I couldn’t help but be sickened as I watched Larry Nassar’s words of apology at his sentencing hearing this week. He so clearly was just reading words written by his lawyer. His demeanor was emotionless as he mouthed regret for his actions in abusing so many young women and children while physician for the U.S.A. Olympics gymnastics team, as well as previously when at Michigan State University. Just hollow, meaningless words. . .
It’s easy to know that what he did was wrong. Black and white, an open and shut case. But today’s world events are often not so clear-cut. The parade of men fallen from grace through the multitude of charges that have come to light in the past several months is overwhelming. Some men are coming forward pre-emptively knowing that actions they thought were innocent now will be recognized as inappropriate, which they were.
The twist, however, is that in a way our current society is judging these actions by today’s sensibilities as opposed to what may have been thought appropriate at the time. One would say such actions are never acceptable, a position with merit. Yet, on our long drive to Florida today, Sid and I listened to Broadway musicals. The one that struck a dissonant chord with me was South Pacific’s “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame” which is a classic example of depersonalizing and objectifying women. Have you listened to this recently?
“. . .
There are no drinks like a dame
And nothin’ thinks like a dame.
And nothin’ looks like a dame.
And acts like a dame.
Or attracts like a dame.
There ain’t a thing that’s wrong with any man here
That can’t be cured by putting him near
A girly, womanly, female, feminine dame.”
(I could hardly bring myself to type the lyrics!)
The point is that in the late ’40s when these words were written, that was how society thought. Through the last 70 years it has been an evolutionary process to bring society along to change these views of women. And clearly change does not happen overnight.
I am not excusing bad actions. But I am tempering judgment of some (NOT Larry Nassar, Harvey Weinstein, and others) by putting in perspective that these men were very much the product of the society in which they lived. The silent approval of bad actions (the ones on the lesser immoral end of the spectrum) was an unfortunate reflection of what was then considered appropriate. And that is as sad as the oppressive silence these women were pressured to endure.
The good news is that underlying the recent changes is a clear shift in what society considers right. Perhaps it is a foretaste of a much needed revival, for what these actions requiring accountability show is recognition of what is right and good. If we treat each other with kindness, a basic principle that Yeshua taught, none of these atrocities would occur. Mutual respect would be inherent in daily interactions, regardless of the decade. Kindness would guide our steps.
It feels as if we are living through a societal correction, perhaps starting several years ago with the disclosure of some in the Catholic Church’s child abuses and now the current revelations affecting so many women. And yet the recent correction is a secular, not religiously motivated initiative. Whatever the catalyst, the direction is a good one and gives us hope for the future.
Whether recognized or not, changes like this are from HaShem, helping mankind to do what is right, for He so loves us in spite of our failures. I can only imagine how awesome that day will be when all will know this truth, and will consciously choose to live lives guided by love of Him, resulting in kindness to each other. Perhaps we are edging closer to those days. . .