Men behaving badly in 2018

Most years, “best and worst” roundups follow a certain pattern. They identify unconnected events on both sides of the ledger — volcanoes and shark attacks!; stock market rallies and Gritty memes!

What’s striking about 2018 is that despite devastating natural disasters (wildfires, volcanoes, tsunamis) all the truly “worst” moments of the year have a single thing in common.

Those moments include another tragic mass shooting, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. And in a Pittsburgh synagogue. And in a Thousand Oaks, Calif., bar. And in countless locations around the country.

The worst of 2018 includes a horrifying priest abuse grand jury report released by Attorney General Josh Shapiro that detailed accounts of 300 predator priests accused of abusing at least 1,000 Pennsylvania victims.

The worst also includes further accounts of sexual assault and/or harassment: Entertainer Bill Cosby was found guilty of sexual assault; in September, he was sentenced to jail. CBS chief Les Moonves lost his job, and his severance package, amid allegations of abuse and harassment.

And the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings included gripping testimony from a woman who claimed he sexually assaulted her, prompting not just deja vu to the Clarence Thomas hearings, but a window into the mind of beer-loving bros and the senators who love them.

So what’s the common thread in all these events?

They all center on men behaving badly.

Of course, bad behavior isn’t limited to men. For example, four of the six state lawmakers convicted of bribery in recent years were women. Kate McClure was complicit in a plot to scam GoFundMe donors in the name of Johnny Bobbitt. Still, women generally don’t wreak the kind of lasting and widespread damage — or death — that men do, and did last year.

As we look back on 2018, we have to wonder: What is wrong with men?

The armchair diagnosis is that the assumed dominance of (mostly white) men in society has been threatened like never before: Their earning power, their political power, their very value is being threatened. The problem is they still have plenty of power to hurt and damage.

It’s up to men themselves to recognize that the systems they inhabit — government, military, society itself — don’t work anymore. They don’t work for women, they don’t work for people of color, they don’t work for children. And frankly, the systems don’t work for men, either.

A mass shooter is the very definition of someone who doesn’t fit. Priests abusing the children left in their spiritual care don’t fit into the system built around them. Executives assaulting underlings don’t fit either.

While it’s true that the system still favors men — no matter how badly they behave — all you have to do is watch the tortured sighing and angry Brett Kavanaugh as a Senate panel had the temerity to question him. He got confirmed, but he had to work for it. The next time, someone like him might not succeed.

It’s up to men to acknowledge something is very wrong and recognize the solution is not to destroy women or children or other men, but to question and dismantle the systems into which they no longer fit.

–The Philadelphia Inquirer

Dec. 31

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