Should Workplace Sexual Abusers Be Cancelled? How About Canadian Truckers? Trump 2024?
Trump issued a GOP cancel culture statement today: "If AT&T/DirecTV cancels OAN, I hope that everyone will boycott and cancel DirecTV. It is a very popular channel, far more popular than most would understand, and they are being treated horribly by the Radical Left lunatics running the networks. Instead of being allowed to grow, their voice is being shuttered. Don't let it happen, cancel DirecTV. If you feel infringed by what this Communist movement is doing, cancel DirecTV!" Could there be a better example of right-wing cancel culture in action?
Yesterday, the bill to end forced arbitration in workplace sexual abuse cases passed overwhelmingly, 335 to 97. Believe it or not, a majority of Republicans voted with every single Democrat for the bill. The opposition centered around the nuts and kooks who do whatever Marjorie Traitor Greene, Paul Gosar, Gym Jordan, Scott Perry, Madison Cawthorn and Lauren Boebert-- presumed to be speaking for Trump-- demand. Extremist sheeple like Clay Higgins (LA), Ronny Jackson (TX), Roger Williams (TX), Cat Cammack (FL), Bryan Steil (WI), Matt Rosendale (MT), Byron Donalds (FL), Darrell Issa (CA), Thomas Massie (KY), Bob Good (VA), Andrew Clyde (GA), Jay Obernolte (CA), etc followed along dutifully, Matt Gaetz, for obvious reasons, abandoned the forces of anomie for a change. So... 97 members of Congress voted protect the perpetrators and 335 voted to protect the victims of the perpetrators.
Yesterday, Annie Karni, reporting for the NY Times, wrote that passage "came years after a major public reckoning on sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace that revealed how powerful men at some of the most prominent companies used secretive proceedings with no appeals to settle cases and silence victims. Those practices allowed the perpetrators to move on without the public learning that claims had ever been filed against them. The bill would for the first time ensure that victims of sexual harassment and assault have the option of suing their abusers in state, tribal or federal court, invalidating any contract that closed off the option-- a common condition of employment at many companies."
Karni: "Proponents estimated that more than 60 million American workers are subject to forced arbitration clauses in their employment contracts-- often through fine print tucked into legal clauses of which the employees are unaware. Forced arbitration often requires employees who bring an accusation of workplace misconduct to enter a private proceeding with their employer. It takes away employees’ right to make those claims public in court, shifting them to a process that takes place in secret, led by company-appointed arbitrators, and without the ability to appeal the result. Lawmakers said that process weighed heavily in favor of protecting predators and against victims. The legislation seeks to give victims a choice in how they report their claims, including the option to do so publicly."
Right-wing extremists see this kind of protection as part of "cancel culture," the cancelling of a culture that enshrines racism, patriarchy, misogyny, oligarchy, plutocracy, sexism... everything that the right unites around. The GOP excuse for opposing it was that "it would lead to federal encroachment into workplace matters."
How about a Bloomberg News columnist's fantasy about Romney 2024-- is that cancel culture? "Romney," wrote, "does have one weapon he could play or threaten to play: a third-party run for the presidency in 2024 if Trump is the Republican nominee. If Romney threatened not just to run, but to do his best to defeat the Republican candidate? I don’t know that he could guarantee a Democratic win, but he could certainly make one far more likely. (Just by, for example, staying off the ballot in Democratic-leaning states while qualifying and campaigning in Republican-leaning ones.) That may not do much to ultimately reform the Republican Party, but it would certainly decrease the chances of Trump’s winning a second term. All this is fanciful, which is sort of the point; there are no obvious options for Romney and the small handful of openly anti-Trump Republicans in Congress. Realistically, they can continue working on an update of the Electoral Count Act. Perhaps there are other similar measures that might help. They can support anti-Trump Republicans in upcoming primary elections. And just plain speaking out isn’t nothing. But the truth is, the current dysfunctional Republican Party is a long way down the path they’ve chosen, and there’s no obvious way back."
One would imagine that Justin Trudeau would be as eager to cancel the spread of conspiracy theory-driven Trumpism into his own country now. This morning the Globe and Mail reported that in an emergency session of Parliament Trudeau accused the truckers and other morons occupying Ottawa "of interfering with the country’s ability to function and reminding them that the pandemic has 'sucked' for everyone, not just them."
“Individuals are trying to blockade our economy, our democracy and our fellow citizens’ daily lives. It has to stop,” Mr. Trudeau said. “The people of Ottawa don’t deserve to be harassed in their own neighbourhoods. They don’t deserve to be confronted with the inherent violence of a swastika flying on a street corner, or a confederate flag, or the insults and jeers just because they’re wearing a mask.”
He called for patience through the latest wave of COVID-19 and said “pandemic restrictions are not forever.”
“This pandemic has sucked for all Canadians,” he added, “but Canadians know the way to get through it is to continue listening to science, continuing to lean on each other, continuing to be there for each other.”
The demonstrators’ demands vary from person to person. Their calls include the removal of the elected government and an end to all pandemic restrictions. The protest has halted traffic in downtown Ottawa, forced businesses to close and led to at least 20 arrests and dozens of criminal investigations.
Following Mr. Trudeau’s remarks, interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen told the Prime Minister that as a result of his leadership Canada is “more divided than ever.”
