The Critical Mass

 It’s time to start pruning the bad limbs from the tree

Several friends of mine have been posting ME TOO stories on Facebook. Women bearing witness to their experiences with sexual harassment. I’d heard pieces of these stories from them, but not the whole thing. I’d never picked up on the sense of entitlement that some men seem to feel when they’re alone with women, often in cases where they’ve just met. I didn’t get a full sense of the depravity. The outright weirdness.

This awakening that we’re seeing is inspired by the allegations that Harvey Weinstein, who was perhaps the biggest entertainment mogul in the world until last week, is a longtime sexual harasser. A friend of mine was quoted in Sunday’s Washington Post on the matter. She said one of the things she learned as a radio DJ in the 1980s in Buffalo, where Weinstein was getting his start in the entertainment business, is as a woman, “never be alone in a room with Harvey Weinstein.”

I suppose you could say that was the ’80s, and we’ve come a long way in three decades. Yet a year ago we were hearing the Access Hollywood tapes in which a presidential candidate confessed to sexually assaulting women. And there was plenty of outrage. It didn’t matter, we elected Donald Trump president.

I was sitting in a bar with friends one night in June 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples in this country had the right to marry. Someone pulled out a phone and showed off a photo of the White House lit up in the colors of the rainbow. I know that not everyone in America was happy about it; but around our little table that night, we were delighted. And proud. We felt that America was moving forward.

Do you think we’ll feel something like that again anytime soon?

So we can’t rely on society correcting itself, moving forward. Too many conflicting interests are in play. In fact, by many yardsticks – the conversation on race, the rise in violence and discriminatory actions against LGBTQ people, the attack on the environment, the economic divide in this country – we’ve been backsliding over the past six months.

And don’t blame the Duck Dynasty crowd. Our elected officials don’t like to deal with tough questions. Many media outlets seem to believe that presenting both sides of a story means bigots get equal time. A lot of corporations, often headed by smart people who should know better, are reluctant to join the fight.

Play it safe, don’t rile people.

I don’t like living in an echo chamber, hearing only my voice. Social media exacerbates that problem. And for that reason, whenever a friend tells me “you should block that idiot” on Facebook, I’ve always declined to do so. My reply has generally been, “I think we need to know they’re out there.”

Now I’ve changed my mind. We know they’re out there. They’re getting louder. Gathering around statues of the heroes of the Confederacy, guffawing over misogynistic jokes, planning racist Halloween costumes. I don’t want to be just one more small megaphone that amplifies their message.

So this week, I’ll be poking around my social media accounts, blocking a few people here and there. Not people with whom I simply disagree. But the ones who disseminate fake news stories intended to distract from the debate. And certainly the racists, and those who thrive on bigotry, hate and ridicule.

I want them to understand that they’re not welcome. It’s like the words on a T-shirt that a guy I know sometimes wears: MAKE RACISTS AFRAID AGAIN.

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