This week, leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, has always been considered the Holiest of Holy weeks to Catholics. As a child, I looked forward to new shoes and a showy hat (women still had to wear them in church, back then) and a basketful of goodies – maybe even a chocolate bunny!
But that was then, and this is now, and it’s been a long time since anyone’s hunted for coloured eggs at my house. Peter Cottontail has left the building, and this week was a horror show all around, with bombings in Brussels, the ramping up of panic in America over both terrorism and Trump’s continued putsch to glory, interspersed with freezing rain, a dismal outcome (for many) to the Jian Ghomeshi trial, a Liberal budget that projects a $30 billion deficit, and a surprisingly negative response to the new Batman vs Superman movie. Oh, and the beer and liquor stores were closed for two days.
And you can add to that the shock accompanying hearing of the death of comedian Gary Shandling. At 66, he was far too young, and we were not ready for his genius to leave us.
You will forgive me if this has been a week I’d prefer to forget.
The loss of another celebrity, former Mayor Rob Ford, also captured attention. I’ve written about him before, and my feelings about his tenure remain unchanged. So do the feelings of those who admired him. However, Torontonians who dared to pen anything more than a non-committal noting of his passing were soundly excoriated by their fellow citizens for not prostrating at his bier with enough respect.
The world press had no such strictures.
Some people will try to convince you that their way to mourn is the only and correct way. I disagree. There is no ‘right way” to mourn, and demanding fealty at the point of a disapproving moral gun does not change the past. You would think that the unprecedented two day period of lying in state at City Hall (at the request of the family) would appease the bereaved, but apparently, that is not enough. Those who revered his blustering, bumbling ways would have us re-write history, in an effort to whitewash his misdeeds, and beatify him as Toronto’s savior.
It’s all so very reminiscent of the post-death canonization of Margaret Thatcher. Reviled during her tenure for her hawkish policies, key role in bringing about the first Gulf War, and advocating for the 2003 attack on Iraq, along with her ushering in of a period where the rich got richer at the expense of the poor, her influence negatively affected millions around the world. And yet, her canonization began just nanoseconds after word of her death hit the airwaves; she was lionized worldwide in the press, her state funeral cost Britain £3.1 million pounds, and Iron Lady statues made of actual iron were erected in places as diverse as the Falkland Islands , despite Argentina’s fury.
Meanwhile, the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” raced to the top of the British charts.
There’s a price to be paid for assuming a position of power – the admission includes having your life and history scrutinized and deemed worthy or unworthy, both by those who liked you and by those who didn’t, who still had to live with the impact of political actions. It is ‘misapplied death etiquette,’ as journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote, to be expected to apply the same moral high ground we do to the deaths of private individuals as we do when considering the entirety of the life of an influential public figure.
“There’s something distinctively creepy – in a Roman sort of way – about this mandated ritual that our political leaders must be heralded and consecrated as saints upon death. This is accomplished by this baseless moral precept that it is gauche or worse to balance the gushing praise for them upon death with valid criticisms. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loathing Margaret Thatcher or any other person with political influence and power based upon perceived bad acts, and that doesn’t change simply because they die. If anything, it becomes more compelling to commemorate those bad acts upon death as the only antidote against a society erecting a false and jingoistically self-serving history.”
Ah, but the self-anointed social media judges and lawyers would disagree.
A video capturing an incident involving a young woman, confronted with parking in a handicapped space, went viral this week. Shot here in Toronto, in front of a Tim Hortons, the video showed her reaction to being caught – privileged outrage, threats, and the throwing of two cups of coffee at the videographer.
Surprisingly, many were more incensed by the videographer’s capture and sharing of the incident, than at the belligerent aggression of the scofflaw. Despite assaulting the photographer, and driving off in a huff, aiming her vehicle at the cameraman before swerving away, these commentators believed she should not have been confronted, but rather, that the photographer should have ‘minded his own business.’
As the video went viral, international viewers were stunned to see her rudeness … aren’t all Canadians pretty much nice and polite people, they asked? No, some, with possibly the best of intentions, are bullies.
Bullying in an attempt to force your morality, or personal and world views, onto others, is still bullying. I have one ex-Facebook friend who blocked my posts because her nephews follow her page, and she censors what they can see. Another Facebooker resented my questioning the morality of the actions of Israel towards Palestine, despite my information having come from a Jewish peace activist living in Israel.
And the culmination of the trial of Jian Ghomeshi unleashed some of the vilest comments I’ve ever seen directed at alleged victims of assault. The women were ‘liars,’ ‘manipulative,’ ‘shameful fame seekers,’ ‘femitards,’ ‘toxic bitches,’ and worse. Despite the fact that a total of 21 women had originally come forward to complain, with identical accusations, about Ghomeshi’s weird ideas on sex play, only three were brave enough to appear in court, and all three were pummeled with relentless demands to answer questions about, not just the attack, but trivial events of a decade past – what lawyers like to call ‘whacking’ – while Ghomeshi sat silent. (ghomeshi cosby.jpg)
The judge’s decision acquitted Ghomeshi, but also noted that his verdict did not mean these events ‘never happened.’ The judge simply didn’t believe the women’s testimony, flawed as it was by misremembered events, private messages between two of the accusers, and contact with the accused after the fact.
