You’re wrong, Kirsten Gillibrand. We do need to make distinctions. Making sound distinctions is the backbone of reason, and if ever we needed reason, we need it now as we navigate an important evolution in social-sexual awareness and responsibility. If we permit this moment of opportunity for new safety and fairness for women to flip into undiscerning judgment of men and their behaviors toward women, into accepting all accusations as equal, without examination, we will miss the opportunity. I am not discounting the courage and integrity of women who have come forward to report violations that have marked them when I advocate that in this moment when the dam of discount has broken, we should exercise some circumspection.
Women have suffered terribly, from physical and emotional violation at various levels, from being in untenable positions of choosing between livelihood and physical/emotional safety, and, most of all, perhaps, from lacking the power of credibility. We have finally broken through that. Hallelujah.
I hope that we are in early stages of forming a new social norm, in which sex is not appropriated as a perk by persons in power, in which women (and men, when that’s the case) are safe to report violations without risking careers, in which their reports are taken seriously and responsibly investigated, with appropriate consequences to perpetrators, rather than to those who report. Even more deeply, I hope that we will examine our perceptions of and practices around the human dimension of sexuality. We have made bad jokes about and monetized something essential to our very being; maybe we should look at that.
The term”investigation” is important here. And this is where I differ with Gillibrand, the junior U.S. senator from New York. As we hold perpetrators to account, we need to consider what is due diligence before assigning consequences. I understand that women have suffered without recourse, but unexamined acceptance of accusations now isn’t the answer to establishing safety for women. “Zero tolerance” is a mindless concept, and not helpful. We need to give ourselves space for reason and, yes, for making distinctions.
Mae Seely Sylvester, St. Paul
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Gillibrand is the 21st-century McCarthy!
William Hoots III, Inver Grove Heights
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Gillibrand started the cascade, and eventually 31 other Democratic U.S. senators called for U.S. Sen. Al Franken to resign his seat due to allegations of sexual harassment. Among those piling on to dump Al was U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
In 2014, McCaskill, military-industrial complex tool and alleged woman, voted along with six male Democrats to filibuster Gillibrand’s legislation to reduce sexual assaults in the military. A 55-senator majority, including Franken, voted otherwise.
Gillibrand has tried to pass this legislation since at least 2013, and she estimates that more than 20,000 sexual assaults go unprosecuted in the military each year. So tens of thousands of additional sexual-assault victims have been denied justice by McCaskill’s leadership, slightly exceeding the alleged toll run up by Senator Al.
I expect Gillibrand will be calling on McCaskill to resign her Senate seat any day now.
William Beyer, St. Louis Park
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Regarding Lori Sturdevant’s assertion that Franken’s fall reflects that the culture has shifted toward respect and dignity (“It was pressure from D.C. crowd, not his home base,” Dec. 8), I suggest the opposite is now more true than ever: We have shifted toward immediate judgments and self-gratifications.
Jerald Lee, Minneapolis
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I am quite pleased that Franken will once again become one of us and thereby not have to pattern his speech to any coming election. Free to say and write what’s on his mind and perhaps even to enlighten us about the inner workings of government, something many of us know nothing about. I am looking forward to his wit and wisdom as he continues to entertain us and puts a smile on our faces and, above all, shows us that he cares.
Daniel Winter, Edina
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Are we condemning Franken to his past, or have some of us just now decided to make him pay for that past — or both? The question is important because our answers to it will say a lot about how we see him and a lot more about how we see ourselves.
Wever Weed, Medina
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Recent accounts in the media have reported memories of sexual harassment by Franken. There is a significant body of scientific knowledge concerning the plasticity and sometimes unreliability of memory. Work by experts such as Dr. Elizabeth Loftus has clearly documented instances of false memory, not malicious misrepresentations, but memories distorted by time and distance that in some cases resulted in great harm to accused individuals. Recent news reports give uncritical credence to the memories of the accusers while discounting Franken’s recollections of these events. It seems to me that what separates journalism from gossip is that journalism would seek to understand and present both sides of important issues. What I have seen in the written and broadcast media up to this point might best be categorized as gossip.
Robert Bache, Hopkins
GARRISON KEILLOR FIRING
McTaggart must go
Jon McTaggart, CEO of American Public Media Group, the parent company of Minnesota Public Radio, seems to have crashed our much-loved/very-much-needed MPR wagon into our also much-beloved knurly old Oak — Garrison Keillor. Inadvertently destroying not only Keillor and his reputation publicly but purging his slightest vestige from MPR (“Keillor says MPR never contacted him,” Dec. 8).
If the Oak needed addressing, restorative vs. punitive help was available — an arborist might have solved the Oak’s private weaknesses on a private basis. Reputations of both the towering Oak and MPR would not have been damaged.
Now, however, not only has Keillor’s reputation been publicly ruined, but MPR’s membership support is waning, and MPR’s contributions are diminishing.
All of us who love and appreciate public radio in Minnesota wish to continue our support of this great 50-year institution — superb news reporting, our access to National Public Radio and excellent music with entertainment. And, yes, “A Prairie Home Companion” — by that inviolable name — and “The Writer’s Almanac.”
Recent reports say the Keillor decision was made by the CEO alone. Good — the damage is partitioned. For if CEO McTaggart would courageously cut himself and his sole decision loose by resigning — by taking the controversy offline — he would allow us otherwise wary supporters to unreservedly sustain our terrific MPR. Maybe with the well-groomed/much-needed Oak again gracing the yard!
John Bipes, Mankato
Meanwhile, this news?
A small blurb in “Around the Nation,” bottom of page, about a school shooting Thursday in New Mexico (Page A7, Dec. 8). Only two students killed this time. Things must be getting better. Ho-hum.
Jean Heberle, Minneapolis