Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Kyrie eleison

I admit I fit the angry feminist stereotype a little too well (though in my defense, I wouldn't be nearly so angry if men would just stop pissing me off). I'm not quite angry, enough, however, to be turning cartwheels over the fact that New York Review of Books editor Ian Buruma lost his job after publishing the drooling train wreck of an essay that was Jian Ghomeshi's Reflections from a Hashtag or whatever it was called. But then Buruma gave an interview where he complained that he'd been "publicly pilloried without due process," rather ironically. And then I stopped feeling remotely bad for dude at all. What I find especially astounding about the statement is that, in drawing, albeit indirectly, a comparison between Ghomeshi and himself, he's still clearly got no understanding of the severity of Ghomeshi's crimes. Oh, poor me, I'm just like that guy who almost certainly beat women about the head during sex and defended myself by showing my boss a video of me breaking a woman's rib. But that's not what this post is about. 
But Ghomeshi's poorly-written literary enema of an essay has me thinking whether the misdeeds of monstrous men preclude them from ever having a voice again. Is there a path to redemption, forgiveness? Is there an essay that a hashtag could write that I'd have any interest in reading?
Yeah. Yeah, I think there is. Louis CK revolutionized comedy with this self-aware, introspective style. He used humor to point out flaws in himself and flaws in society that maybe changed our perspectives for the better, a bit. Which is why it's baffling to know that he was having those insights while actively engaging in sexually predatory behavior behind the scenes. I don't know that he deserves to ever show his face in public again. But if he wrote an introspective and honest essay about trying to re-earn the love and respect of his daughters in the face of what he'd done, I'd read it. If there were no lies or obfuscations or excuses, if he made genuine public and private apologies to his victims, if he said what he was doing to atone, it wouldn't earn back my respect and I'd certainly never pay to watch anything he was in, but I'd read the essay. I wouldn't be mad at whoever published it.
If Roman Polanski came back to the States and turned himself over to the authorities, served the prison term he was sentenced to before he left the country, if after doing that he wrote an essay about his rape of Samantha Geimer, I might read it. If he talked without making himself seem like a hero about why he chose to come home and face the music, if he talked about how he now understands how evil he was in drugging and raping a grade-schooler, I wouldn't be angry that it was published. If he spoke, without excuses, about the forces that make men feel entitled to the bodies of unwilling women and girls, and how we can combat that sort of evil, I'd be okay with that. I still wouldn't watch any of his movies, but I'd read the essay.
If Sherman Alexi wanted to spend some years working behind the scenes at a charity that addresses the quiet epidemic of rape and sexual assault against Native women that made his own crimes so nefarious - the same number of years he got away with sexually assaulting Native women, for instance - and then maybe personally bankrolled a collection of work from the Native women who he himself harassed or assaulted, then I'd be okay with someone publishing another of his books. I wouldn't read it, certainly, but I wouldn't boycott the publisher. 
People keep talking about how there needs to be a path to redemption for men who do evil things. That it isn't fair for men who commit sex crimes to be punished forever. I'm not sure that's true. If a guy has a job at a bank and gets caught stealing money, he's never going to get a job at a bank again and nobody's going to cry for him over it. If an ordinary person commits an act of serious malfeasance at their job, they can expect to have a hell of a hard time finding work in their field, or possibly in any other, for a long time. If we're not crying over the lady who can't get a job as a fry cook because she mugged somebody ten years ago, why are we crying over Louis CK, who will probably be able to scrape by for a while on the $52,000,000 he earned in 2017 alone? Or the CBC radio host who was replaced by someone with a resume just as impressive as his who had also managed to never show their employer a video of themselves beating the living shit out of someone?
Maybe these guys do deserve a shot at redemption, do deserve to not lose everything. I don't know. But I do know this: forgiveness must be earned, and it can't be earned with a half-assed apology and a self-serving essay. To be redeemed, a person must, at the very least, demonstrate that they understand that what they have done was wrong, that they are making amends to their victims, that they are making amends to their public. Forgiveness should ideally follow the words that so few of these men - not Louis, not Ghomeshi, have actually said: "I'm sorry." 
Photo by me

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