by Roxanne Tellier
At the end of the Montgomery bus boycott, Martin Luther King Jr famously paraphrased the words of Theodore Parker, American transcendentalist and pastor, when he stated,
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
There are many days when only that aspiration keeps me going. Some days, I’ll find myself wondering if that’s a light up ahead, or just the headlights of an oncoming train …. but after this week, for a number of reasons, I’m liking the odds that it is truly a light.
Three things happened this week to make me think that there might be some hope, and that, maybe – just maybe! we ARE gonna be okay. Maybe that arc really is moving in the right direction.
The first event was long in coming, but something I’d been rooting for; the investigation into Trump’s misdeeds has morphed into an inquiry. Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end of a shockingly corrupt and criminal abuse of power by America’s POTUS.
The way an impeachment works is regulated at the federal level, under the American Constitution. First the Congress investigates, and then, based on their findings, the House of Representatives must pass, by a simple majority of those present and voting, articles of impeachment. Those articles will be the formal allegation or allegations of what are considered to be ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’
According to the Harvard Law Review “The majority view is that a president can legally be impeached for ‘intentional, evil deeds’ that ‘drastically subvert the Constitution and involve an unforgivable abuse of the presidency’ — even if those deeds didn’t violate any criminal laws.”
So we’re in phase two now, prior to, hopefully, phase three, wherein the Senate will be called upon to try the accused. Many have said that the Senate will likely fail to actually impeach Trump, but there is some hope that these investigations, and the live television transmittal of the honourable men and women testifying to Trump’s misdeeds/crimes, at home and abroad, will sway the American voters, and by extension, the Republican Senators who are in danger of losing re-election in 2020 if they continue to align with trump.
One big hope is that the Dems get their way, and voting is done by anonymous, secret ballot. If that were to happen, it’s guesstimated that at least 30 Republicans would vote with the Dems, thus ensuring impeachment.
Meanwhile, the POTUS is flailing as the truth emerges about his endeavour to tempt the new President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, into corruption. He dangled Congressionally approved military aid for the Ukraine, that would shore up the embattled nation in their war with Russia .. if Zelensky would just grant trump ‘one favour’ …
“When Mr. Zelensky said Ukraine was almost ready to purchase American Javelin anti-tank missiles so it could better repel armored assaults by Russian-supported fighters, Mr. Trump pounced.
“I would like you to do us a favor though,” Mr. Trump responded, beginning a series of pointed requests. The president pressed Mr. Zelensky to use the help of Attorney General William P. Barr in opening an investigation of a company involved in the beginnings of the F.B.I. inquiry of Russia’s 2016 election interference. He also wanted a corruption investigation connected to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Democratic rival.
Both held the potential to benefit Mr. Trump politically. And in case Mr. Zelensky needed reminding, Mr. Trump was quick to point out that “the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine.”
Mr. Trump’s suggestion that American law enforcement be directly involved and in contact with Ukraine’s government marks the first evidence that the president personally sought to harness the power of the United States government to further a political investigation.” (from the New York Times, Sept 25/2019)
Actually, trump wanted THREE favours … from Vice’s coverage of the memo,
1. He asked Zelensky to “look into” Joe Biden
2. He asked Zelensky to speak to Rudy Giuliani and Bill Barr , while insinuating that Giuliani had the real information on corruption in the Ukraine, and smearing the American Ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, saying, “The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that.”
3. He oddly asked Zelensky to investigate Crowdstrike
“I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation,” Trump continued.
In a nutshell, trump sought to impel Zelensky, a new president, swept in on an anti-corruption platform, to agree to commit corruption in order to receive monies that had already been pledged to Ukraine, by the American Congress. Trump had NO right to a say in the over $400 million due to Ukraine, yet he behaved as though it were his personal money, bribe money to be used to get what he wanted … a public, foreign investigation into the son of his main opponent in the 2020 election..
“Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman,” Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, told House investigators. “When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check.”
Except that this was not a business transaction, it was a diplomatic, Congressionally approved, transaction, Zelensky owed trump nothing, and it wasn’t trump’s own money. But since trump couldn’t take a cut of the millions, he took the opportunity to attempt to blackmail Zelensky, a move that would seem to be straight out of the Putin Playbook for “how to use kompromat to tie another country’s president to you in perpetuity.” (with at least one chapter on how to best preserve sheets used for golden showers by wannabe presidents.)
