Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

#MeToo Two

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 6 October 2018

As the Kavanaugh saga unfolds (he has not yet been confirmed as of the moment of this writing), a few more thoughts and observations can be added to my previous post which is quickly becoming outdated. (Alas! Such is the nature of social commentary—it becomes outdated almost before it can be posted.) Ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends have been enlisted in the battle on both sides, false accusers have come forward and have been debunked, and someone even volunteered to take the blame for the assault on Christine Blasey by claiming that it was he, not Brett Kavanaugh, who attempted the assault in 1982. Of course, if true, this will be an accusation against Christine Ford for making a false accusation against Brett Kavanaugh. This nesting-doll-style carousel appears to follow the pattern on the first #MeToo-er, Asia Argento, who accused Harvey Weinstein, was then herself accused by another actor, who was then himself accused by an ex-girlfriend… “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19) And while it is best not to comment on the substance of the allegations, since most of us know nothing of this matter that our favorite website of network did not tell us, a couple of thoughts do come to mind.

It is interesting that our society has divided into those who believe Christine Ford and those who believe Brett Kavanaugh. I always thought that matters of faith and belief are reserved for the realm of religion. “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) Since when have Ford and Kavanaugh become prophets to be believed, or their testimonies become foundations of faith? Of course, it is understood that 36 years later there is little-to-none direct evidence (at least, none that could not be easily challenged). But the problem with turning to religious concepts of belief is that for the faithful, direct evidence is never very important. If it can be shown, for example, that the percentage of pilgrims who receive healing by visiting a holy relic, an icon, or a shrine is much smaller than the normal placebo effect in most medical trials, this would not affect the faith of the pilgrims or the spiritual significance of the relic or a shrine. Those are simply two different realms, different dimensions of human experience. It now appears that Ford and Kavanaugh have become objects of pseudo-religious fervor that cares little about objective reality and operates in the realm of subjective pseudo-spiritual experience. Ford and Kavanaugh are no longer relevant as persons; they have become banners in a war of sexes, placeholders in a pro- and anti-abortion debate, or something entirely different. Whatever it is, it may be helpful to recognize that this new social reality has acquired a religious dimension and as such is immune to logic, reason, or common sense.

Another curiosity is the absolute lack of a very important conversation. A 15-year-old girl drinking at a party with 17-year-old boys who are already, in her own words, “stumbling drunks”—is there a teachable moment here? No, I do not want to “blame the victim.” The 15-year-old Christine Blasey was not to blame for whatever happened, nor was she expected to have perfect judgment at that age, especially after drinking. No 15- (or17-) year-old can be expected to have perfect judgment. Unlike our politicians or the media, as a Christian minister, I may be able to (maybe not—we’ll see) get away with saying that this is another lesson that parents can teach their children. “Do not tolerate abuse”—yes. “Speak up”—yes. But also, if you are 15 and invited to a drinking party with 17-year-olds—don’t go. If you accidentally find yourself at a drinking party with 17-year-olds, and they are becoming “stumbling drunks”—call your parents. Yes, even if they get upset. It is better to be grounded for a month than to deal with PTSD for the next 36 years. I think that every parent who has a daughter knows what I am saying here. Perhaps, it is time to revisit a more traditional and old-fashioned approach to parenting, when 15-year-old girls and 17-year-old boys do not attend a party without some adult supervision. If you are a 17-year-old boy, and your friends are drinking, ask the 15-year-old girl if she would like you to walk her home or call her parents. I want to reiterate that this comment is in no way to blame Christine Blasey for getting groped or to excuse the behavior of her assailant. This is not at all a comment about blame but about basic safety. I may feel that I have a God-given right to stroll through any dark alley in South Chicago at 2 a.m., and that no one should ever blame me for doing so. Basic safety concerns, however, will prevent me from enjoying this God-given (and constitutional) right of mine without an overwhelmingly compelling reason. Some things are just common sense. Is this defeatist, and should we be demanding a brave new world in which a 2 a.m. stroll through a dark alley is just a walk in the park? I do not think so. It is good to envision a world without the flu, and it is also good to exercise prudence and prevention until such a world is achieved. It is good to “look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come,” but it is also good to be fully aware of the Augustinian “but not yet” corrupting each and every one of us. This conversation may be as important for girls and boys as the one about consent, responsibility, and respect for one another.

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