Sad, yes, but what REALLY should affront us?

Lee Horwich

October 15, 1991|By Lee Horwich

WAIT a minute, wait just a minute!

The Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas fiasco has been riveting and sad. One thing it hasn't done is eroded, ripped or shredded the moral fabric of our society.

There is a general outcry that the country would have been better off if the weekend's hearings had been conducted in private, out of the glare of the television spotlight. It's true that for the sake of the principals involved, a private hearing would have been easier, though no less contentious.

For Hill and Thomas, this has been a tragedy. America, however, has not been affronted.

The charges Hill raises are serious and offensive to all. But on the scale of sexual harassment, they are not extreme.

Thomas is accused of repeatedly trying to date Hill and using lewd language to do so. According to the charges, he did not threaten to fire her if she didn't sleep with him. He did not touch her or in any way physically threaten her at the office. Apparently, he did not restrict promotions or job advancement.

If Hill had accused Thomas of any of those things instead of using lewd language, would the media be brimming with outrage about the process? Does the public not have a right to know the seriousness and depth of those charges, true or not? Would the nation have been better off not knowing who said what?

As a country we demand to know all the facts all the time. When we don't get that opportunity, as is often the case, speculation runs rampant. We're still trying to fill in the gaps in the Kennedy assassination and the Iran-contra affair. In the Thomas case, the facts as presented are there for everyone to judge, not just a few white men in a closed room.

How can this be defiling?

If Hill had been less graphic but just as specific, the cry for privacy would not have been as loud. Public figures around the country are accused of much worse behavior than Thomas almost every night on the news, but Americans aren't affronted. It is somehow unseemly to admit part of the fascination of the hearings were the portions that titillate.

There are plenty of things that happen every day that ought to affront America: the murder rate in urban areas, the deficit crisis, the lack of affordable housing, the paucity of leadership instead of the surplus of partisanship. All these things should outrage the country, but they don't. All of these things defile the nation.

Some people are embarrassed by naughty language being beamed into their homes. The language is harsh, but the charges are serious. If a few dirty words are what it takes to affront the populace, then we have been walking around too long with our hands over our ears.

Lee Horwich is editor of the Howard County Sun.

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