For women of every political stripe, the decision was flawed, and the system biased. At City Hall, one naked protester was unnecessarily and roughly tackled to the ground, her nipples scraping the pavement as she was dragged away by the police. Despite nudity being legal in Canada, the uptight citizens must not be discomfited by the sight of a woman’s breasts.
From a story released by the CBC: “While former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi’s acquittal has sparked protests, many within the legal community are praising the decision, agreeing with the judge that the complainants’ credibility issues raised reasonable doubt in the case.”
By implication, stating that “many within the legal community” support the decision, dismisses by extension those who found the decision as to be ill-informed. In actual fact, many of those who have criticized the decision are academic and legal scholars.
Am I biased? Perhaps. Or is the system itself flawed? At the beginning of the month, a report filed by the Criminal Lawyer’s Association found that women were leaving the field of criminal law in dramatically high numbers, due to systemic discrimination.
“It found low pay, lack of financial support for maternity leave and being treated differently than male peers by judges and court staff as some of the reasons so many women are leaving private practice of criminal law,” reported Maureen Brosnahan for the CBC. “Many women also reported a lack of respect and being treated differently than male lawyers by court officers, police, crown attorneys and judges. One reported being called “little lady” repeatedly. Others said they were chastised for asking judges for time to pick up children from school whereas their male counterparts who made similar requests were not rebuked.”
Whether or not it is possible to change how sensitive cases are handled in an atmosphere where women are routinely marginalized, it’s still time for an honest reappraisal of how sexual assault cases are conducted in Canada, especially in the face of the numbers.
“In Canada, the low rates of conviction for sexual assault are an indictment of the system itself. As a 2014 Toronto Star article revealed using Statscan data from 2004 and 2006, 460,000 women self-reported sexual assault: 15,200 reported to the police, 5,544 charges were laid, with 2,824 prosecutions and 1,519 convictions. Again, that’s almost a half million self-reported assaults, and 1,519 convictions. Something is deeply wrong.”
Understandably – and not because we are stupid or legally naive, but because 1 in 4 women has experienced a sexual assault in her lifetime, and has a strong personal stake in how this case concluded – many women were incensed at the Ghomeshi decision.
Either unable or unwilling to see how angry and hurt many women are by the Ghomeshi decision, mansplainers flocked to the posts women made about their feelings on the ruling. “Read the decision,” they intoned, as though we were either too stupid to understand, or blind to the many gloatings of those who’d ‘called it’ from the beginning, and who were dancing in joy at both the decision and having been proved right.
Hey! Your side won! Now could you take your foot off my neck so that I can sympathize and empathize with women who feel as I do, stunned at the inevitability of once again, being re-victimized post-assault?
Are you so utterly deaf to the agony of people in pain that your only recourse is to repeat incessantly that ‘justice has been done?’
Or as one woman keened in her blog, “How can you be so blind? How can you insert yourself into a woman pouring her grief out, to tell her that legally, she has no case? That what happened to her, didn’t factually happen. To throw a smothering blanket on the fire igniting in her. She has no reality. The law is the reality. It is the neutral, the official record. It is gas lighting on a massive scale.
So I know perhaps the evidence wasn’t there, or that the burden of proof wasn’t met. And I don’t fucking care. This isn’t about this one case. This case was inevitable, like watching a lemming marching to its doom.
It’s every fucking time. Every time. The mundanity of the oppression, the predictability of the reaction, the backlash that follows. “ (https://afateofpossibilities.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/this-isnt-about-the-ghomeshi-case/)
It is indeed gaslighting. It’s telling people that their emotions are invalid, that what they see and feel has no weight. It’s a way to keep those who disagree with you off balance, wondering if perhaps what they perceive isn’t real, casting doubt on their mental stability, pointing to others that agree with YOUR beliefs as proof that THEY are in the wrong. It is psychological abuse. And it’s an ugly way to treat anyone.
The overwhelming miasma of this week – at least for me – has been one of outraged, self-righteous, phony, morality gone mad, and overwhelmingly imposed upon all in its path. Think as I think, believe as I believe, abandon your own truths and take on mine.
Whether it be Trump calling the beleaguered city of Brussels ‘a hellhole,’ or Cruz demanding strict policing of American Muslims in their own neighbourhoods; police manhandling protestors, or judges calling women deceitful and self-serving, it’s not been a good week to have a high Emotional I.Q., and a low tolerance for sanctimonious public principles forced upon the social order by the court of public opinion.
(first published March 27/16 (bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/03/27/roxanne-tellier-peter-cottontail-has-left-the-building)