What Makes a Lasting Revelation? Weinstein, Trump, and Changing the American Memory - by Greer Clem
Sometimes, stories stick with us longer than the truth does. I think part of that can be attributed to the human tendency to block out those negative truths so that we have the will to move forward. Maybe part of it is blindness or stupidity. But I find myself wondering, what will it take to make a revelation last and why is America's political memory so fickle?
Recent allegations against Harvey Weinstein have brought survivors of sexual assault and rape out of the shadows. We have been hailing those brave souls who attached their names to their stories and dared to tell the truth about what happened to them, we keep writing about how shocking it is that so many people have come forward. Are the blind spots of our memories really so big? Over a dozen women accused our sitting President of sexual assault, and you know what Trump supporters responded? What about Bill Clinton? I've staved off writing about the number of times I personally have heard that retort, but perhaps that makes me part of the problem. This isn't up for debate - it's not an issue to be bantered about over dinner tables with family members who share different viewpoints. Assault and sexual discrimination against both men and women exists and is never, ever tolerable or excusable.
Okay, so maybe you've heard that sentiment before. So what's the conversation we really need to be having? What are we missing every time a story about assault breaks? It's like trying to clasp a necklace behind your neck - the clasp grasps over and over for that metal hook and you're feeling around blindly until, finally, it clicks into place. That is the current process of lasting revelation; by the time it's engrained in our minds, it's no longer revolutionary, and the damage that perhaps could have been prevented has already happened.
This is especially true in current American politics. It will always baffle me that there are women who voted for Donald Trump after knowing that other women had come forward about his history of abuse. It baffles me even more that some of these women said, "Well Bill Clinton was lecherous" and that this justified their decision. But what baffles me the most is the how fleeting our memories can be - how quickly people like Jason Chaffetz, a Republican representative from Utah, went from claiming he could not vote for Trump and be able to look his daughters in the face to being a staunch supporter. How any woman would agree to work for Donald Trump. How sexual assault allegations from thirty years ago are just now becoming news.
We need to work towards reprogramming how we ingrain information. Sometimes we feel we don't want to rush to judgment, or maybe they're a good guy who made a mistake, or maybe someone else, someone more important, will see that justice is served. This collective response is understandable, especially to women, who have been societally conditioned to accept discrimination and abuse as commonplace. This sickness long ago spread to our political system; it festered enough so that our country elected a president who has himself committed sexual assault. So now we have to ask ourselves: what constitutes a lasting revelation? Revelations do not have to require the passage of time. Some things, like discrimination, racism, assault, and bigotry, should be immediately acknowledged and ingrained for what they are. The greatest tool citizens have is that we are the constituents, the people who can hold our representatives accountable. But not if we continue to let our collective desire to fly under the radar carry us so far as to be blind to injustice.
Let's make these revelations last - let's make sure that the voices of sexual assault survivors are immediately ingrained. We cannot let them wilt with the passage of time until the next scandal breaks and we feel only their shadowy former presence. One of the best things about 2017 is that, through turmoil and crisis, it has brought forward some of our country's strongest voices. It has unearthed the truth about people like Harvey Weinstein and, more importantly, created space for victims of assault to speak out.
Abuse is not new. Assault is not a revelation as a concept or occurrence itself. But the power and support we have behind the survivors and the determination we have to change the culture of America, that is new. And that revelation will be lasting.