Hola, kith, kin and world … last time I was here, we were in the middle of a #MeToo moment … and we still are. In case you missed it, This American Life just ran a stunning interview with LaDonna Powell, the woman who blew the whistle loudest on a firm called Allied Universal Security. Check it out at https://www.thisamericanlife.org/647/ladonna or https://www.thisamericanlife.org/647/transcript. Her story broke first in NYC last fall — and it is a pretty uglyone. As NPR picked it up this spring, a harassment lawsuit had just been filed..
The story makes you want never to fly again … since Allied staffs most of the airport security you might encounter — like from New York City, where the story broke, to LA, and everything in between. But wait, Allied also serves (or in a particularly icky terminology of their own, “services”) college campuses, chemical facilities, and just about anything else you can think of.
So in case we think this #MeToo issue is anywhere near getting resolved … well, at least one big company has been hauled into court for looking the other way while its employees were — to quote the headlines — “forced to watch sex romps” and “harassed and forced to quit.”
At the end of the interview, Ms. Powell was asked if it made her feel empowered that her harassers had been called to account. Not surprisingly, she said no.
Indeed: Her job is gone, her peace of mind with it, a whole life she had built for herself. And worst of all, perhaps, she is just one of many. Because a big (huge?) company like Allied knows that it can always find someone else to do the job. And they do. Routinely. And it all blows over.
You know what I call it? Persecution. Persecution of the people of our culture, our nation, our world who have the least to gain and the most to lose. Minorities,whether of race, gender, nationality, ethnicity, economics, you name it. Anyone without the luxury of the material resources or the time — or the political or social clout — to fight injustice when it happens to them or someone they care about.
Persecution. Institutionalized persecution. And it applies not only to women who have been and are being routinely sexually harassed at the workplace, though some of those women are the ones who’ve put #MeToo on the map.
It applies to everyone from the children being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, even when their parents actually have a legal right to be there — everyone from those children right on up to the NFL players who “took the knee.”
You think I’m veering off into the deep weeds here? Think about it. My ancestors and a bunch of yours too, probably, came to this country fleeing religious or political persecution, virtual economic slavery, or a host of other injustices.
And persecution is what it’s about here today, at the hands of powerful institutions including some of our own “American” governments, from the federal level on down.
And by the way, in conclusion, anyone who thinks kneeling is a sign of rebellion or disrespect needs to read Elizabeth Bruenig’s “The NFL fumbles on kneeling” in the Washington Post:
Kneeling during the anthem was always a kind of plea — for an America that works the way the civics textbooks say it does. But making the plea raises the fact that America doesn’t, in fact, function according to its founding story … Some are protected more than others, and some better than others, and some at the expense of others, and it isn’t clear that our representative bodies are interested in doing anything about it. All Colin Kaepernick and others ever did was ask.
You can find it at http://thewashingtonpost.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx.
So time, like a river, has rushed past me since last fall, as family and friends dealt with some health issues — we’re better now, thanks, all OK — and so … and so you get a twofer.
Onward … and, as I always say (T.S. Eliot, “Dry Salvages”), Not farewell, but fare forward.