I listen to two podcasts most days as I drive to and from work: last night’s Rachel Maddow for about an hour and that morning’s Morning Joe. This amounts to an hour and a half to two hours of news. Yes, Maddow is biased, but she’s intelligent, thorough, non-sensationalist, and everything I would hope for in a journalist. Morning Joe is a relatively balanced hour with a round-robin of guests and is also in-depth. I also watch CBS This Morning if I have to get up. On all of these programs, it’s been hard to watch as apparently good people lose their careers because, well, they were bad people in some part of their lives regarding sexual abuse, assault, or harassment.
Today, Morning Joe was heartbreaking, as Mika Breshinzki with two or three other women, talked about the resignation of Al Franken from the Senate after 7 or 8 women made complaints about him. The women on the panel, especially Breshinzki, were trying to cope with the loss of a senator who had crafted pro-women’s rights bill, while they were also choosing to believe the women involved. There were the questions and talk about due process, the need for The Moment in our history, and the larger question: is Franken a good man or bad person? How do you hold both of those pictures in your heart with any sense of integrity? It seems impossible, especially when you realize that the word “integrity” has the same root as “integer” — a whole number 1. In other words, to have integrity is to be of one whole mind about something. How can you have 1 mind about opposites? Bill Clinton compartmentalized, but Franken couldn’t as part of his personality/style.
The Morning Joe team played a lengthy segment of Franken’s resignation speech, which I had not been able to find anywhere. Franken’s voice shook throughout the speech as he laid out his contentions: 1) As a Senator, he had done work that supported women; 2) that he had a different understanding of events than his accusers and yes, someone was lying, though he didn’t say who, because it wasn’t relevant; 3) That he was willing to sit through an investigation to see what his colleagues thought of his actions; 4) He didn’t want to step down but …5) he worked for the people of Minnesota, and it was impossible under these conditions to do that well. Furthermore, and this is key to his testimony : “no woman should be afraid to speak out again”. The time has come to represent their interests, even if it wasn’t in his interest.
Also, of course, he noted the irony of his being asked to leave, while a President recorded bragging about sexual assault and an accused pedophile were either in power or being supported by the RNC.
Ok. What’s the take away from this? Did he do these things or not? Is he a good man or not? Should he still be in his job or should he be fired by an ethics committee? How does this work? What do we do now? What is the difference between Franken, Moore, and the President? Are they individuals with a gradient or is this proof of their sameness as men in power? Put another way, is Al Franken just as bad as Roy Moire and Donald Trump if they all did basically the same thing, or at least variations on a common theme?
Let me suggest that we already know the answer, and the answer is no… because it could be yes. Al Franken is a better person than the other two not based on his actions, good or bad. We will never know if Franken is a predator or not. Only his accusers, he, and God know what the truth really is. That part is indisputable. .We know that Moore doesn’t really deny his actions, and that Trump bragged about it.
What proves that Al Franken is a good (or better) man is that he did less wrong, took more responsibility and more loss for it. Franken sees that there are causes that are bigger than his life or his career, or just plain him. Franken was — regardless of the reality of the situation, — which, again , we will never know — willing to sacrifice a large part of his life to say that his accusers deserve respect, and that women in general do, as well.
Roy Moore can claim his Christianity all he wants. Franken acted like a Christian in his response to all of this. In fact, this is the essential irony of Christianity — that good people are willing to sacrifice themselves for a cause bigger than them. They refuse to do further harm in the world.
I don’t want to stretch the metaphor any further, but the way some women felt at the loss of Franken — respected by everyone for his work — multiplied by 100 is the way the disciples felt watching Jesus die on the cross. The difference, of course, is that we believe Jesus was sin free, and hadn’t hurt anyone, but to the extent that it fits, Franken’s resignation allows for healing in ways that Trump and Moore’s denials will never do.
A few spare thoughts: 1) Why has no one asked Roy Moore’s wife why she is standing by her man, like they did Hillary Clinton about Bill? 2) I don’t believe this is a Democrat/Republican issue. John Conyers has his own issues. His resignation, however, is shows more of a conscience than Moore or Trump have proven to yet have.
None of this should be construed to say I disbelieve the woman accusers of Franken, though — truth be told — I believe the first one (the Republican Trump supporter) more than I believe the last one (a Democrat, I believe). That’s just a vibe though,
FINAL THOUGHTS: At some point, we’re going to have sort all of this out. Maybe Congress have what we in the UCC — often a Committee on Ministry will ask a person to complete a “program of growth” : therapy, etc, before they can be at full standing after misconduct. The first step in determining what justice looks like is being able to differentiate between actions, and to determine if a person is sorry for what they have done, and want to change (actual repentance, not cheap grace). Even as I type this, I can hear the question ” but what if a person didn’t do it. There’s nothing to repent for“. Without proof, we have witch hunts. In the cases of all the men here, I believe that they all did something. Others will not have.
In any case, my point here is the humble, the contrite, and the people who grow from their bad actions are better than those who don’t. The irony is, of course, that only those with enough conscience to admit mistakes will be prosecuted. The good ones are the bad ones with enough conscience to know it. Al Franken is a good one.
Resisting with Peace,