The terrible swift sword

Our shock gives way to resignation as every day, more of our cultural icons fall under the terrible swift sword of public retribution. Perhaps news of sexual abuse by a Bible-thumping judge, television host or politician strike us as somehow less surprising than such misdeeds by a highly regarded news reporter or even a folksy radio personality. Now, God help us, a beloved, internationally respected opera conductor. Who is next?

Few men dare claim to fully understand the female of our species, not really, but with due modesty I can claim some knowledge of how it is to live happily — and respectably — in the company of females. One agreed to marry me, and we have lived together joyfully for 55 years. Three daughters have blessed our union, and their marriages have produced five granddaughters and one grandson. Even our cat is female, albeit surgically rendered unimpregnable. For most of my adult life I have been surrounded by females, and it’s been wonderful.

So many years in such delightful company have taught me how members of opposite sexes can live with mutual respect in close proximity. All of us understand what constitutes unacceptable behavior. The thought of sexual abuse entering our world is unimaginable. But the harsh spotlight of public opinion tends not to shine on such private worlds. The price of fame is loss of privacy. A history of sexual abuse in a public person is everyone’s news, serious, immediate and consequential.

When it happens, the terrible swift sword falls. Employers and colleagues, shocked, insist on immediate, harsh consequences. Livelihoods are lost. So is respect.

Imagine if our president were found to have committed sexual abuse. What consequences would apply? Would the terrible swift sword fall? If not, why not?



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