The Conservatives are the only major federal party to closely ally themselves with the protests, which began as a challenge to vaccine mandates for truckers. Interim Leader Candice Bergen has called them “passionate, patriotic and peaceful.”
The Guardian noted that "The so-called 'freedom convoy'... was the brainchild of James Bauder, an admitted conspiracy theorist who has endorsed the QAnon movement and called Covid-19 'the biggest political scam in history.' Bauder’s group, Canada Unity, contends that vaccine mandates and passports are illegal under Canada’s constitution, the Nuremberg Code and a host of other international conventions. Bauder has long been a fringe figure, but his movement caught a gulf stream of support after the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, announced last year that truckers crossing the US-Canada border would need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The supposed plight of the truckers proved to be a compelling public relations angle and attracted an array of fellow travelers. Until now, a litany of organizations had protested Canada’s strict public health measures, but largely in isolation. One such group, Hold Fast Canada, had organized pickets of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s headquarters, where they claimed that concentration camps had already been introduced in the country. Another group, Action4Canada, launched legal challenges to mask and vaccine mandates. In one 400-page court filing, they allege that the 'false pronouncement of a Covid-19 pandemic' was carried out, at least in part, by Bill Gates and a 'New World (Economic) Order' to facilitate the injection of 5G-enabled microchips into the population. Both groups are listed as 'participating groups' on the Canada Unity website, and sent vehicles and personnel to join the convoy. Other organizers joined Bauder, including Chris Barber, a Saskatchewan trucker who was fined $14,000 in October for violating provincial public health measures; Tamara Lich, an activist for a fringe political party advocating that western Canada should become an independent state; Benjamin Dichter, who has warned of the 'growing Islamization of Canada'; and Pat King, an anti-government agitator who has repeatedly called for Trudeau to be arrested. Since they have arrived in Ottawa, the extreme elements of the protest have been visible: neo-Nazi and Confederate flags were seen flying, QAnon logos were emblazoned on trucks and signs and stickers were pasted to telephone poles around the occupied area bear Trudeau’s face, reading: 'Wanted for crimes against humanity.'"
This morning, Stanley Fritz, published a very personal essay I'm Canceling Cancel Culture, asserting that "Cancel Culture doesn't deal with harm or harm reduction. It just passes the problem on to someone else." He's thankful that he's surrounded by a village of people who love him and give him space to mess up. He admits that he messes up a lot. "What I have found is that the secret to growth is the understanding that the process never ends, if you stop learning and growing, you’re either not trying, or dead. But what would I do if this village didn’t exist? If we’re following the rules of 'Cancel Culture' I might be done for. My past and I’m quite sure my present is littered with moments where I show up poorly, say something dumb or act inappropriately. If someone really wanted to, I’m sure they could make an argument that It was time for Stanley’s dusty ass to go to the Land of the Canceled. I get the reasoning behind this concept. If you cause people harm, whether that be intentional or not, physical, emotional, financial, or otherwise, you need to be held accountable. But if you throw someone away, is that really accountability? I’m not so sure."
We have entered a space where people who are trash, are finally starting to be called out for the horrible or just nasty ass things that they have done; that’s a good thing. But there’s a thin line between holding someone accountable for the wrongs they have done and taking away the ability for them to understand how their actions harmed others, learn from their mistakes, or even suffer consequences without the possibility of redemption later. Folks might roll their eyes as I say this, but people aren’t static, and for many of us, our behavior is deeply impacted by past trauma.
Does everyone deserve that opportunity? I honestly don’t know, and if we’re being really honest, there are some people I don’t think I can ever forgive. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive my stepmother for treating me the way she did. I understand that she was dealing with her own trauma, and I know in my heart she’s a good person. But I also had to live with the pain and the rage she gave me. That’s something I will need to continue unpacking with my therapist. Having said that, I would argue that most people (minus racist, racist, and abusers; they need accountability, but it is not your job to handle that.) do, and even if they don’t, we should hold people accountable with the hope that they can someday redeem themselves, even if that means they do it away from us.
Let me be clear, this does not mean that the victim of harm is now responsible for the restoration of the bad actor, nor does it mean that you have to forgive someone even if you are not in a space to do it. But it does mean that as a society, we have to start looking at harm, and harm-reduction in a different way. Instead of tossing people aside, or muting them, we have to find a way to hold them accountable for the pain they caused, the impact it has had on others, and then a pathway towards retribution. In order for that to happen, certain things need to occur.
First, the person who has done harm must be willing and able to see where they went wrong, apologize honestly, and then accept the consequences of their actions. Acknowledging the pain you have caused someone, and apologizing is a huge step in the right direction, but those things alone are not always enough. If we’re building communities and relationships focused on restoration and accountability, there can and should be consequences. Consequences are fine, but they should be reasonable, restorative, and not focused on harm, or revenge.
Finally, if we are committed to reframing our world, and stopping the cycle of harm and trauma that currently exists, we will need to walk away from the antiquated systems that have been used to address them. The ugly truth is, no one is ever really canceled. They may no longer be your problem, but if they don’t learn from their previous transgressions, the likelihood of them entering another space and causing harm to another person is highly likely. That’s not something that helps anyone, so if we’re serious about changing the world, the only thing that should be getting canceled is cancel-culture itself.