Roy Moore, #MeToo and The Who
“Right behind you, I see the millions, on you I see the glory, from you I get opinions, from you I get the story.”
The Who’s Tommy, 1969.
5:30 is early but here I sit ruminating over a recent conversation with a friend. A courageous woman who has recently reclaimed her ability to speak about being molested as a child. Through her healing she has become a new woman, and I am proud of her. She surprised me last night by saying she was watching a video of various reactions to Roy Moore’s accusers. A group standing by Moore as “innocent until proven guilty” yet rushing to judgment of his accusers as liars or paid pawns in a political game.
I was surprised when she told me that I inspired her to try to hear various sides to the story, to try to understand the attitude or culture that would produce such excuse making. Ironic, as I have not been able to follow this story myself.
My mind builds it’s own wall on this controversy, getting stuck on the score from The Who’s Tommy, a rock opera about a boy who witnesses a murder when his father returns home from the war, where it was presumed he perished. Tommy’s father kills his mother’s boyfriend in front of him after a scuffle erupts between the two men. The grown ups, realizing Tommy witnessed this, proceed to shake him insisting again and again “you didn’t hear it, you didn’t see it, you won’t say nothing to no one, never in your life…”
As a result, Tommy loses his ability to hear, see and speak. Already traumatized and vulnerable do to his silence, Tommy is repeatedly subjected to sexual abuse and violence within the family.
Fast forward 40 years or so from the album’s release, and here we are, with #MeToo smashing the mirror as a succession of Uncle Ernies and Acid Queens are exposed, and the Tommys among us, women and men reclaim our hearing, vision and voices. We are being called to reckon with the Shadow side of power and the toxic sexuality that both men and women have internalized at the intersection of trauma, taboos, and capitalism, for it is symbolic that this surge in truth and exposure of predatory sexuality is birthed shortly after the death of Hugh Hefner. We are facing our own complicated relationship with power, trauma and truth.
Contrary to what the President may believe, sexual abuse has nothing to do with whether someone is or is not a ‘10’ but is a predatory expression of power. Not only is it about exerting power over another person, but creating a dynamic in which one is stripped of their personal sense of power. This power can be reclaimed, as my friend and many others are proving, and even as #MeToo as a movement is proving. Yet it is essential that we consider what it really means to be dis-empowered. Like Tommy, many of us lost the ability to speak. Perhaps not completely, as Townshend’s character portrays, but we lose the ability to say certain words.
We may lose the ability to describe what happened.
Perhaps we never had the vocabulary to articulate it in the first place, or the frame of reference, as those growing up in violent households come to see violence as normal at first.
Also like Tommy, we may lose our ability to hear or see, becoming unable to distinguish the warning signs of future unhealthy relationships. Trauma and the ensuing loss of power fragments one in a way that makes it difficult to navigate through life. This compartmentalization can also make it difficult to see perpetration of similar acts, leading us to turn a blind eye to inappropriate or predatory behavior occurring around us.
And when, like Tommy, we smash the mirror and reclaim our voices, there are plenty of people waiting in the wings to challenge our newly emerging power. Judging the time it took to come forward, the motives of those reclaiming their voices, the eye sight returned to those metaphorically blinded by trauma projecting blame, doubt and denial.
Perhaps we just want to forget this uncomfortable stuff and go on playing Pinball.
I watched the vice video my friend described, to see for myself, and in the midst of political desperation and dogma, I heard trauma. One woman said she had been sexually harassed and had never spoken up, yet qualified this by saying “if I did, I wouldn’t wait 30 years.”
The irony of someone saying they would never speak out about what she experienced, yet would also do it sooner than a set period of time almost sounds laughable. We are driven to a knee jerk reaction of judgment, a rebuttal to her presumed hypocrisy.
But I listen closer and I hear something else.
This woman may not even realize the musical mantra she is following, yet it has shaped her views.
You didn’t hear it, you didn’t see it, you won’t say nothing to no one…..
And that stops me in my tracks. It would be easier to mock her, or be angry, but then I would be projecting the same energy to her that she is projecting to the group of women accusing her candidate of choice of being a sexual predator.
This is what it looks like to have a society of highly traumatized people, blinded and silenced by our own experiences, trying to make sense of constant reminders of what we are trying to forget.
It would be easier if things were black and white. Tidy and compartmentalizable. If all predators were blatantly creepy people we felt compelled to out in society.
If they weren’t people we love, admire, or fear.
Another irony, that for some, the loss of power is replaced instead with a heavy burden, the perception of responsibility for what will happen if anyone finds out that the admired judge, teacher, coach, neighbor, family member, is guilty of. In some cases, we take on a part of the guilt of perpetrators, feeling responsible to keep their secret, a greater weight blocking our voices.
But as the power is shifting and the revolution continues, I try to have hope for the future. As traumas surface they can be healed.
And regardless of what happens in Alabama, I’ve got a feeling ’21 is gonna be a good year.
The Who’s Tommy was released in 1969 by Decca/MCA records, written by Pete Townshend. Recorded in IBC Studio, London, produced by Kit Lambert.
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