A Quintessential Lesser Evil

By Mark E. Smith

 July 27, 2013   |Fubar and Grill|

Recently elected San Diego Mayor, former Democratic Congressman Bob Filner, is now under great pressure to resign due to complaints by several women he has harassed. These include female members of his administration and some of his biggest female supporters. Bob, it seems, has been grabbing and groping women every chance he got, often in public. It is likely that he has been doing this for his entire career without anyone saying a word, but then there were fewer women in power and he was younger. Filner has apologized and will be going for therapy, but one lawsuit has already been filed against him and calls for his resignation haven’t stopped.

Bob is definitely a lesser evil when it comes to politicians, and although I don’t vote, I was happy to see him elected. In a country where another Black person is killed by the cops almost daily and Congress hasn’t seen fit to do anything about it, Bob stands out for not being racist. He was a Freedom Rider when he was young, has many Black people on his staff, and was the only white Member of Congress to stand with the Congressional Black Caucus when they were trying to block the fraudulent Florida electoral vote in the 2000 Presidential race.

Bob cares deeply about veterans, immigrants, the poor, and the homeless, and has done much to help everyone he could. And unlike many politicians, his sexual targets were adults rather than children. Bob has a well deserved reputation for listening to people and for attending every possible local event that he can. I recall very few progressive events where Bob wasn’t in attendance. I remember when I went to hear Congressman John Lewis speak here and Bob, remembering my face and assuming that I’d like to meet Lewis and shake his hand, came over to my table to ensure I got that opportunity.

But Bob hasn’t always cast the predicted progressive vote. Sometimes he’s had to cave to pressure from his party and vote against his values. Less often than others, but sometimes.

Bob, like all politicians, is a flawed human being. He has obviously been corrupted by power, taking it for granted that the right to grope women was one of his privileged perks. But then, until recently, everyone else made the same assumption.

If Bob is forced to resign, our next Mayor will probably be much worse. That’s the nature of politics in the USA–you get a greater evil or a lesser evil, but you always get evil. Not even a saint could resist the corrupting influence of power in a system that is as inherently corrupt as ours.

Although some say that therapy doesn’t work, I think that in Bob’s case it will be extremely effective. I think he was taken by surprise when his normal behavior suddenly became unacceptable and that he will, now that he understands the problem, adapt accordingly. Given time, I’d expect that even some of the women he humiliated will see that he has changed and be willing to accept his apologies and return to his administration. Flawed as he is, the real estate developers who run San Diego aren’t going to allow anyone better to be elected, and we could do a lot worse.

As an anarchist, I see government itself as an unequal distribution of power and therefore unacceptable. And as an election boycott advocate, I won’t vote no matter who is running or what is at stake. But as lesser evils go, Bob is really as good as it gets.

Another Reason for the Filner Problem

Women who have attained high places in politics, business, or the military, usually keep silent with regard to the sexual harassment they experience. This is due to a well founded fear of retaliation. Bob Filner is the one guy they knew for sure would apologize instead of retaliating. For once they had nothing to fear.

Nothing to Hide

If Bob Filner had felt that his behavior towards women was unacceptable, he wouldn’t have been so public about it.

Back in Bob’s day, open sexual harassment of women was prevalent among male leftist and progressive leaders and admitted to openly by some Black Panthers.

Bob, being young and anti-establishment, would have fit in well as one of the boys.

Later on, of course, as a Member of Congress, his behavior was eclipsed by the behavior of pedophiles, rapists, and even murderers in politics. Compared to those who openly advocated US policy of murdering millions of innocent children in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc., Bob was practically a saint. He didn’t lie, didn’t take bribes, and while he certainly did like the women, he wasn’t caught up in any of the big scandals involving prostitutes, interns, or sex in the office. He had wandering hands, but women who objected weren’t likely to get caught near him more than once.

Times have changed. Nobody now would say that the place for women in the movement is prone, or that women aren’t meant to be in positions of power. Well, some right-wingers would, but they’re dinosaurs. And at 70, so is Bob. What is amusing from a young, attractive man isn’t as funny when done by a 70-year-old. And there has been a lot of feminist consciousness raising, so women today are more apt to resist and stick together instead of just writing off anyone who complains as overly sensitive, lacking a sense of humor, or not being a team player. The women who supported Bob’s political career really didn’t expect him to show his gratitude by acting like a drunken frat boy.

Bob’s out of Congress and almost into the real world now. A couple of weeks of therapy should allow him time to get a grasp on the new reality and get rid of some old habits that no longer serve him well.

Bob Filner is a do-gooder. He wants to help and he wants to be liked. If statists hadn’t been so respectful of power and authority, they’d have called him out decades ago. They didn’t because they needed him. And the reason his behavior was tolerated was because he usually came through. Now he needs them and he deserves a different kind of respect including blunt honesty and tough love.

I don’t feel much sympathy for the women who claim that they didn’t come forward earlier, or aren’t coming forward now due to the potential damage to their reputations and careers. I worked for the government for a short time, and I recall business meetings where the few women invited aggressively kissed and hugged every male present to establish that they weren’t lesbians and were good team players. I was alone in thinking that such behavior was inappropriate to government business meetings and should be reserved for hotel rooms afterward. The women initiated the physical interactions because they knew that if they didn’t they were unlikely to be invited again and might not even keep their jobs. This was the Tailhook days, remember? We had several spies who escaped detection because their polygraphers were more interested in discovering whether or not they were homosexual than in finding out if they were selling secrets to our enemies. National security questions weren’t even asked–if a guy made a few sexist remarks he would pass with flying colors as a bona fide sexist and therefore a patriot.

