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A Rough Coat in a Delicate Cycle

by Dan W. Holst

Oh Olympus, Oh Olympus, how the mighty have fallen. And the dominoes yet fall again. Matt Lauer is but the latest to have whetted the appetite of Scylla. Everyone traverses the narrows between Scylla and Charybdis, and no one escapes unscathed. We are all guilty; we all share equal culpability.

Mouse from the original Matrix movie tempted Neo with the lady in red: “To deny our own impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human.” The wanton fulfillment of our impulses, to be quite frank, makes us inseparable from animals. Our ability to deny our base impulses is truly what makes us human. Unfortunately, at our most base level, we retain that animal beast.

Just look at other mammals:  sexual encounters always involve some physical assault. When adult males fight for mating rights, it is a fight for position; mating itself is hardly devoid of assault. Even among the animal world, sex is power. Sexual assault between humans, as is commonly expressed, is never about sex but about power. In this, our inner beast dominates our will to human; it is our will to power that leads us to Scylla.

In no way do I excuse sexual assault. Apart from the animal, we retain rationality, but weakness doesn’t permeate our soul, it is our soul. Weakness to succumb to a vast brothel of desires and impulses. None of us completely escape that temptation.

At my deployment locations in the Middle East, leadership faced an epidemic of sexual assault. I have seen countless men and women alike betray their marriages by the tempting currents of Charybdis. Both men and women use their guile to achieve power and prestige. Women beguile men to escape chores and achieve rank. Men expect all women to do the same. Neither a man’s action nor a woman’s action preface the other. It happens; it is wrong, but it does happen.

How can we overcome this weakness and rise above will to power and embrace our will to human? This is the great mystery. Paul writing to the Church at Thessalonica wrote about this mystery: “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” To humanity’s credit, he is finally being taken out of the way. Women are rightfully tired of their forced submission to silence and are arising in a unified voice to say, no more. And the mighty are falling and deservedly so, but I must caution some rationality.

To combat impurity, North Korea has banned singing and drinking. And Saudi Arabia has long used their Mutaween to enforce morality and punish immoral behavior. Study how these cultures enforce morality. Recognize that Sharia Law is but a newly monikered Mosaic Law. Learn how Roy Moore demands Mosaic Law as U.S. Law. This is not a slippery slope, but merely history on the move.

Sexual assault must stop. People, all people, must feel safe and secure in their identity and not just in the workplace, but every place we gather and express our culture. It is a delicate issue to recognize our own culpability. Most of us love it when Howard Stern and other shock jocks assault others, but find it abhorrent when others do it. We accept our efforts to beguile others to our own ends, but condemn the same in others. We love pointing fingers but not critical self-assessment. Whether we wish to see it or not, we consciously and/or unconsciously use our rough exteriors to gain power. They are the monsters from our id. Where is our humanity?

Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote the famous poem We Wear the Mask. I can only wonder with a dumbfounded uncertainty:  what is the mask? Is it our humanity or something much worse?

WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

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