How the #MeToo Movement Ends

For someone who writes about politics and culture, it seems I have an opinion on everything. I've never been one to shy away from controversial topics no matter how uncomfortable such a conversation would be around a dinner table. It's all a part of the fun, I suppose. 

But I've been reluctant to wade too far into the conversation about sex assault and the surrounding #MeToo movement.

Part of it stems from not having anything new to add to the conversation. As a writer, I loathe the idea of simply adding another voice to the echo chamber for the sake of putting something out there. Since I'm not a journalist on the ground in any of these cases, I have nothing newsworthy to bring to the conversation. As an opinion writer, I feel others have already covered appropriately that you shouldn't pressure subordinates for sex, try to hook up with teenagers, force yourself upon people, grab someone's breasts while they are asleep on a plane, or start masturbating in front of someone without their permission. 

But let's face it: my real reservation is that I am a man. That means my thoughts on these matters only have so much weight, particularly if the observation turns critical in any way. Andrea Peyser, writing for the New York Post, writes that her concern with the movement is that the trivial is getting lumped in with legitimate sexual assault, and that the result is that the movement is "sliding into absurdity and irrelevance." While I think what she says has merit, I also recognize that as a man, I just need to shut up and listen. I'm not a woman who has ever had a more physically powerful male force himself upon her, or has ever felt she has had to choose between her career or standing up for herself. Andrea Peyser can argue that what George H.W. Bush and Al Franken did isn't as bad as what Louis C.K. or Harvey Weinstein did, but I can't. 

However, there is one aspect of this movement that I have concerns about that can be applied to any movement of righteous indignation, and that is the idea that we're going to be so vigilant in weeding out one form of particular evil that we won't even allow the accused to defend themselves or be defended.

Such seems to be the case with Murray Miller, one of the writers on the show Girls, in which the actress and producer Lena Dunham stars. Dunham is now apologizing after she came to Miller’s defense after sexual misconduct claims surfaced. When the claims first came out, she released a statement on his behalf that said, "While our first instinct is to listen to every woman's story, our insider knowledge of Murray's situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year."

After taking heat for her comments, however, Dunham backtracked. Not, apparently, because she no longer believes in Miller's innocence, but seemingly because she was criticized for defending him during a time when every woman should be believed. In her apology, she wrote, "I naively believed it was important to share my perspective on my friend’s situation as it has transpired behind the scenes over the last few months. I now understand that it was absolutely the wrong time to come forward with such a statement and I am so sorry."

If you have true reason to believe that an accusation against your friend is a case where the charge is unwarranted, don't you have an obligation to speak out? Dunham's original statement wasn't one of ambivalence, but one where she was "confident" that this was an accusation that was being misreported. She wasn't taking this position as a casual friend, but as someone with "insider knowledge" of the situation. 

Movements such as the #MeToo movement end when they lose their moral high ground, and that high ground is challenged any time the truth doesn't match with the rallying cry. In the case of #MeToo, we're told that every woman must be believed. History tells us, however, that isn’t always the case.

The movement is correct in that it is very much imperative that people have an environment where they can come forward with allegations of misconduct, and that those accusations be taken seriously and investigated diligently. However, it is just as important that we have an environment where people are allowed to defend themselves and others. An environment where one can't be defended is an environment where one can say, even on a credible claim, that there might be another part of the story that we aren't hearing because people are too afraid to speak on that person's behalf. Eventually, doubt gets cast on every claim, robbing cases of true misbehavior of their credibility.

Outside of the Miller case, I’ve seen nothing in any of the high-profile sexual misconduct stories that have come out recently that would cause me to doubt any of the women’s claims. Let’s hope we’re not creating an environment where such information would be suppressed even if it were there. That’s a type of environment that doesn’t end well for anybody.

I'm a politically independent writer who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. Help support my work by following me on Facebook here.

On Roy Moore, Evangelicals, And The Church's Message To Outsiders

One question Christians should be asking themselves is why anyone not currently involved in a church would ever want to visit or join one. I see the public invites on marquees and on Facebook (come join us for an amazing worship experience!!!), but it must certainly seem to some that the Christian community isn't a place for an outsider.

As long as I've been paying attention to politics, which I would say has been from junior high until now, it has been conservative Christians who want to talk about family values. Anyone who had ideas that weren't in line with traditional, Christian thinking were labeled as dangerous. 

Then, a funny thing happened. Along comes Donald Trump, a man who's entire life has been lived about as opposite from the gospel as you can get. His several marriages, insults towards minorities, complete lack of humility, disrespect to war heroes and their families, and winner-take-all, grab-em-by-the-pussy ethos on full display for everyone, and he gets 80% of the white evangelical vote.

Was the posturing among many of these evangelicals just a sham? Was it ever about trying to be a better person and live like Jesus would want you to live, or was that always just a clever way of marginalizing those who experienced the world differently and demonizing those who dared ask to change it?

