Sadly, Eric Schneiderman’s Downfall Says More About Who We Are As A People Than Who He Is

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nick lan / Flickr 05 Eric Schneiderman...
nick lan / Flickr

The sound of conservative crowing is deafening today as right wingers contentedly cluck about liberal hypocrisy in the wake of the sudden changing of the guard in the New York Attorney General’s office from Eric Schneiderman to ”intimidatingly smart” Barbara Underwood. As usual, the meshes of the alt right mind are too coarse to perceive anything other than partisan pettiness from Schneiderman’s self destruction, and gloat about a skirmish that they believe they’ve won. In point of fact, Schneiderman’s fall from grace is the story about how we’ve all lost.  It speaks to the issue of institutional sexism which is so ingrained in our society as to be baked into the very DNA of our culture. Like the air, it’s invisible yet all pervasive, affecting us in ways that we are not even aware of. One writer who is keenly aware of the truth embodied in Schneiderman’s demise is Charles Pierce at Esquire:

The downfall of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman completes the unholy trinity of prominent liberal New York politicians whose careers went into the acid bath because, at one level or another, they failed to see women as actual human beings. Eliot Spitzer got involved with a prostitution ring. Anthony Weiner used women as sounding boards for his own pleasure. And Schneiderman, allegedly, physically assaulted his romantic partners. And, in this, again, political pundits learn the lesson that gets drummed into every sportswriter over and over: none of us really know these guys.

Hero worship among sportswriters is annoying, but largely harmless and, besides, there’s always someone who doesn’t buy into it. Hero worship in our politics, however, is a dangerous business. The search for the person on a white horse is an open invitation to counterfeit engagement and artificial activism. The impact of celebrity on our politics has been devastating enough; see the current tenant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for details. It’s a by-product of the constant calls for “leadership” among our political class, many of which are simple appeals for someone—anyone!—to remove the burdens of citizenship and self-government from our shoulders. And that has worked far too well.

Wanting to remove the burdens of citizenship and self-government from our own narrow shoulders and onto the broad ones of some heroic (male) figure is also the recipe for burgeoning fascism and you may also footnote to the current tenant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for details on that topic as well. Bolshevik revolutionary Ilya Ehrenburg said, “Fascism is attracting the dregs of humanity, sadists, mental freaks and traitors,” and this we have seen Trump’s deplorables before in history. Adolf Hitler was a failed painter and his coterie was made up of failed journalists, academians, you name it. Failure and fascism go hand in glove and misogyny is also a key factor in any fascist regime:

The image of woman as inferior to man can be traced back to Antiquity. Ever since then her existence has been viewed in terms of her utility to men. Women have been perceived as performers of an auxiliary function that sought to facilitate man’s life and provide him with comfort (mainly in the private space) as well as provide him with pleasure.
Plato, for instance, pondered the question of whether women had a soul. Furthermore, his disciple Aristotle, while reflecting on her role in society defined woman as inferior to men both on a physical and on a moral level. He argued that female inferiority was as innate and an incontrovertible consequence of the laws of nature that condemned women to a subaltern position only mitigated by her indispensable contribution to the propagation of the human species.
In the western tradition this negative vision of the female condition as inferior, instead of being attenuated and eventually abrogated was by contrast corroborated and propagated after being additionally nourished by the conservative and ultra reactionary ideology that the Church and Christianity approved. This antifeminist perspective cemented in western culture for centuries has served as a fertile soil for the birth and development of anti-egalitarian and anti-democratic regimes such as Mussolini’s dictatorship.
That describes the basic soil that Schneiderman and the rest of us were born into. Pierce’s article goes on to reveal that one of Schneiderman’s girlfriends was persuaded to keep silent about the assault because Schneiderman was “too valuable.” Of course, as a man, we must make sure he’s protected and if he savages women, who is supposed to protect them? We don’t seem to have a very good answer to that question in this culture. It is an automatic, knee jerk reaction to default to the “boys will be boys” mantra and let the guy get away with it, whatever it is, every single time.

[…] Schneiderman’s original statement—that he was engaged in consensual rough sex—was, shall we say, inadequate. (He also allegedly used the considerable power of his office to threaten his victims into silence. Jesus, what a goon.)  His swift resignation was more than justified and his disappearance from the ongoing drama of this presidency, while unfortunate, is wholly appropriate. He should’ve been in jail years ago.

Instead, for the purposes of this story, we should focus on one small slice of the account.

After the former girlfriend ended the relationship, she told several friends about the abuse. A number of them advised her to keep the story to herself, arguing that Schneiderman was too valuable a politician for the Democrats to lose. She described this response as heartbreaking. And when Schneiderman heard that she had turned against him, she said, he warned her that politics was a tough and personal business, and that she’d better be careful. She told Selvaratnam that she had taken this as a threat.

Who in the hell counsels a friend to hush up a violent assault on these grounds? My politics are as important to me as anyone’s are but if, say, Sherrod Brown came and burglarized your house, I wouldn’t tell you to let him keep your jewelry because we need him to save Social Security. (Note to Senator Brown: I do not believe you are a cat burglar.) This is turning your politics into a graven image, a golden calf of the soul. Believe it or not, there are some things that politics ought not to touch. Physical abuse of any kind is high on that list.

As Pierce so correctly pointed out, we don’t really know these guys. However, we do know guys in general and unfortunately, in this culture, and I’m talking world culture now and for millennia, a woman is simply not as human as a man. Black men were once valued at 3/5 of that of a white man not so long ago in this country, and women are at about that mark, or possibly even lower. The female is an accessory, not an individual; she is the side dish to the main course that is the male.

The #metoo movement has caused one hell of a spontaneous consciousness raising about women’s rights at this point in history and it’s.about.time.

 

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