There can be NO logical explanation or excuse that makes what trump asked of Zelensky anything other than an attempt at bribery, potential blackmail, an attempt to elevate a conspiracy theory that excuses Russia’s role in election meddling by placing Ukraine in that role, and a gross abuse of power, despite how many frantic and hysterical tweets he vomits up on Twitter.
Hopefully the Republicans will soon see that their desperate attempts to smear those who have the courage to testify is backfiring upon them. Or maybe they’re still too terrified of the ‘wrath of trump’ to realize that everyone around trump eventually winds up under the bus, no matter how good they are at sycophancy.
The second event – la deuxième étoile ! – that heralded a sea change to our society happened, not when Don Cherry said,
“You people love, that come here, whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that,”
No, it happened when Rogers/Sportsnet caved to the flood of callers who demanded that Cherry be summarily dismissed. That’s the Free Market that so many extol; in this case, it worked against those who have pedestaled their hero and that notion. The market/shareholders spoke, and Don Cherry, still refusing to apologize, fell.
Don ‘Sour ‘Grapes’ Cherry is 85, worth $14 million, makes $800K a year, and is still a miserable cuss. He plays to the mob, and relishes any chance to punch down at his targets.
Political correctness aside, Cherry was spewing hate and spreading misinformation on Hockey Night in Canada. That’s not free speech, it’s hate speech. As a public figure, and on a platform that reaches millions, his commentary targeted people already vulnerable, because Don Cherry and his fans feel free to look down upon people of colour, and of those who aren’t ‘pur laine’, Canadians.
And whether he liked it or not, he had a signed contract that prohibits certain forms of speech.
This kind of xenophobia and bigotry is unCanadian, even when it comes from a man who was once honoured by being ranked at number 7 in the 2004 CBC miniseries, The Greatest Canadian.
Cherry should have cleared the ice before it all turned into a gongshow.
Event three – and one that, I’m gonna guess, huge portions of this column’s readers missed entirely, happened on Wednesday night, on a double episode of Survivor – Island of the Idols. Survivor got #MeToo-ed.
From the very first episode of Survivor:Borneo, in the summer of 2000, the reality series has spoken to a huge swath of Middle American viewers. In that first season, crusty Rudy Boesch, a 72 year old retired Navy Seal, and still the oldest contestant to ever play the game, kept a stiff upper lip as Richard Hatch, openly gay, and flagrantly arrogant, spent many hours parading around naked in an attempt to rattle the other players. Rudy and Richard became good friends over the course of the game, and when Rudy died recently, Hatch was one of the many mourners to pay him tribute. The Rudy/Richard friendship influenced how many viewers felt about people who, on the surface, appeared completely unlike themselves. The viewers learned that appearances and even long held opinions, could be deceiving.
During these 39 seasons, viewers have learned a great deal about opinions, prejudices, and why it’s foolhardy to have preconceived ideas about any other person. Viewers have seen the game, with it’s motto of “Outwit. Outplay. Outlast,” change with the times, even as the definition of what constitutes normalcy, equality, and ‘fair play’ changes as American society itself changes.
In 2003, contestant Jon Dalton told what host/producer Jeff Probst would call “the greatest lie in Survivor history” when he concocted a scheme to manipulate his fellow players by saying that his grandmother had died. She had not. Although ‘Johnny FairPlay’ entered Survivor history, he didn’t win the series, and his name became synonymous with UNfair play in the game.
In 2013, bread baking Mormon mama Dawn Meehan had not the slightest qualms about voting off her best buddy Brenda Lowe, despite Brenda having salvaged Dawn’s dignity by finding the missing false teeth Dawn had lost in a pond. It’s a game, and anything that gets you further in the game is by definition ‘within the rules.’ How you live with yourself afterwards is your problem.; if you win, you’ll have a lot of fans, and a million dollars to keep your warm.
In 2019, we are once again revisiting the idea of what exactly constitutes ‘fair play’ in the contest.
