MANSFIELD: Hysteria: Remembering Salem and McMartin Preschool

 

The most fitting example of the phrase “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” is manifested in the ever-widening priest sex abuse scandals that have roiled the Catholic Church for decades and promises to continue to do so for decades to come. The depth of deception engaged in by church leaders correlates closely to the length of time priests have been allowed to have their way with faithful followers of all ages — and both sexes. This abuse literally has been going on in some dark corners of the church for centuries — and many individuals are culpable for its continuation and cover-up. They simply had to know.

Coming hard on the heels of the Penn State scandal involving Jerry Sandusky’s conviction for molesting boys he was coaching and supposedly mentoring, rumblings of credible allegations began to be heard in the entertainment and media industries regarding powerful men abusing their positions to entice, cajole, coerce, force — and in some cases, drug — women in order to take advantage of them sexually.

Just as disturbing, once again, a Supreme Court nominee is being charged with inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature at a confirmation hearing, and once again the accuser is far more believable than the accused. Also, once again aspersions are being cast on the accuser.

It’s past time that “ol’ boy networks” — no matter if they comprise priests, politicians, producers, studio heads or famous personalities — are permanently dismantled and the participants called to account for their actions, up to and including those individuals that occupy the highest offices in the land. Justice demands no less.

However, my overarching concern is the inherent weakness of our criminal justice system, something that I’ve been writing about on and off for years. Is it up to the task of seeking out the truth and then acting on those findings in an unbiased manner? Rumors have persisted for years that the FBI had receipts from a video store near Clarence Thomas’ residence that showed he rented pornography many nights of the week. But the evidence was withheld during his confirmation hearings. Of course, if that rumor was true and the receipts had been introduced into evidence, they would have bolstered Anita Hill’s testimony and in all probability derailed Thomas’ chances of being approved for a seat on the court by the full Senate.

Nonetheless, just as much as I want the whole truth to come out in Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings (the temperament he displayed during questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee alone should disqualify him from being appointed to the highest court in the land), I also don’t want the day to be carried on the back of false accusations. Passions are running high, but the only acceptable way to block his nomination is with the truth.

These are dangerous times and we have to be careful and recall our nation’s past, going all the way back to the Salem Witchcraft Trials in 1692. Also, the McMartin Preschool trail of the 1980s set off waves of hysterical accusations against preschool teachers across the country — virtually all of them eventually proven false — that ruined many lives and reputations in the process. And I can guarantee you that all of the folks that were calling for the heads of suspected child molesters at these schools felt deep down in their hearts they were in the right.

I want the real truth to come out against Brett Kavanaugh, just as I want all of the sexual predators that have been ruining women’s lives to be held strictly accountable. What I don’t want is for society to devolve to the point that we begin to engage in a latter-day witch hunt for sexual predators that don’t exist. Based off of our past this is something we Americans seemingly are prone to do if we’re not careful.

From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.

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