Second Headline: Dear Daughter, You are Worth Infinitely More than $2.6 Million.
I was puzzled about what to write for this edition of The Liberator Today. “Should I write about the Mother-of-all-Bombs, or about sexual harassment?” I asked out loud.
“Write about sexual harassment,” my fifteen-year-old daughter said from the back seat of the car.
And that settled it.
The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) is the most powerful non-nuclear bomb ever detonated. When dropped on an ISIS cave system in Afghanistan recently, it reportedly left a one-mile blast radius. I have a cousin who tried to get his mind around the devastation by superimposing the blast radius on a Google map of his hometown, Grand Rapids, MI. I perhaps had a brief glimpse in how my daughter Bronwynn must feel when she hears the latest news report of a settled and excused case of sexual harassment, this time, the case of FOX News Commentator Bill O’Reilly. I’ll never know for sure since I’m a man, an adult, and her father—but it’s possible that when Bronwynn hears about O’Reilly, or about Donald Trump, or about Bill Cosby, it’s like a 22,000 pound bomb just exploded in her soul.
My daughter was not solicited by O’Reilly. She was not grabbed by Trump. She was never drugged by Cosby. Instead, she listens. She listens from the back seat of our car and wonders what social issues her father will prioritize in his writing. She listens to the news report about O’Reilly and wonders what this word “settled” really means. FOX News “settled” five lawsuits on behalf of their money-making celeb. Thirteen million dollars was dispersed between five women. My daughter can do the math. That’s $2.6 million a piece. That’s a lot of money, but my daughter was born with a sense that she, like all girls, like all human beings, are “priceless.” Her sense of worth is priceless. Her sense of integrity is priceless. Her sense of safety and security is priceless. She wants the world to feel the same way about her as she feels about herself. Certainly she wants her dad to feel that way. She wants men to feel that way about her. She wants her leaders—whether in the White House or in the church pulpit—to feel that way about her.
My daughter was listening when President Trump was asked by the New York Times about O’Reilly: “Personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled, because you should have taken it all the way; I don’t think Bill did anything wrong. I think he’s a person I know well. He is a good person.” Bronwynn wasn’t particularly surprised by Trump’s comments, because she was also listening when Trump bragged about his own consequence-free escapades of sexual harassment. When you’ve got at least a spare $2.6 million, you can apparently “get away with it,” as Trump said on the Access Hollywood tape.
By the time I had finished writing this article, it was reported that the FOX News Corporation had indeed fired O’Reilly. I’m sure it was a blow to one billed as “the most powerful voice in cable news.” Why now though, after fifteen years of these allegations against him going uninvestigated by FOX? And what are we to make with the $25 million severance package being paid to O’Reilly? O’Reilly has already announced his intention to re-launch a podcast. Supporters are rallying. I’m not saying that Bill O’Reilly should be ground under our heels. I am saying that our children are listening to all these details, and interpreting them PERSONALLY.
The most important warning that we were given in January at the time of Donald Trump’s inauguration is that there would come a point when we all just assume that this is normal. We were admonished that we would have to keep reminding ourselves: “This is NOT normal.” Sexism, misogyny, sexual harassment, and sexual predation are not normal. Such things are never “settled.” The wealthy’s ability to purchase the “settlement” of sexual harassment is not acceptable. We would have to keep our outrage at Donald Trump’s outrageousness close at hand. If we put it up on the shelf for a moment, it would be only because we can’t handle something that hot for too long without burning ourselves. But if left on the shelf for too long, our outrage cools and hardens like a pumice stone. It becomes a curio, a part of the backdrop of our lives. We could begin to think that sexual harassment is just a normal part of life in these United States. Even worse, we begin to inadvertently communicate to those we love the most: "Young lady, just settle down on sexual harassment already!"
My daughter has also been listening to Christian leaders. She heard some national Christian leaders verbally defend, excuse, or otherwise ignore Donald Trump’s sexual harassment: “that was ten years ago,” “that was just locker-room talk,” “he’s a baby Christian,” “we need to forgive, right?” “this wasn’t as bad as when Hillary enabled Bill’s adultery,” “that’s fake news.” Other leaders were silent. Where was the Church when they should have been gathering our adolescent girls together? Christian leaders could have sat them down, admitted their own perplexity, their own lack of skill at navigating the abnormal political waters of the 2016 election, but they could have at least said this:
“Listen, we don’t know what’s ultimately true or not true about Donald Trump’s crimes (or Bill O’Reilly’s or Bill Cosby’s), and we are momentarily clueless about how to advise you about the politics or the media, but we do want to make two declarations: 1) Sexual harassment is wrong; and 2) you are priceless in the sight of God and the Church. How do we know? Because Jesus Christ died in part because of sexual harassment and he died to redeem you in whole at a God-sized price.”