As the two tribes merged, contestant Kellee Kim, a 29 year-old Harvard grad and MBA student, realized that she’d once again have to deal with contestant Dan Spito, a 48 year-old LA talent manager who had a little ‘issue’ with his physicality when female players were near. Kellee had briefly dealt with him at the beginning of the game, and told him in no uncertain terms that she did not like or want him to touch her. Dan seemed to accept that, and fate sent the two players off in different directions for the first half of the season.
But since the two teams had merged and converged in one small area of the island, Dan’s hands were at it again, tiptoeing through the ladies. And Kellee was not at all happy with his presumption that her body and hair, as well as that of other female contestants, were fair game.
“At the merge feast last night…. I feel someone wiggling my toes, and I’m like, I wonder who it could be? And it’s him.” said contestant Missy “It’s inappropriate touching. I’m not an object.”
In one of the segments, Kellee tearfully told team mate Janet that she found Dan’s attentions upsetting. Janet hadn’t really noticed that Kellee and several of the other young women were being targeted. But she was ready to help, if she could.
But as Kellee told the camera, “It’s super upsetting, because you can’t do anything about it. There are always consequences for standing up. It happens in real life, in work settings, in school … and you can’t say anything because it will affect your upward trajectory, it’s gonna affect how people look at you.”
The show’s producer, in an unprecedented move, broke the fourth wall, saying, “You know, if there are issues to the point where things need to happen, come to me and I will make sure that stops. ‘Cause that’s…I don’t want anyone feeling uncomfortable.”
A title card then appeared on screen, which read, “The following morning the producers met with all the players, both as a group and individually. They were cautioned about personal boundaries and reminded that producers are available to them at all times. Based on the outcome of those discussions, the game continued. In addition, producers met privately with Dan, at which time he was issued a warning for his behavior. Producers continue to monitor the situation.”
If that had been the end of the situation, as usually happens in our society, it would have been just another day in misogyny. But what happened next was a REAL lesson for Middle America; two of the other female players, Elizabeth and Molly, decided to use this moment to hatch a plan that would smear Dan while saving themselves, by making Dan and Kellee targets for elimination. Worse still, they abused the trust and faith of Janet to do so, knowing that Janet would see it as her place, as an older, mother figure, to do whatever it might take to help the girls.
In truth, neither Elizabeth nor Molly actually felt unsafe or uncomfortable around Dan. If anything, they thought he and his wandering hands were a non-issue, easily ignored.
Inevitably, #MeToo came up squarely against game strategy, and it was Kellee who was voted ‘off the island’ while Janet was left to understand that the other girls had willfully played upon her better nature to further their own game, at Kellee (and Janet’s) expense.
At a later tribal council, the women tried to defend their actions by calling it ‘game play,’ while a male player, Aaron, refused to believe that it had happened, because, “if it had, I would have known.”
Jamal tried to explain why Aaron was wrong, saying, “This whole idea that you would have known about it – that’s exactly what happens in the real world, guys. When a woman brings up a charge, and people want to negate whether or not it’s legitimate, they say, well if it was such a big issue, then she would have brought it up last year, two years ago, three years ago. We are not entitled to ‘know’ things just because we’re men, or just because we’re in power. “
As Kellee had said, “There are always consequences for standing up. ” For his pains, and his insight, Jamal was the next to leave the game.
As Jeff Probst later said, “Survivor is a microcosm for our real world. Situations just like this one are playing out in offices and bars and colleges across the country and the world. “
And that is, of course, sadly true. However, it was the enormous backlash against the two female players, for their deceit, and their ugly manipulation of Janet’s protective nature, that raged mightily across social media on Thursday morning that really gave me hope. Is it possible – can it really be – that sometimes the right people will actually be punished for making the lives of others miserable, just because they can?
This is the week that #MeToo came to reality TV, big time, and Middle America got to see how it works, from all sides and angles. Anyone that watched the double episode play out is now in possession of all the information they need to make life better for 51% of society (that’s women, by the way.)
The question is, will they? Can they be bothered? Or is life a whole lot easier when we just toss off the island those people who are only asking to be treated like people instead of objects?
I will continue to hope that the light at the end of the tunnel really is dawn breaking somewhere.