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Why and who we forgive…

This passage from a recent GQ piece by Andrew Corsello raises compelling issues.

… I am a separating kind of guy. To me, Jefferson’s slave-owning and -impregnating tarnishes him, but not the Declaration. Eliot’s anti-Semitism bothers me but doesn’t inform my reading of “Four Quartets.” These separations have always brought a vague assurance that I was being intellectually steely and that anyone who insisted otherwise was soppy, lazy, even dishonest—willingly viewing the world through lenses tinted with personal politics.

And yet… Though I won’t be boycotting Woody Allen fılms, when a friend asked how I’d respond if Michael Vick or Richie Incognito were traded to my beloved Denver Broncos, I realized: I’d flip. And yell: “We can’t allow that taint in our locker room!”

Yeah, I know.

Know what? Corsello continues for another few hundred words but he never addresses the larger issue. Why is he able to view Thomas Jefferson as a visionary rather than simply a slave-owning rapist (slaves cannot give consent, so don’t even start)? Why is treating human beings like dogs more historically tolerable than treating dogs like, well, how the U.S. military treats it soldiers?

And this is not just about whether you can laugh at Annie Hall. It speaks to who and why we extend our empathy. This goes to our criminal justice system (we saw just a peek of it with George Zimmerman and Marissa Alexander). This sadly occurs in our own schools (believe me, from experience). It speaks to the collective ability of the mainstream to separate certain people from the mistakes while viewing others only as their mistakes.

This requires soul-searching not shoulder-shrugging.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2014 in Pop Life

 

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What makes a man?

Wallace Shawn defends Woody Allen in an op-ed piece in the L.A. Times and does so in a way consistent with how many men have responded to this issue.

First is to castigate others for “gossiping” about public figures. This is intended to dismiss any serious discussion about sexual abuse and the bravery it takes for victims to speak out as mere “gossip” — the activity of clucking hens.

Yet, despite attacking the gossip, the man feels it necessary to have his say — with no real personal experience as a witness of the alleged crime or a victim of sexual abuse. This always come across as the man having the last word before sending the kids to bed.

Finally, there is a defense of Allen that is based solely on a professional relationship, which is ironic as Allen himself boasts of his ability to compartmentalize his personal and professional lives.

Shawn ends his statement with this:

I’ve never become a friend of Woody Allen or even had any terribly lengthy conversations with him, but I’ve been in his orbit enough so that I can’t possibly see him as the abstract, weird cardboard fantasy figure that one reads about. In fact, like so many of those who have worked with him repeatedly over the decades, I’ve found him to be not merely thoughtful, serious and honest, but extraordinary and even inspiring in his thoughtfulness, seriousness and honesty. Of the people I’ve known, he’s one of those I’ve respected most. And for that reason, I personally would have to say that it would take overwhelming evidence to convince me that he had sexually abused a child, just as it would take overwhelming evidence to convince me that Desmond Tutu, Franklin D. Roosevelt or Doris Lessing had sexually abused a child.

I know women are only usually accused of this but that is the most irrational thing I’ve read in a while. Shawn is not a close friend of Allen. He hasn’t spent much time with him, but hey, we are in the social writerly social circle and he makes swell films, so he’s on the moral level of Tutu, Lessing, and FDR.

Isn’t this the same argument we hear when a woman accuses a man of rape or even sexual harassment? He couldn’t have done it! He’s so good at his job! Think of his esteemed professional reputation!

Thanks, but no thanks, Mr. Shawn. I loved you in Manhattan and Melinda and Melinda, but I still consider a woman’s thoughtful, consistent firsthand account “overwhelming evidence.”

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2014 in Social Commentary

 

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An Open Letter from Dylan Farrow…

Dylan Farrow speaks out about her reported childhood sexual abuse by Woody Allen.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2014 in Social Commentary

 

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Manhattan…

10.7.1992 — I saw Manhattan for the first time at the Tate Theater in Athens, and once the credits rolled, I’d determined that I’d eventually live in New York. Like your average Gen-Xer, I felt directionless but Manhattan served as a magnet drawing me into adulthood.

There was a lot of interest in the film at the time, as the Allen/Farrow scandal was in the news. However, this was coincidental rather than exploitative programming (the selections for Fall Quarter would have been made in May at the latest, a few months before the scandal broke).

I was only a few months removed from 17 when I saw the film (my friend Zach, I think, was still 17 when we went), so the idea of a 42-year-old man in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl did not disturb me as much as it does now. What 17 year old doesn’t want to be treated like an adult and discuss Mahler and Fitzgerald with thirtysomething New Yorkers? That desire, of course, is precisely what a responsible adult man should *not* take advantage of.

Allen has a habit of presenting as romantic choices the uncomplicated ingenue and the shrill, pretentious harpy. In Manhattan, the latter archetype (played by Diane Keaton) has betrayed Allen’s character, who now races to reunite with the former archetype (played by Mariel Hemingway). It’s too late, of course, and she leaves him to spend six months in Europe. He knows that she will return a different person, that she will grow up, and she was already more mature than he is.

Twenty-one years later, Soon-Yi Previn, Mia Farrow’s daughter who Allen married (yes, it’s as bad as it reads), is herself now the 42-year-old New Yorker. Time moves on.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Pop Life

 

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