I don’t know if Roy Moore is guilty of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl years ago. I don’t know if any of the men who have recently been accused of rape, harassment, assault, or molestation are guilty, except for those who have admitted it, of course. For some, the evidence is stacked pretty high, but I still don’t know if they’re guilty, and neither do you.
My purpose here is not to defend predators or to pretend like men aren’t capable of great evil. They are. As are women. But in this Salem-like witch hunt of sexual abusers, we are losing sight of a core principle that sets America apart from barbaric nations: Each one of us is innocent until proven guilty.
While I want to hold all people to account for their crimes, I do not want to become so blinded by my own fear and lust for vengeance that I stop seeing the humanity in others and the rights they have as citizens of this great nation. To allow accusation, allegation, rumor, and innuendo to rip people from their jobs and drive them from the circles of respectable society is to allow for mobs to rule with torches and pitchforks.
I am particularly concerned by this increasing cascade of accusations leveled against men in positions of power, because it is set against a backdrop of political hostility and cultural animus toward men in general. Again, this is not a defense of the guilty or even a criticism of those who want to take steps to bring the guilty to account — legally. But we must realize that how we are going about it is uncivilized and threatens to rip apart the fabric of trust that is essential in holding the civil society together.
We already have a culture that is anti-man. Masculinity is dubbed “toxic.” Men on college campuses are fighting for their right of due process. Men aren’t allowed their own spaces without being called sexists. Boys in schools aren’t allowed to be boys.
I recently heard from friend whose son elbowed a girl in the rear while on the bus, because she kicked him between the legs. He was written up for sexual harassment. He’s seven! That’s right, SEVEN! He was punished. She wasn’t.
If we are now going to demand that men lose their livelihood and reputations because they have their names placed on an “abuser list,” if we’re going to begin treating mere news reports, second-hand stories, and unsubstantiated allegations as fact, then we might as well admit that we are no longer a free and civilized nation. We are a nation ruled by a mob that wants instant verdicts in the court of public opinion, instant action, and instant punishment.
Instead, we need to stop acting like children and slow down. Let processes work. Investigate instead of accuse. Consider instead of condemn. Let justice rule instead of vengeance. Otherwise, we all lose. If the rights of the few are sacrificed to feed the mob, the rights of the many will follow.
Innocence must be cherished and accusers must not be treated as if they’re infallible, their word immediately becoming judge, jury, and executioner. The assumption of innocence must remain of greater value than the passions of the plaintiff.
“Is the accuser always holy now?” Arthur Miller writes in The Crucible. “Were they born this morning as clean as God’s fingers? I’ll tell you what’s walking Salem — vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!”