Tuesday, November 21, 2017

My Radar Moment: An Open Letter to Senator Al Franken

Dear Senator Franken,

When I heard about the accusations of sexual harassment that were made against you, I felt really hurt and angry. I had what I consider my Radar moment.

You are undoubtedly familiar with the episode of M*A*S*H where Hawkeye convinces Radar to drive to the nearby village and find some young woman with whom he can have some fun. A short while later, Radar returns on a stretcher.

Hawkeye operates on Radar, and then he gets drunk. When casualties come in, he has to leave the operating room to go throw up.

At one point Radar says to Hawkeye, "A lot of people look up to you. They want to be just like you."

That roughly sums up how I have felt about you, Senator Franken. You are a published author, a comedian, and now a Senator.  When I see you on TV, I see a man who reminds me of how my dad looked when he was in his sixties.  You are my landsman.

And like my dad, you are honest, ethical and you have an earthy sense of humor.  It's not that I wanted to be just like you, but you are certainly someone I always thought I'd like to know.

I joke about being crude, rude, lewd and socially unacceptable.  However, I am only that way when I feel comfortable with someone and rarely in public. My Litvac tendencies often overtake those earthier impulses. That's the Lithuanian Jewish side of my ethnic background. Litvacs, as you undoubtedly know, are the Jewish equivalents of Puritans.  Think of it as my superego and my id having an argument, and my superego winning.

If I ever felt as if I invaded someone's private space, I'd feel compelled to apologize immediately.  While what you have done is not nearly as bad as what other men have done, my reaction still is, "How could you?"

In your apology on Facebook, you mention feeling ashamed.  I personally don't want your shame, Senator Franken.  Neither shame nor guilt help us move forward.  We need to make sure we follow through on what I wrote about  here:

We all need to make sure that no girl or woman will ever again feel shame, guilt or embarrassment for what happened to them.  We need to make sure that all girls and women will be believed whether they report these incidents right away or take thirty-seven years like I did.  We all owe it to those girls and women to speak up now.

Senator Franken, I am requesting that you examine other times when you may have behaved in a manner less than becoming  a member of the Senate. If you really intend to advocate on behalf of women, then it is truly essential that you come clean about any questionable behavior that could potentially see the light of day.  As I recently tweeted half jokingly:  Sexual harasser pro tip: Preemptively confess before your accusers have a chance to call you out in the media. #skeletonsinyourcloset #MeToo

Perhaps it's not fair of me to hold you and other Democrats to a higher standard than I hold Republicans, but I expect more from you nevertheless. I expect Democrats to truly care about social justice, and it's disappointing when I observe a man like you falling short of the mark.

When I see a man like you doing things that are inappropriate and frankly disrespectful of women and denying us our autonomy, it makes me wonder about men in general. I have been dealing with trust issues for my entire life. There are things that happened to me that I still can't bring myself to talk about in the open, and seeing news about you and other men whom I have admired starts to close me down all over again.

Towards the end of that M*A*S*H episode, Hawkeye comes up to Radar and says something like, "If you must worship the ground I walk on, I guess I can live with that."

Radar responds,  "I'd just as soon not."

To which Hawkeye responds,  "That's OK, too."

Granted, Senator Franken, you never asked for me or other women to admire you.  Unlike Radar O'Reilly, I am much too old to be naive.  I have yet to worship the ground that you or any other man has walked on.  Although there may have been a time when I would have been reduced to awkward small talk, now I would look you in the eye and tell you to straighten up and fly right.  I insist you look at yourself in the mirror.

When you finally allow for introspection, then you will finally be able to champion women the way you truly intend to. And then those of us who have had those #MeToo experiences will find a way to heal and trust again. Meanwhile, I am not relying on men to help me get there.  I am tapping into that deep well of strength that I've had since I was about nine. 

Now that the floodgates have opened up with many of us coming forward with our #MeToo stories, I hope that this will lead to all of us healing and growing. Don't hold back, Senator Franken.  Confession is good for the soul. Not just your soul, but the soul of the nation.

Thank you.

Debra S. Gleason (Irish by marriage, Jew by birth, atheist by circumstances, and passionate warrior for all underdogs.)

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