An Open Letter to Al Franken

(Written after sexual harassment allegations were lodged against the Senator)

Dear Senator Franken –

I wanted to write to you directly, partly as a way to deal with my internal conflict. You don’t know me – I am like many of your constituents – a progressive liberal, a feminist, believer in “small d” democracy, usually a “big D” Democrat voter, a long-time Minnesotan. Unlike many women in the U.S., I have not been sexually assaulted or the victim of sexual harassment. I am not an expert in rape culture. I am an observer of society and someone with opinions.

Let’s say that you are like a big brother to me.

I’ve been unsettled the last few weeks, since the Weinstein allegations came flooding in, and Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, Roy Moore. I haven’t forgotten about the women who have accused the President of assault, though many seem to have.

When I’m thinking rationally, and not outraged and wanting to send all these pigs to a desert island I’ve been asking myself: “When will someone who I really truly like and admire be accused of harassment or assault?” Someone who’s not a celebrity I don’t care about that much (sorry, Kevin Spacey), or someone who has so many other rotten qualities that I’d like them to burn in hell (not sorry, Roy Moore and Trump).  “What if it was a family member or friend?” We know that sexual assault is pervasive, that it’s been hidden and excused. We know that women make excuses for men, that women are afraid to come forward. For every one of the thousands of women bravely proclaiming “me too”, we know that there is a man (its mostly, but not all, men) who could be admitting “yes it was me. I did it.”

It’s natural for all of us to think “Who else do I know?” And, “Do good men do bad things?”

On Thursday it happened. And it was you. Granted, you’re not a family member or close personal friend, but it felt like a kick in the gut nonetheless.

My gut sometimes speaks very loudly, and now it is saying to me “Al Franken is not a pig. He did something piggish and disgusting and wrong and inapproriate. But he is a good human. Donald Trump IS a pig. Roy Moore IS a pig (or worse)”. You did something piggish, but are you a pig? I don’t think so. (I hope you don’t prove me wrong.) (And please, no offense to pigs)

What I’m saying is that I don’t think you should resign. I will give you a second chance. Why?

  • You acknowledged what happened, apologized, and your apology was accepted.
  • You have been working tirelessly for the people of Minnesota.
  • You have been fighting back against the damage this administration is inflicting – I watch you grill Jeff Sessions and shout at my computer “go Al!”

And I, with many people I know, take extreme comfort in knowing that you are in the Senate. I say extreme comfort not to exaggerate your importance, but these are extreme times. Extremely trying times.

  • You can learn, and you can change.
  • I know that you’re a good human.

I’m not going to shy away from “what-about-ism”. Every circumstance is different, the world is grey, not black and white, and everything sits somewhere on a continuum. I won’t question the motive of the woman involved, like some have. But the man in the White House (the White House!) who was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault, and who has been accused by 16 women of assault? A pattern, not a one-time lapse. No acknowledgement. No apology. And the man who is an accused pedophile, who is “this far” from being elected to the senate? A pattern, not a one-time lapse. No acknowledgement. No apology.

These things are not the same. I am not going to allow a “false equivalency”, and neither should you.

But what am I asking? First, I have to assume this was a one-time lapse, an error in judgment, a bone-headed move by a guy (knucklehead) who grew up in comedy and who was rewarded for being a raunchy kind of funny. If we find out it was a pattern, well then, bye-bye.

And I’m asking that you learn and change, and that you help other men learn and change. Seriously, we can’t kick every man out of his job. And won’t our society be better off if men actually learn and change?

I’m asking that you apply what you’ve learned to your position in the Senate. You need to fight to get our country back, which includes fighting to change the culture that got you into the mess you’re currently in.

And to anyone reading this, and I’m sure there are many who disagree with me – this may sound like I’m making excuses. I’m really not, but I’m also a realist. Situations are different, people are different, if our society is going to change, we have to acknowledge this fact. Patriarchy and capitalism are systems that impact all of us, women included, and we each and all have to do the work of de-cluttering our imaginations and interactions.

And to Democratic party leadership – for once, please, set aside your moral authority, get off your high horse, and support your colleague. Our country is in trouble, we have a pussy-grabber in the White House, and if anyone needs to lose a job, it’s him. Work on that why don’t you.

But Al my brother, you’re on notice. Please don’t let us down.

© Rebecca Larson 2017

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