Now, we're seeing that despite Republican Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore taking heat nationally, and from establishment Republicans, over allegations of sexual misconduct involving teenage girls while he was in his thirties, that his support among some Evangelical Christians in Alabama may be actually growing. In a survey among Alabama voters, more Evangelical voters said that the allegations made them more likely to support him than did those who said they were less likely. While the survey says his overall support among Evangelicals has dropped, Moore still leads among this group 55% to 34%.

What does this say to the person on the outside? Who are these modern-day Christians and what are they supposed to represent? Are they a group who, as a whole, just want people to experience the love of Jesus Christ? Or, are they really just an organized group of people who have decided to reject anything seen as outside of the traditional norm, so much so that they'll rally behind a man accused of trying to seduce a 14 year old so long as he validates their views?

If I was on the outside looking in, these would be questions I would certainly be asking. For the marginalized among us, the minorities and the poor and immigrants and now sex assault victims, the gospel teaches us that Jesus has your back. It just seems anymore that there's a good chance the person sitting next to you in the pew doesn't.

I'm a politically independent blogger who writes about politics and culture. Please follow me on Facebook here.

After Sutherland Springs, Both Sides On Gun Debate Forced To Make Concessions

From a gun-control standpoint, the Sutherland Springs shooting should cause all sides to concede a few points. 

In the wake of the shooting, president Donald Trump said it was a good thing that an armed citizen had a gun that was finally able to injure the shooter.

This is the classic "good guy with a gun" scenario that conservatives love, and like it or not, liberals will have to concede that in this case an armed citizen with a gun likely saved lives. We'll never know how many more lives the shooter may have taken had he gotten away, but it's safe to say that after shooting up an entire church, he probably wasn't finished.

President Trump was right. It's a good thing there was somebody else with a gun.

But those who want to talk about the good that the armed citizen's rifle did cannot do so without acknowledging the bad that the killer's AR-15 did. 

In response to an earlier post, one commented on my Facebook feed, "Who took down the shooter...? Conservative, with a gun..." 

Indeed, he did. The problem, of course, is just how many people were dead and injured before the conservative with a gun was able to get to him. The harsh reality of this shooting is that even with a good guy with a gun, the final score was Good Guy 1 (injured), Bad Guy 46 (26 dead, 20 injured). 

As someone who has spent most of his life, living in the Midwest, I don't have a blanket opposition to guns. People use them to hunt, for sport, and often have a legitimate need for self defense. 

The problem with many assault rifles is that their modifications allow them to go far beyond what is needed for hunting, sporting or self-defense. The purpose of these weapons is to take out a large number of people at once. Why, we have to ask ourselves, do we really think we need these weapons in the first place?

That isn't a statement of, "ban them." But it is a question gun-rights supporters should ask themselves.

Some of the talk in recent days among gun-rights supporters has been about the need for more guns in church. I suppose someone could even make the argument we need more AR-15s in church and on the streets in general.

Maybe it's just me, but that doesn't seem like the type of society I want to live in or the church I want to go to, and not one person who wants to try to tell me that more guns make us safer can explain why Canada and Australia aren't a total wreck.

I get the nuances and limits of gun control, but I'm not convinced we have to keep watching episodes like this unfold in our country, more so than any other civilized country in the world combined, and resign ourselves to not being able to do anything about it.

On Texas, Thoughts & Prayers, And How If More Guns Kept Us Safe This Wouldn't Have Happened In Sutherland Springs

There are, as of this writing, 26 people dead and 20 injured from another mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. I find myself surprised that these shootings still leave me surprised, but more than anything they just make me sad. 

What I don't want to do in the wake of this shooting is write another mean piece. These shootings shake people to their core, regardless of their political stripes. 

There may be a temptation among some to, perhaps unintentionally or perhaps not, bask in the smug glow of being right. I hope those people will respectfully abstain from this conversation. In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, I recall a liberal woman calling out Mike Pence, much to the delight of fellow liberals, telling him he couldn't feel sorrow after Las Vegas because of his political positions. If you are a conservative gun-rights supporter, I hope you'll ignore comments like those. If you are grieving this tragedy, you have a right to your pain. 

But I do feel these tragedies force a reckoning on uncomfortable truths for gun-rights supporters, and the time to face these uncomfortable truths is right now. 

The first truth is that thoughts and prayers really aren't enough. They weren't enough after Aurora to prevent Sandy Hook. They weren't enough after Sandy Hook to prevent the church shooting in Charleston. They weren't enough after Charleston to prevent the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon where Barack Obama famously said, "Thoughts and prayers are not enough." 

Do we even remember the Umpqua Community College shooting? Nine people were killed there just four years ago. They're all starting to blend together, aren't they?

