Years ago, a wise tribal elder -- while that's cliche, most of them are batshit crazy ignorant fools, but Dave was anything but -- told me that as the tribal chairman, he didn't think anything was true until he heard it three times from three separate people on three separate occasions. So, Ana Marie Cox is definitely on to something when she Tweeted "Totally naming my new band "The Fifth Woman." I've already volunteered to play lead guitar, but would step aside to rhythm for AGI or Frederick. ( I admit to envisioning something awful, Nerds on Ice or something...)
Anyone surprised at the unraveling of the Penn State Football program needs to get out more. While jokes about lesbian gym teachers are really common in the canon of American locker room lore and humor, the homo erotic aspects of men’s sports is something that people don’t pay as much attention to…as they should. It’s not really about sex of course, unless sex is the exercise of power over the weaker and the intimidated. Since it’s not, in a healthy situation, the problems for Penn State are not peculiar to Happy Valley. Paterno ran a pretty clean program over the decades, but it was clean from a NCAA point of view. He trusted people, and they betrayed him. And, when the top ultimately blew off, everyone in the vicinity got scalded.
Which is one reason the Herman Cain thing is pure farce instead of tragedy, and the Penn State thing tragedy over farce. Again, if you think that in the late 90s sexual harassment was chained by the reaction to the Clarence Thomas thing, you need to stay away from Bridge salesmen. I always made certain I differentiated as a manager when I was dealing with these issues and will continue to do so should I unfortunately find myself having to do so in the future – language, looks, and proximity are probably harassment; physical contact is assault. If HERB Cain actually touched any of these folks, it was assault; it was always assault; and the self-righteous should realize it before someone does it to them, their sons or their daughters. Or, if Rick Santorum is around, their pets.
Seriously, how Rush Limbaugh and his ilk can think that defending Cain by comparing his situation to Clarence Thomas’ situation is a sign of ignorance. Clarence and I were contemporaries and acquaintances at Holy Cross, and he was a straight arrow there…largely, I think, from fear. He was a poor, black scholarship student with outsize ambitions and frankly, not the academic skills needed for what he was doing let alone what he wanted to do. Justice Thomas surely benefited from Affirmative Action Programs and his hypocrisy on that point is fascinating. But, the amount of work he had to do to be competitive enough to get the special consideration to get into Holy Cross or Yale Law School, the concentration and effort required along with working to make money for things like books and clothes and his leadership role in the Black Student Union at the Cross makes the point. He earned the consideration that he received. He then cunningly forgot the earning part, and signed on with the slime who think that any special consideration is obviously wrong. Unless it’s for athletes or legacies…
So, Thomas’ social and political views shifted while he was in Law School. Instead of being one of the oppressed, he decided to become one of the oppressors. I don’t think there was any OMEGA-style initiation ceremony into the Yale Law School version of Skull and Bones. Rather, he sucked up to conservatives who put him in place to reap the benefits of being a “good black,” one of “OUR BLACKS,” to steal a phrase from Anne Coulter, banshee of the RRRIghtwingnut RRRRevolution. He succeeded. Then the Bush administration decided to do something awful. And, they did…
And, it came out that Clarence had possibly been doing awful things. He aggressively denied it and his various sponsors told us about how wonderful he was. The Democrats folded lest anyone think they were racist – about as racist an approach as possible to the situation – and he was confirmed. But, the jury has been out now for over 20 years on whether or not he treated Ms. Hill inappropriately, and in today’s climate, he would not be confirmed. Talk all you want about a high tech lynching, but given his lack of sophistication when he was doing the things he was accused of doing, I suspect that he’d have been sunk in today’s environment. We are, to some extent, less naïve about sexual assault and harassment. I’m sure Poppy Bush believes he was totally innocent; I suspect that Barbara, on the other hand, was never so convinced.
So, it’s been what, two weeks? A week? Ten days? More and more stuff will come out about Cain and at some point in time he will explode. The Coulters, Ingrams and Limbaughs won’t express dismay when he withdraws to spend more time with his family or whatever; they’ll let it roll off their backs like cinnamon off Yak Balls, and go on to the next logical contradiction and crime against humanity. And we’ll see what happens next.
In 1981, I was a staff NCO on a battalion staff. Our commander was a guy I called Sunny Jim. Charismatic, relaxed, leading from out front, total wildman – we were a loose group, but we were great at our jobs. Anyway, some genius decided to send a Hollywood flack to our battalion to get some insight for a TV ripoff of Private Benjamin. (Not the TV Private Benjamin but another approach to that early 80s American version of Antigone.) Anyway, while taking him around to meet soldiers and see what they did, we discovered some horrendous problems with sexual harassment and assault in our line companies. The three or four of us who were escorting this guy adjourned to the golf club bar and tried to figure out what to do. The colonel joined us and said that “It’s not your problem, it’s my problem…” and turned it over to the Brigade IG immediately. Later, when one of his junior officers knocked up a clerk in the headquarters, his response was “This is my fault, it’s my command climate, and it’s my ass..” and he went to the Brigade and immediately submitted his retirement and asked to be administratively relieved immediately. He took responsibility, held himself accountable, and tried to do the right thing. Now, he had allowed and encouraged a command climate more appropriate to SAS than to a Signal Battalion in the US with 40 percent women. He was wrong. But, when he discovered it, he did what he needed to do; and then, feeling dishonored, stepped aside.
In the overall scheme of things, something that happened 20 years ago to some obscure leaders in an obscure base in an obscure time isn’t that great, but in terms of how to do the right thing when confronted by a situation totally out of control, Sunny Jim gave us a great example. Now, in JoePa’s place, the situation was similar. Except, he didn’t do what great leaders do – he didn’t properly evaluate the threat when he learned of the accusations, and he accepted the coverup. In chain of command bureaucracies, there’s a tendency to think ACTION PASSED/ACTION COMPLETED. No, not in a case like one of possible homosexual rape of a minor in the shower of the football team locker room. How out of control does someone have to be to try that? How much of the response – or lack thereof – was based on a combination of good old boy networking and “We’re Penn Fucking State and nobody will believe that!” Well, unfortunately we probably will. It’s happened too many times before.
Well, unfortunately, we’ve learned that often it is true and always has to be taken seriously. Power does odd things to people – Herman Cain is not a giant of American industry the way that a Jack Welch or a Joe Paterno is. (If you don’t think DIV I NCAA Big Ten, top tier football is an American industry, go find a cloistered monastery someplace, because you have no business wandering around in the cruel realities of life.) Burger King? Godfather’s Pizza? The National Restaurant Association? His rather bizarre motivational speaker business? The guy is a dweeb who became a successful businessman before drifting into irrelevancy…until he decided that somehow he needed to run for President. Why – did America need his stack of platitudes like a pile of his pizza on a plate? Did Trump teach him how to eat pizza?
But, no one stood up to him when he bullied women. No one stands up to him when he bullies people now. He’s a loudmouthed, abrasive and probably profoundly ignorant bullshit artist. There’s some tragedy in the Penn State thing, and there’s a lot of tragedy in the Clarence Thomas story. But, the Herman Cain story is pure farce…Othello, as played by Jackie Gleason in blackface and high heels, with Jason Bateman as Iago and Victoria Jackson as Desdemona...