steve Bannon and other Republicans. I mentioned the President has no currency on this issue. I told him he is on the “side of the Angels” on this and should be commended.

If Moore wins, there are four big losers. Our country loses as we seat a Senator who was banned from a mall for his trolling of young girls. Doubting Alabama voters should ask themselves why that happened? The state of Alabama loses as this is the third recent episode of sexual impropriety or corruption in elected officials, the latest being the previous Governor who had to resign.

The other two losers must be noted. Common decency loses. Our leaders need to be the best of us, not the worst of us. The office is more important than the incumbent, so when it is defamed, the incumbent needs to resign.

The final loser would be the Republican Party. With an incumbent President who has admitted to and boasted of sexual assault that he has been accused of and Moore, this makes the party look extremely poor. The image will echo for some time and should.

So, kudos to Senator Shelby. You are trying to serve your constituents and your oath.

Get out of the pool

Although a religious person, I am more of a pragmatist with a goal to simply treat everyone like I want to be treated. I have grown increasingly frustrated by more zealous followers of any religion. I wish for God, Allah or the Supreme Being to simply call out from his ultimate life guard chair “Alright, everyone, out of the pool.”

The attack in Egypt which has killed over 300 Sufi Muslims is yet one more example of why most violence is caused by religion. Your branch is different than my branch which is more pure, so you must die for your blasphemy. Or, you are going to hell for not worshiping our way. With all due respect, “who appointed you judge and jury?” I ask.

Christians do not get a hall pass on this either. Many deaths have been caused by fighting between Protestants and Catholics. Jesus would not condone such behavior. We should remember The Church of England was started because of a horny king, which is not a good reason to start a church at least in my view.

Then there is the fighting between different religions with Muslims, Christians and Jews at odds throughout history. Muslims pushing north into France about eradicated Christianity while the Crusades tried to do the same with the Muslims.

And, while all of the intersectional fighting was going on, the Mongols eventually were at Europe’s doorstep taking advantage of various rifts and divisions with their superior fighting force. Religious views provide a reason to divide, not unite. Under the Mongol rule, religions were allowed to continue. In fact, In the Capitol city of Mongolia, various places of worship were represented as Genghis Khan wanted enlightment.

I mention this last example as it showed how letting people worship their on way can be done even in close proximity. Trying to stop this worship is counterproductive to keeping the peace. So, if God can follow this example and tell us all to “get out of the pool” until we learn to live together, that would be most helpful.

Let me close with how I started. Jesus called it the Golden Rule. And, it can be found in various forms in most religious texts. Treat everyone like you want to be treated. It is that simple. Then, you can get back in the pool.

Note: Please forgive the many oversimplifications above. I recognize I greatly oversimplified and these events did not overlap.

Men in power who don’t listen for the word no

I heard a quote from a women’s panel on sexual harassment and assault this morning and it is sealed in my brain. “Pandora’s Box is open and Pandora is pissed off.” I was thinking about this quote as I am disturbed after the revelations that veteran and award-winning journalist Charlie Rose was accused of sexual harassment and assault by eight women. This is like finding out your favorite uncle has done some bad things. But, even Rose does not get a hall pass for his behavior.

More women are feeling empowered to tell their stories that they have been tortured by for many years. Too many have been shamed into changing jobs, derailing careers, and losing their esteem because men in power are “not listening for the word no.” Whether they are in politics, business, religion, law, teaching, or run a store, restaurant or plant, men in power are used to hearing the word “yes” by subordinates. The more powerful they become, the more insulated they feel from culpability.

As a young District Attorney, Senate candidate Roy Moore felt insulated as he trolled the malls creepily looking for pretty teen girls he could influence. He said to several who balked at his advances to remember that “I am the DA and no one will believe you.” Arkansas Governor and President Bill Clinton used his sway to garner consensual sex with subordinates in administration and is alleged to have tried advances on women who were not consensual.

But, the one whose behavior disgusts me the most is the Man in the White House. Not only has he admitted to sexually assaulting and harassing women on several occasions (people tend to forget the Howard Stern interview admissions in light of the Access Hollywood tape), he bragged about being able to do it and not get caught. And, as for his defense that the Access Hollywood tape was “just locker room talk,” I personally find that a load of BS as I have never heard such talk in a locker room.

When his boasts are compared to the accusations by sixteen women, some who came forward before the Access Hollywood tape surfaced, it is uncanny how Trump describes precisely what he is accused of. But, these were not just adults. He bragged (and was accused) of his penchant to walk into beauty pageant dressing rooms to see the unclothed contestants. Mind you, he did this with the Miss Teen USA pageant, as well.

Pandora has the right to be pissed. CBS, PBS and Bloomberg have all fired Rose. I think Alabamans need to tell Moore that he is not worthy of being a Senator. While I love Al Franken, he needs to step down or announce he will when a replacement is found. And, the accusations of one Donald Trump need to resurface and his resignation needs to be demanded. They will not get it, but if others are being held accountable, then so should he. Then, other male managers may get scared straight to hearing the word “no.”

A few Sunday Questions

Given today is a day of religious reflection in many circles, let me ponder a few questions.

Today I read about the Values Conference where US evangelicals meet. At the conference, Steve Bannon, the nationalist editor of Breitbart and former Senior Advisor spoke of war on the parts of the Republican Party that are more reasonable and offer some needed sanity. Why should folks heed this man when he speaks against those who dare question the President, saying they are placing our military in danger? So, the President’s decrying diplomatic efforts is not doing that? It is our right to question our leaders.

At the same conference, Harvey Weinstein is being vilified, but the focus is on Hollywood not reining him in and the fact he is a Democrat funder. Whether it is Weinstein, Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes or Donald Trump, using one’s power to sexually harass, demean, use or assault women is criminal. The President is highly supported by this group, even with his lying, cheating, stiffing and assaulting of others because he said he would do their bidding. So, my question is if Harvey Weinstein was President and appointed a conservative Supreme Court Justice would that make his exploits OK as it does with Trump?

In my home town, there is a lawsuit by a gay married music teacher at a Catholic High School who was fired after he got married to his partner, officially coming out. The Bishop says they cannot support an openly gay employee. The question asked by a Catholic father of a gay son is why should the church stop there? Why doesn’t the church fire all women who use birth control, all people who have had affairs and all people who have divorced which also violate the church’s rules? The father noted his son said no one would choose to face the ostracism, hate and discrimination unless they felt they were being true to themselves by coming out.

I am a practical person of faith. I think the over arching instruction to treat people like we want to be treated is the most important mandate. In the Christian world, this mandate is even called The Golden Rule. It can also be found in other religious texts. We need to be tolerant of our differences. Bannon has the right to speak out, but he should not be denigrating the right for others to do so.

So, regardless of what political or religious tribe we belong to, we belong to an even bigger tribe that interacts with each other on a daily basis. Let’s do our best to treat others as Jesus instructed. That is worth talking about at a Values Conference.