The United States has many problems apart from sexism and racism, but we are not yet in a post-sexist or post-racist age. Women and people of color are still a tiny minority in high places, and most such tokens are happy to vote for wars of aggression based on lies, and for the elimination of civil rights, as a way to demonstrate their political party loyalty and repay the corporations that put them in power.

Populist politicians are rare. Sure we have a Bernie Sanders, a John Conyers, a Barbara Lee, and a Maxine Waters, but put all of them together and they still don’t have enough votes to pass a fart in Congress, no less push through any legislation. Look at Ron Paul, the supposed Libertarian, who managed during his 30 years in Congress to get only one bill passed, designating a customs house as a historical monument.

California is leading edge in some ways. We have two female Senators. Both are war hawks, but they are undeniably female. We’re probably going to have a female President in 2016, who will be responsible for rolling back women’s rights in ways that no male would ever dare, just as our first Black President has rolled back civil rights and embarked on the total recolonization of Africa. But San Diego is still a backwater in other ways. We have a Registrar of Voters who represented Diebold and an Assistant Registrar of voters who stated publicly that elections officials who manipulate the ballots so that the mandatory recount will match the machine count, aren’t doing anything wrong. It took three elections to keep Donna Frye from becoming Mayor, and if it had taken sixty elections, the business interests (in Russian, the word businessman means gangster) who run this town would still have found a way to keep her out.

This is San Diego. This is the town where only last year, on the 100th anniversary of the date when vigilantes ran Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman out of town for saying that if elections could change anything, they’d be made illegal, we saw the neo-vigilantes of Occupy San Diego, the Democrats, the Greens, the Libertarians, and the Socialists stand on that hallowed spot and praise the Suffragettes while diligently registering voters.

Sure Filner’s behavior is unacceptable now, but it was perfectly acceptable last month. The women who should have come forward were more concerned with their careers than with what they’d had to put up with to get where they were. Only once they had the numbers to ensure that their careers might survive, did they come forward to accuse the most progressive Mayor we’ve ever had of what he’d been doing all along. I don’t blame them, but I don’t blame Bob either. When you run for office or vote in this country, you’re making a deal with the devil–you’re becoming part of the most evil superpower to ever ravage the planet. Of course you believe that you’ll be able to change the system from within, despite the fact that such a thing has never happened, and everyone is still entitled to their belief, if not to their privacy, security, or freedom.

When Bob announced his candidacy for Mayor, he told us that he’d had very little power in Congress and thought that he might have more power as a city Mayor. The reason he had little power in Congress is that power corrupts and he wasn’t corrupt enough to achieve more power.

Well, voters have short memories. If they didn’t, once the Supreme Court announced that their votes didn’t even have to be counted, they’d have stopped voting.

Filner’s case reminds me of Julian Assange. When the US government wanted Assange, two different Swedish women invited him to their homes, had consensual sex with him, and then the Swedish government issued a warrant for his arrest. If there’s no hidden agenda here, how did Filner’s accusers happen to get close enough to him to be grabbed when they were within his closest circle and had to have known he was a grabber?

This is not a sex scandal. I suspect it is the San Diego political machine trying to get rid of a Mayor who won’t go along to get along and substitute one who is more obedient like Busby or Weiner.

That said, I don’t vote, I didn’t vote for Filner, and I have nothing to feel guilty about. No action of mine did anything to empower and thereby corrupt anyone.

For those who haven’t already, I suggest reading the five essays in my book, Consent to Tyranny: Voting in the USA, posted on this website for free http://fubarandgrill.org/node/1431 (also available for those who prefer e-books on amazon for a dollar). If you’re really concerned about sexual harassment, you’d care about the epidemic of rape in our military, and the horrific sexual predations that homeless women in San Diego experience, not just that some very important women were groped by the guy they’d put in power.

Filner is a sort of Don Quixote, tilting at windmills. He wants to help the homeless by being part of a system that creates more homeless all the time at a rate much faster than they can be helped. But if he is forced out, his replacement isn’t likely to be that impractical. Bob has a dream. But the women who shared that dream either couldn’t confront him about his behavior or felt that the dream was more important. Something changed, but it wasn’t Bob. Two weeks of therapy should be enough to wean him off Viagra and get his mind back to the dream. Sure, it’s only a dream, but without the dream all we have left is cops killing Blacks and beating protesters, whistleblowers being tortured, poisons in our food, the biggest torture gulag in the world, warrantless spying, drone bombs killing innocent kids every day, and more troops committing suicide than dying in combat. We have a government fighting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere, while supporting and arming Al Qaeda in Syria, the same Al Qaeda we originally recruited, trained, armed and funded to fight the Russians. And we have Russia protecting a US whistleblower our government calls a traitor for telling us what the government is doing. National security means that we’re not supposed to know what our government is doing, which is why we have elections instead of a voice in government and why the few Members of Congress allowed to see classified materials aren’t permitted to tell their colleagues, no less their constituents, what they’ve learned.

For there to be democracy, there must be an informed electorate. We have neither. We have fools like Filner and women who have kept silent all their lives about all the sexual harassment they and their colleagues have endured from truly arrogant bastards in government and the military, suddenly deciding that they won’t take it anymore and unloading on a guy who never meant to hurt anyone and really didn’t know any better. If he had, he wouldn’t have been as casual and open as he always was. Unlike most in politics, Filner really believed that he had nothing to hide.


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