Forgive

 

“Forgiveness” is an odd, strange word, one seldom heard in our culture today. “Forgive and forget” is often coupled with, “Okay, I’ll forgive, but I’ll never forget.” One of the hardest things people of the Book are called to do is to forgive. We see signs all over south Georgia that read, “Pray for our Nation,” but we never see one that proclaims, “Pray for our enemies.” But that’s exactly what we’re told every time we read the Book. We’re told to pray for our enemies, do good for people who would hurt us.

The latest controversy that we’ve all endured this past week is saying something to us, but it’s hard to see below the surface rhetoric, with everyone repeating the same tired phrases over and over, while the underlying political motives are largely ignored. It’s just another example of how anything can be a weapon if you are looking for weapons.

One reason why Professor Ford didn’t scream assault 36 years ago was maybe, even at 15, she knew her accusations would be handled by the local police with the prevailing attitude of the times, which was “Boys will be boys.” Or maybe even worse, she would have been asked, “What were you doing, at 15, at a party, drinking beer?” 

Fast forward to today’s culture, to the Me Too culture, where every inappropriate act, word, or even a look by a man toward a woman is dragged out of memories’ closet where the hurts and slights have lain for decades, festering for revenge.

There is truly no way, even with an FBI investigation, to know what actually happened in this case. Have you ever been 100% sure of something, absolutely willing to stake your life, only to find out later that you were wrong? Of course, you have. Time and time again, eye witnesses have been proven to be the most unreliable of witnesses. So much so that whole programs—the Innocence Project for one—has been developed to get innocent people, who have been falsely convicted, out of jail.  The governor of Oregon called for a moratorium on executions since so many prisoners in his state were found to be innocent by DNA testing. On those crime shows, the DNA test often shows that the obvious killer, the husband, the boyfriend, the neighbor is not the one. Every time, I breathe a fervent “Thank you, God, for DNA testing.”

            And what is your most egregious act: the slip of the tongue that hurt a friend, the true or untrue gossip you passed along, the lust in the heart that our dear past President Jimmy Carter confessed to, to wide-spread scorn. What if Judge Kavanaugh was so drunk at the time that he doesn’t remember what happened?  And what if before all this hullabaloo, Professor Ford decided to just forgive Judge Kananaugh? A grown woman with a good life, she said to herself: He was 17, he was drunk, he suffered from testosterone poisoning.  Think of all the time, energy, and money that would be saved and the embarrassment and questions that will never be answered. I hate to tell you, it’s what most women do. They ignore the look, the touch, the inappropriate remark. Why? Because they realize that everyone makes mistakes, says inappropriate things, does hugely inappropriate things.

Now, I’m not talking about a constant pattern of sexual abuse. I’m talking about this one incident. Whatever happened back then—and again we’ll never know—two whole families have been crucified by the modern media.

            One of the funniest occurrences of my life was some years ago. One man in particular, where I was working, would always make inappropriate remarks. I made a point to never be alone with him. I certainly would never have gone to his house, his apartment, or his dressing room. I would never have taken a drink or a pill from his hand. Yet on one occasion, I was forced by circumstances to ride with him, in his truck, by ourselves. I steeled myself, thinking I could always jump out if I had to. What happened—nothing—. In fact, poor old dear—we’re all old now—he was so stiff, so formal, he could barely talk. Maybe he thought I expected some action since he’d always been so vocally flirtatious. To this day, I laugh about my misjudgment.

            Another time, when a huge Broadway performance was unloading at Mathis Auditorium, a worker told me he’d be unable to work since he had to go take diversity training, so as not to abuse anyone. I jokingly said, “I hope they teach you how to do it right.” We both laughed. The small woman manager of the show reported my remark, saying we had to shut the show down, that I, the Arts Director, thought sexual abuse was funny. I said okay, but no one was getting paid one cent. The show went on.

            What if Judge Kavanaugh has spent the last 30 years of his life trying to make up for that slip and maybe even other slips, since he was such a drinker, by helping women as he stated in his opening address? We live and we sometimes learn. We live and we try to make up for our mistakes. What is that old phrase that is not repeated nearly often enough? “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”