What to do About Al Franken?

Al Franken has represented me as a Senator from Minnesota. He carries the reputation as one of the more liberal senators in the US. What this means is still pretty unclear. Just months ago Franken was one of three co-sponsors of the dangerous  Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2017. This bill looked to increase US interventionist powers. Franken has always been an enemy of the world’s people, even when he wooed liberal appeal at home. In the current political climate imperialism and sexual harassment seem to be the only things we can count on.

What was glossed over in the extensive coverage of Franken’s harassment was that it occurred while he was performing comedy for the military abroad. Franken performed for the United Service Organization (USO) often. He was all for that stupid Iraq war.  Now might be a good time to talk about how imperialism and patriarchy are related. But we would rather just humiliate and eliminate the individual men who did these crimes than do anything to change our collective culture of violence.

Perhaps both sexual and imperial violence start with a certain exceptionalism of the self. In harassment one assumes that their own sexual freedom is superior to another person’s. In war one assumes that one’s country is superior to another person’s country. Both see force as acceptable answers to difference. Both assume the one receiving the violence is not capable of making their own decisions.

We have to be concerned with the individualism and violence we are injecting into our young people. The military must first dehumanize the enemy before they can ask any human to kill him. We see a similar dehumanization of women in our pop (porn?) culture today.

Do we teach society a lesson when these men are publicly shamed? It seems that we are missing the forest through the trees. Shouldn’t we be more focused on creating a society that does not create assaulters? A society where children are given public spaces free of manipulation. A society where young people are taught that violence is wrong, even when we disagree. A society that asserts that boys can be more than predators, girls more than victims or objects.

There has been some good debate about whether Al Franken should resign. One of the arguments I don’t like is that he is too liberal (i.e. good for women) a senator for us to get rid of him. We could go on debating whether Franken is really “left”. I would argue that he’s not. Some would argue that he is, or at least that there are few better options in the US Senate. But the larger issue here is that defending Franken’s harassment based on any of his political stances, let alone his party affiliation, is a dangerous precedent to set. Such a double standard was employed for Bill Clinton. He waltzed into office despite accusations of sexual assault with the help of mainstream feminists, including Gloria Steinem.

And as always, the Republicans are worse. And worse Hippocrates. Donald Trump hasn’t said anything about the Republicans who have been accused. Most notably absent from criticism is the absurd judge Roy Moore. But Trump was happy to rip Franken. This is all before we go into the accusations against the pussy grabber himself. There is evidence against Franken. The photo depicts a man who can grab what he wants too.

I see no reason for Franken not to resign. We all could worry about the neoliberal Democrat appointed in his place. Or that this person would be less likely than Franken to keep out a nasty Republican in the future. Minnesota is generally liberal but occasionally loony (see Jessie Ventura, Michelle Bachman). It seems silly to me to excuse sexual harassment because we fear that the Big Bad Republicans will take over. The fear of Republicans is already used too often to trap the left within the Democratic Party.

A Franken resignation would be satisfying but would it be sufficient? We seem to repeat the same pattern every day now. A sexual predator is revealed by his victim. The public is somehow stunned, and a side is taken. The daily shock and outrage are permanent fixtures in the Trump years. I will shed no tears for the imperialist harasser Al Franken. Let his head roll. But then what? For all who are worried about losing Franken, I would say he’s very replaceable. That is what I’m afraid of. What is the use of ousting bad men if we can’t reach our boys not yet spoiled?

Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at pemberton.nick@gmail.com