The View From Here – It is not social progress if changes in social attitudes are used to extract revenge

Tom Henihan

When someone offends a public figure should that be a matter of public concern?

When a private citizen is offended, he or she must deal with it in private. When a politician takes umbrage, they tend to make the matter a platform for public discourse and look for redress in a public way.

As a result, issues that should be resolved in the moment, and in most reasonable circumstances would only take a moment to resolve, are drawn out and belaboured in public.

Is this what we want from our political representatives? It appears, that every time a politician experiences an emotional hangnail it becomes a cause célèbre, as they, being public figures, assume that all their personal issues are potentially important public issues.

On December 4, Sherry Romanado, a liberal MP from Quebec stood in the House of Commons to say that comments made to her by James Bezan, a Conservative MP from Manitoba, were humiliating and sexual in nature.

“In May, the member from Selkirk-Interlake -Eastman, publicly made inappropriate, humiliating and unwanted comments to me that were sexual in nature,” Romanado said, “These comments have caused me great stress and have negatively affected my work environment.”

In spite of Bezan having risen in the House earlier the same day to offer an apology to Ramanado, an apology he had attempted to make numerous times over the intervening months, Romanado remained intransigent.

“While standing for a picture, I made an inappropriate and flippant comment by saying, ’This isn’t my idea of a threesome,’ which was intended as a partisan comment about being in a photo with a Liberal member of caucus,” Bezan said. “I realized that this comment was inappropriate and attempted to apologize the following day but was not afforded that opportunity.”

That Bezan’s comments were adolescent and inappropriate is beyond dispute and Bezan has said as much in his effort to apologize. That the Bezan’s comment was severely traumatic and the source of enduring negative repercussions is certainly questionable.

While no transgression should be minimized, it is also morally and ethically important to keep things in proportion to avoid damaging someone’s personal reputation and compromising their careers. Those who attempt to exploit a minor infraction in such an implausible and far-reaching way should also be held to account.

Besides, making such an extravagant display over such a minor infraction detracts from the genuine grievances of women who are the victims of sexual assault and those who have suffered the stress and humiliation of being deliberately and systematically objectified.

In Ramanos case, an apology was called for and Bezan was prompt when offering that apology. That Sherry Romanado would not accept his apology for such a venial offence seems calculated and extremely unforgiving.

What will become of society if men and women in public and professional life are continually mired in a spirit of animus on opposite sides of the proverbial line in the sand?

Progress needs to be made where those in positions of authority can no longer infringe verbally or physically on women and do so with impunity.

However, if a man has his reputation and his career destroyed due to an inappropriate remark, then that progress has been taken to another extreme and is in danger of being poisoned by vengeance.

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