An Open Letter To a Good Man:
Listen. I know you’re hurting. I know that you did not grope, did not rape, did not molest. I understand you feel the broad brush is splattering too close, and you don’t want that scarlet letter on your forehead.
You didn’t do it. In fact, there was that time when you actively prevented it.
You like and respect women; it disheartens you that so many are so angry. And it feels like we’re angry at you. The temptation to cry out “not ALL men!” bubbles up in your throat like nausea. (And what you really mean is, “not me!”)
Remember when you were little and your sister got hurt and she was crying, and your first impulse was to yell “it wasn’t me! I didn’t do it!”?
Check that impulse. Your sister is hurt, and she is crying. Can we table your guilt-free angelic innocence for later? Can we see to her wound? Can you say, “I’m sorry you’re hurting”? Can you say “can I get you some ice?”? Can you say, “she’s hurt — get help!”? Can you say “what do you need?”?
What we need here is some good old-fashioned Vergangenheitsbewältigung.
Look it up. It’s a German word to refer to the collective struggle of the German people to come to terms with the atrocities of the Nazi regime.
I know, harsh example. But stay with me. The present-day German teenager has not harmed any Jews. He has not sprayed any graffiti on any Jewish storefront. He hasn’t thrown any bricks.
But the collective conscience of the whole nation knows “people like me did these things. People who look like this, people who sound like this, people who grew up here.” Germans know this, and they feel accountable to signal “I know.” “I’m aware.” “It happened, I don’t deny it.”
And most importantly, to signal “you can count on me to ensure it does NOT happen again.”
Angela Merkel signaled this by speaking, in Israel, of Germany’s continued shame.
Meanwhile, extremists such as Björn Höcke have fought back, defying this. “Not all Germans,” I guess.
Höcke and the likes of him are essentially saying “so what,” “get over it,” “it was so long ago.”
Does that remind you of Men’s Rights Activists? It should.
What is the solution?
Be a good man.
Demand other men are good men.
Hold them to a high standard.
Tell that guy “rape jokes are not funny.”
Tell that other dude “hey, she said No.”
Tell that other man “that’s out of line.”
Do these things a lot. Do them out of principle, not for recognition.
Do them because you understand the magnitude of this pervasive, endemic problem.
Do it because you love and respect women.
‘Teaspooning’: one tea spoon cannot drain a lake — but a billion can.
You don’t get to say “not all men.” I’m sorry, you don’t get to say it yet. And probably you don’t get to say it ever. But do enough good, and get enough men to do good. And someday you may hear a woman say, happily, “no, definitely not all men.”
Until that time, I understand it hurts, I understand the broad brush is splattering too close to your face. But stand up, stand tall, and say “where does it hurt?” and “what do you need?” and “I’ll do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
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