“Can you forgive me, Lurleen, the way that I immediately forgave myself?”
Lurleen Lumpkin’s father
As I am writing this, on Tuesday night, Yom Kippur has already begun. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, the highest Holy Day of the year for the Jews. The period between Rosh Hashanah, New Year (for the Jews, it is the year 5779, at least for a little bit longer) and Yom Kippur, is known as the Days of Awe.
At Yom Kippur we fast — neither eating nor drinking, unless we have a serious health condition. We apologize for the wrongs we have done, for the pain we might have caused, but more than that, we are supposed to make amends. This is the most crucial part, not just repentance, but the atonement for it is what makes the apology sincere and worthwhile.
So, on this Day of Atonement, I am sorry for everything I have ever done, am doing and will do that has ever hurt anyone I care about, or anyone who is a decent human being. You know who you are. And I will do my best and work my hardest to atone for my sins.
This year, in addition to atoning for my own sins, I have been thinking about the #MeToo movement, and all the apologies that (mostly) men have been making. We know how this has been going — someone is called out, he usually denies, sometimes loudly, sometimes sorrowfully, or he doesn’t deny, and capitulates, pointing to his penis, shrugging, saying, “Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!” as if that little thing has a life of its own and the men can’t possibly control it. It’s unfortunate, a shanda (a real shame, in Yiddish) that so many of these powerful men are Jewish.
Then we have the fall from grace, as man after man are fired, escorted out or, from time to glorious time, jailed. They lose jobs, prestige, money, shows, royalties, whatever it was they were so used to getting (in the immortal words of Monty Python, “Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, know what I mean?”).
But time marched on. And on. And on. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months. Some men looked around and began asking questions. “When do we get to come back? When is enough enough? Haven’t we suffered, too? How much punishment should we endure before we are forgiven? How are we supposed to make a living?”
I hate to be the bearer of bad news (I don’t hate it, but it’s something I’m supposed to say)but those are all wrong questions. The right questions for these men should be, “What can I do to make it up to these women? How can I set wrongs that I did, right?”
Because I have yet to see any of those men make amends. They lost things, absolutely, but so did the women. I would argue that the women have suffered much, much more and should get something beyond the automated, generic apology.
Here I insert an Amendment VIII from the U.S. Constitution, which states: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
I’ve never liked that last part — because unusual punishment works. What would be the punishment the offender could come up with that would give the women some measure of their normalcy and freedom from trauma back? I don’t know. I am wondering if anyone does. But I do know that it is wrong for these men to do nothing.
Louis C.K. used to be one of my favorite comedians. And yet, something possessed this so-called grown-ass man to think that it would be a good idea to masturbate in front of a woman or two? Yuck! When called out about it, he absolutely admitted it, and went quietly into that good night.
For nine months. About the gestation period of a fetus.
And then, without fanfare, sneaking into a little club, he was back. Just like that, without a word, he stepped into that spotlight, and did his thing, you know, but without his penis in his hand. Just testing the waters, so to speak. And the men in the audience went crazy! Apparently, it wasn’t a good time to boo him, if you had a uterus.
So here, in the safety of my house, I’m challenging Louis C.K. to come up with not just a punishment — he’s been punished by his shows being taken away, his producership taken away (I don’t know if that’s a thing, but if it was, it was taken away), his reputation — “He jacked off in front of them? Right there, in his office? What is wrong with him? That motherfucker’s sick!” But I would like him to come up with restitution. Something appropriate. I think at least one woman quit stand up comedy, and it must have taken a hella lot for her to have done that. (No, really, what is wrong with Louis C.K.? That man is NASTY!)
Because I have an idea. My idea is to ask the women. Ask the survivors, ask the victims, ask them what they want these predators to do to make it right, and if they can’t make it right, at least make it a little better, so the women can begin to heal. Maybe they can feed the homeless, build roads or houses, volunteer at shelters — supervised, of course. These are just a few ideas, something off the top of my head. I’m sure these women are resourceful and smart, and could think of a great deal of things. Let’s give them a voice!