HOW WILL REPUBLICAN SENATORS TREAT MR. KAVANAUGH'S ACCUSER
Emergence, Watercolor, 21.5” x 29.5”, Richard J Van Wagoner, 1995, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
Why Didn't You Say Something Sooner?
After burying women beneath mounds of dirt, sand, garbage and feces, mystified men who exploit the age-old power disparity ask, "why didn't you come forward sooner?" And then, the pile-on continues. I do not blame the accuser for this "last minute" revelation, although it became "last minute" only because Senators McConnell and Grassley arbitrarily set and rushed the clock. If Senator Feinstein is to be believed, she should have honored Ms. Ford's wishes due to what may end up being relentless re-victimization, (see above), or had the judgment to submit the letter to the FBI much earlier. But here we are.
If Ms. Ford testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee, we may witness an assassination similar to that of Anita Hill, carried out by some of the same assassins. I hope not. I hope some of those old men have learned something from recent events discussed below, but given their support for Mr. Trump and Mr. Moore, I suspect not. I want to believe this can be done in a more respectful and dignified way for Ms. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh so the truth can come out with appropriate consequences. My guess, however, this will end up a "she said/he said" with two very credible witnesses. Does any corroboration exist? Will the Judge sit, or has he sat, for a polygraph? In the end, the vote will likely be no different, but we will never know.
Kelly, Oil on Masonite, 16" x 18.5", Richard J. Van Wagoner, Circa 1968, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
The #MeToo phenomenon did not expose the power disparity or the fact of sexual exploitation of others, primarily women, by those in power over them, primarily men. Was anyone really surprised to learn that entitled men might condition another’s entry into (or advancement in) a career on “giving it up”? Was anyone shocked to learn that such men just start kissing or grabbing ‘em, or open their robes, or grope ‘em, or walk in on teenage girls in various stages of undress, or rape 'em, or demand some form of sexual quid pro quo in exchange for pretty much anything (beyond, of course, the rapture of having been “chosen” to be used by such an important, sexually desirable man). Okay, the image of a powerful predator masturbating in front of his unwilling
prey caught me a little by surprise. Sadly, however, I’m quite confident folks aren’t all that startled by sexual exploitation’s prevalence or by the names on the rapidly growing list of alleged and confessed predators and perpetrators.
What was the tipping point? What event or shift has allowed this movement not only to gain traction but to begin what most everyone, except the exploiters and their enablers, hopes will be a meaningful redistribution of power? How did the threat become sufficiently existential to force this avalanche of outings, this deluge of terminations and resignations, leaves of absence and separations, denials, apologies and, of course, boards of directors running for cover (but only after checking on their D & O coverage)?
My vote is the Hollywood Access “just start kissing ‘em, grab ‘em by the pussy” video. It’s about the only thing Trump’s done that’s resulted in a positive outcome, other than the firing of Director Comey which resulted in the Mueller investigation. As Alec Baldwin’s Trump said last night on SNL, Harvey Weinstein could have survived the scandal if he’d been elected president.
Hollywood Access struck and suddenly women he’d “allegedly” victimized in a manner consistent with his blunt self-description (and with whom he had no confidentiality agreement) began revealing their experiences. C’mon, the women’s logic went, Trump’s was a blatant admission, an explicit depiction, and the world would believe them. Right? Trump, of course, labeled them liars, denied it all, denounced one woman as not sufficiently attractive to have aroused his proclivities toward sexual assault, claimed he was the victim of the quickly growing coven of women who simply wanted their 15 minutes, women who targeted him for his fame and money. He would, of course, sue them for defamation. Standard strategy, mechanisms for the powerful to silence the powerless. And it almost worked.
The feigned outrage from the right (think Chaffetz) began. You may recall how these faux-righteous men politicized the event, protested their self-purity, invoked chauvinistic responsibility as protectors of the weaker sex, announced their inability to look daughters, wives and sisters in the eye were they (our faux-righteous protectors) to continue supporting a predator who should, given the details of his own description, be included on the national sex-offender registry.
Untitled, Watercolor, 10" x 8", Richard J Van Wagoner, Date Unknown, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
Posturing included, Trump’s Access Hollywood moment was a flash in the pan for the right, particularly because it was not a flash in the pan for the left. The outrage from the left, including or especially the Hollywood left, was raucous and unrelenting. The choice remained, however, Trump or Hillary: better anyone else, even a “Republican” sexual predator, in the White House than Satan (viz., Russian Bots). Problems from the right continued, however. Fox News. Big payoffs. What was buried in those SEC filings? What was being kept from investors?
Trump’s election in the face of Hollywood Access may have crossed the Rubicon for victims across many demographics. The offensiveness of Trump’s blunt admissions, the growing number of accusers, the unfolding Fox News disasters. Late-night television and social media kept it alive. All of this gave victims permission, strength in numbers, courage that they could be heard and would not simply be re-victimized or black-listed by the powerful and their enablers. Some of the predatory conduct had escaped confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements. So it started. When an alleged predator (a perpetrator whose conduct approximated what Trump boasted he had done and was entitled to do) arrived from the left, from inside the highest ranks of Hollywood, legitimate news organizations reported. So did Fox News, of course. Social media went nuts. Late-night television kept after it. Left-leaning people decided that exposing, confronting and addressing such reprehensible conduct, after having just castigated such behavior on the right, was the higher value.
Hundreds of voices in unison and union. A chorus against power that, as it turns out, created the necessary existential threat, thanks in part to Hollywood Access, Russian Bots Against Satan Hillary, and the left’s enduring outrage by the election of a sexual predator. I hope it sustains.
Untitled, Watercolor, 7.5" x 4.5", Richard J Van Wagoner, Date Unknown, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
Maybe my favorite was Jr.’s attack on Democrats who received contributions from alleged sexual predator Harvey Weinstein and the ensuing Twitter colloquy between him and Jimmy Kimmel. Look it up. I suspect it gave victims an additional boost. (Hint, Trump has a history not only of sexual predatory conduct but of contributing to Democrats.)
Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Bill O’Reilly, Ben Affleck, Andy Dick, David Guillod, Dustin Hoffman, Terry Richardson, Roy Price, Mark Halperin, Michael Oreskes, George H.W. Bush, Lockhart Steele, Chris Savino, Andy Signore, John Besh, Cosmo Goss, Rupert Myers, Tyler Grasham, Leon Wieseltier, Robert Scoble, Andrew Kramer, Matt Mondanile, Ethan Kath, Knight Landesman . . . .
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com
**My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father's work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father's art reproduced in lastamendment.com are hers.