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Another Day in the Country

Another one bites the dust

© Another Day in the Country

For the past few weeks, as one headline after another blared the news that another public figure was accused of sexual misconduct, I read the headlines, but usually just shrugged, muttering to myself, “Well, we’ve known that kind of stuff’s been going on forever.”

However, as the headlines kept coming, pretty soon the names that appeared were people that I actually knew something about.

These newer names weren’t CEOs of big corporations, Hollywood moguls, or comedians that were over the edge of my tolerance for funny patter. These new names were hitting close to home.

First, it was the talk show host whose interviewing skills I valued. Ouch!

“That’s too bad,” I thought; then I read about his actions and I was disgusted.

Then came the radio storyteller whose program I’ve loved for years with its old-fashioned charm and nostalgic tales of people who live in the country. Double-ouch! Not him, too?

So far, the capstone is one of the few politicians that I had faith in.

“Surely he can make a difference,” I thought. Then his behind-the-scenes activities came to light. Triple ouch!

Who’s next?

If we are honest with one another, we’ve known about sexual harassment, misuse of power, forever; but we’ve ignored the subject and often blamed the victim, which makes us complicit somehow.

It reminds us of all the times we heard something raw, rude, mean, inappropriate, and didn’t speak up. It reminds us of all the ways we look the other way, say we are “minding our own business,” and “don’t want to stick our necks out.”

These headlines shed a light on all the ways we desecrate another person under the guise of joking around. Power gives opportunity to do tremendous good in the world, but its misuse can cause an even greater amount of harm. It is our collective responsibility to call powerful people, leaders, on the carpet when power is abused. The most important thing is to lead by example, modeling respect for others, in everything we say and do.

I feel very fortunate that I personally experienced only minor sexual harassment in my life; but I remember one instance that happened in my twenties that is burned in my psyche.

I was a young preacher’s wife, in an unfamiliar community and my husband was holding “evangelistic meetings.” To get the news out that something unusual was happening in our church, we went door to door handing out fliers inviting people to attend. Most of the church members were involved, taking a few blocks each, until the little town was covered.

A group of us were walking up and down the sparse streets at the far edges of the community, each taking a straggly block. I had covered my long block, almost devoid of houses, and was walking back up the dirt road on the way to the car that was ferrying us to these outlying areas.

Suddenly, someone grabbed my behind — I jumped aside as a teenage boy on a bicycle went swooshing by my shoulder and on down the road.

I was so surprised that I laughed. Laughed!

Why on earth would I laugh? Surprise? Shock? What had just happened to me was so inappropriate and I laughed it off?

I was horrified that I’d laughed. It sent a message to him that grabbing a woman’s body was funny, no big deal, a “boys will be boys” thing.

Embarrassment, shame, and chagrin rapidly followed. I was new in town. I had no way of identifying this kid, no way of catching up with him on his bike and chewing him out.

I didn’t tell anyone.

It took days before I finally told my husband what had happened to me. Weeks later, I told my mother.

She shook her head and said, “What were you wearing? Pants? Red? Well, you should have known.”

This response was so typical of the culture back in the early 60s. I say that using past tense because things are changing. This is one of those changes women everywhere should embrace. Sexual harassment is not a laughing matter.

Don’t kid yourself that harassment happens only in Hollywood. It happens right here, and it’s way past time for a grassroots movement of men and women with moral courage to speak up and speak out, call it when you see it, on another day in the country.

Last modified Dec. 14, 2017

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