The president, after Umpqua, was right about our thoughts and prayers. The thoughts and prayers we offered failed to prevent Las Vegas, and the thoughts and prayers after Las Vegas failed to prevent the shooting in Sutherland Springs.

I love people who believe in the power of God. I join you in praying to God every day, including from a church pew every Sunday. But we must understand that shootings like this will continue to take place until we offer more than thoughts and prayers. 

The second uncomfortable truth is the notion that more guns keep us safe. Perhaps I'm making assumptions, but Sutherland Springs, Texas seems like the type of place where if more guns would keep you safe, that would be the place to be.  

Sutherland Springs is a rural, unincorporated community in Wilson County, just outside of San Antonio. If there is a profile of rural, gun owning communities, Wilson County seems to fit the bill. The county population is just over 48,000, and 80% white. In the 2016 election, 72% voted for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

When we think of gun-owning middle America, it's places like Sutherland Springs that come to mind. Yet, the shooting victims were sitting targets for a man who was hell-bent on killing a lot of people.

There are reports that it was an armed citizen who first confronted the killer, shooting at him and hitting him, before he fled. Those citizens should be commended, and this news certainly does beg the question, "Isn't it good that the citizen had a gun?"

Yes, of course it is. But even in a place like Sutherland Springs, where armed citizens aren't afraid to stand up to mass murderers, a killer was able to kill about half of a church's congregation.

This is where the line between weapons meant for self-defense and hunting, and those meant for so much more, become painfully evident. No, I do not want to see a ban on rifles, or even handguns for that matter. People hunt, people engage in sport, and some people have legitimate reasons for needing a weapon for self defense.

But it is fairly safe to assume at this point that the killer didn't use a hunting rifle. His Facebook page shows a photo of an assault-style, semi-automatic rifle with a caption, "She's a bad bitch." Yes, we need to talk about mental health and how to keep madmen from owning these weapons, but it's also worth asking why anyone outside of law enforcement or military needs one at all.

After Las Vegas, I wrote that I don't think individuals, be they liberal or conservative, really want to throw in the towel and passively accept that nothing can be done to prevent these incidents of gun violence. 

To do so, however, will require real problem solving, and tackling tough questions about what kinds of limits we should put on firearm ownership. Continuing as we always have will only continue to produce the same results. 

I know that enhanced gun control won't prevent all acts of violence. Anyone who writes honestly about this latest shooting will tell you that they don't have all of the answers, and you can add me to that list.

But I do believe in honest conversations, and I know two things to be true: more guns can only do so much to protect us even in a place like Sutherland Springs, and thoughts and prayers aren't enough.

I'm a politically independent blogger who writes about politics and culture. Please follow me on Facebook here or at the link below.

Don’t Rejoice Over Trump’s Twitter Shutdown

Chances are by now that you’ve heard that Donald Trump’s Twitter account was shut down for 11 minutes recently. It wasn’t just simply that he couldn’t tweet or that the account was suspended; during that time period, anyone searching for the president’s account on Twitter was simply told that the account was nowhere to be found.

This seems to bring some liberals joy. Slate’s Elliot Hannon wrote that it was “glorious.”

I disagree. You can hate Trump, wish for his impeachment, even hope for him to be dragged screaming in handcuffs from the Oval Office… all of that’s fine. But regardless of how you feel about the president, if you value free speech and oppose censorship, you should see this as a problem.

Twitter says this was caused by an (apparently rogue) employee on their last day at Twitter, and that they are looking into it. Whether or not you like the president, this employee, in effect, decided to shut down one of the primary communication outlets of the person who, like it or not, heads the government of the most powerful nation on earth.

No, I don’t find it glorious. I’m making an assumption here, but I would bet that employee would say he/she was opposed to Trump’s idea to take away NBC’s broadcast license (as legally impossible as that is given that NBC doesn’t have a license, affiliates do). But I digress. Not glorious, but likely hypocritical.

Hannon went on to gleefully talk about the wild conspiracy theories Alex Jones and his InfoWars team were probably dreaming up. He writes, “I’d love to be at the InfoWars "editorial" meeting where this explanation gets discussed. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess they’re not buying it.

I get it. It’s funny to get Alex Jones and his ilk riled up. But let’s not forget how wild conspiracy theories and theorists are able to gain credibility: by sprinkling their theories with elements of truth.

If I tell you there’s a liberal conspiracy to silence Trump, you might reflexively tell me I’m nuts. When I show you the Slate article about Twitter actually doing it for 11 minutes and liberals rejoicing, now I’ve forced you to at least entertain the fact that I might not be so nuts after all.

Leave the president’s Twitter account alone.

Jason Griffin (hey, that's me!) is a politically independent blogger and podcaster who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. If you enjoyed this post, please help support my work by following me on Facebook here.