The Swing Vote
We tell children, "Speak your truth. Don't be a bully." Now it's becoming more and more apparent that these are lessons we adults still have trouble with.
Nineteen years ago, Anita Hill spoke her truth and Justice Clarence Thomas spoke his. It was an ugly ordeal, complete with salacious tales of soda cans, pubic hair, and questions about bra sizes. But even uglier is the ordeal that seems to be rearing its head between two of the women entwined in this saga: Anita Hill and Ginni Thomas.
On the morning of October 9, according to The Washington Post, Ginni Thomas felt compelled to make a phone call. She called Anita Hill's office and left a somewhat passive-aggressive voicemail. It was a pretty good one too. She implored Ms. Hill to "consider" an apology and a "full explanation" adding that Hill should "pray" on it.
Personally, I appreciate Mrs. Thomas' desire for answers. Yet while I've been known to relish a well-crafted, understated but effective demand, I have a problem with the use of the method here. Here it seems just a bit overbearing - and well, bullish.
To bully, Webster's Dictionary defines it as "to affect by force or coercion." No. Ms. Thomas didn't threaten to drive over to Brandeis University and beat Anita Hill up or to send masked men armed with a tape recorder to get an admission that she lied. But Ginni Thomas has grown into a somewhat influential individual and the implication was, "I need this not to be true. So, I'm going to need you to apologize and say that you lied even if there's a good chance you didn't." The effect was intended to be the same.
If this had happened amidst a trial, we'd demand that Ginni Thomas be charged with witness tampering and intimidation. If these were teenagers, we'd be outraged. But, these are adults. We are adults. Maybe it's time we grew up.
If Ginni Thomas wants answers, she should have them. Not from Anita Hill but from Clarence Thomas, her husband. And next time she calls and leaves a message, Ms. Hill should hit the delete button or call her back and say, "I apologize that you are confused about what happened. Ask your husband for the details." She wouldn't be out of line for that.
Almost two decades ago, we learned about the concept of sexual harassment from the Hill-Thomas saga. Maybe there are still lessons we can learn - starting with "thou should not attempt to make your husband's ex-colleague confess about what may or may not have happened a lifetime ago." Let's learn what we can so we can all move on.