Friday, 8 December 2017

I respect USA Sen. Al Franken for his stand and statement on resignation in coming weeks; Franken too deserves presumption of innocence

USA Senator from Minnesota, USA announced his resignation from the USA Senate in the coming weeks through a speech he deliverd on the Senate floor. Here's the video: Sen. Franken - FULL SPEECH - "I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate." (C-SPAN), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdGuJNYI83Y, 11 min. 38 secs, published on 7th Dec. 2017 and here's the statement transcript from his Senate office: https://www.franken.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=3807. An annotated transcript is available here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/12/07/al-frankens-defiant-unapologetic-resignation-speech-annotated/ .

I have given, later on in this post, large extracts from the transcript of his speech.

Here are my comments about his speech:
As a lover and supporter of democracy in India (I am an Indian living in India), USA and other parts of the world, I think USA Senator Franken did the right thing. For me the key words related to his resignation decision in his speech are: "But this decision is not about me. It's about the people of Minnesota. And it's become clear that I can't both pursue the Ethics Committee process and, at the same time, remain an effective Senator for them." It is time for him to make way for another person to represent the people of his USA state (along with the other senator of his state; there are two senators per state of the USA).

Regarding the troubling and disturbing allegations made against him by multiple women, I think Senator Franken deserves presumption of innocence. Franken has acknowledged some bad behaviour but denied, or at least not acknowledged as something he recalls, some parts of some allegations and denied some allegations altogether. The key statements regarding this in his speech are:

"Over the last few weeks, a number of women have come forward to talk about how they felt my actions had affected them. I was shocked. I was upset. But in responding to their claims, I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard, and their experiences taken seriously.

I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that, in fact, I haven't done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently."

Ravi: I think Senator Franken deserves presumption of innocence in this matter. Sure, like he said, the women who made the allegations deserve to be heard. But Franken should NOT be judged guilty of all the allegations they make without an appropriate body making the judgement - either a court of law (but the statute of limitations would have expired on these allegations, I guess) or perhaps the USA Senate ethics body provided that body gives a fair hearing to both sides and follows some established principles of jurisprudence in arriving at any guilty verdict they may arrive at. I have to say here that I don't know much about how the USA Senate Ethics committee functions and how comparable it is to a USA court of law in how it arrives at a judgement on the matters that come up before it.

Senator Franken says, "You know, an important part of the conversation we've been having the last few months has been about how men abuse their power and privilege to hurt women."

Ravi: I admire the USA Senate (I have not spent significant time in following such events in USA House of Representatives), and the USA media at large, for the way in which they have empowered women who claim to have been abused/harassed by powerful and privileged men, to have their voices heard when they felt these claims were credible. I think they are showing the way to many other democratic countries in the world including India on how to empower such women and also boys who have been (sexually) abused/harassed by men of power and/or privilege, to have their voices heard. I pray to God to shower His Grace on the people involved, in particular the journalists involved, in such difficult and even dangerous work to expose such men who have used their positions of power and privilege to (sexually) abuse/harass vulnerable women and boys/men.

It is such work that will help prevent or at least reduce such sexual predator behaviour by privileged and/or powerful men in future, at least in democratic countries in the world like USA and India. Men who get into positions of power and/or are privileged should fear the very harsh consequences of any such behaviour that they indulge in. That's what will change the behaviour - fear of consequences and NOT simply an appeal to such men to be good as that, many times, just gets brushed aside by these men as the language and attitude of weaklings which does not apply to dominant and powerful/privileged people like them! The "rule of law" in a democracy is meant to apply to all, rich and poor, privileged and unprivileged, powerful and weak. As of now though, for sure in India and perhaps in most other democratic countries of the world today, that "rule of law" does not apply to all, with the poor and the weak having a difficult time when they attempt to get justice as per "rule of law". But lovers and supporters of democracy (including me), should encourage its application becoming broader. So I am fully supportive of USA Senate and USA media on this matter.

I felt it appropriate to say that my view in the case of abuse/harassment allegations made against USA President Trump and candidate for USA Senate, Roy Moore of Alabama state, they too deserve presumption of innocence. They have flatly denied the allegations of abuse/harassment from multiple women, and so should not be judged guilty of such abuse/harassment without due process of court of law and/or an appropriate USA Congress Ethics committee.

I respect Senator Franken for the stand he has taken and wish him and his family and friends all the best. I also wish all those women who have made allegations of abuse/harassment against Franken, all the best in their quest to have their voices heard in corridors of power, and to also get some sort of justice including sincere apologies from Franken if their allegations are true.

Senator Franken may feel that if he had chosen to flatly deny all the allegations and verbally attack those who made the allegations against him, instead of partially acknowledging one (or more) such allegations, and flatly denying other parts or whole of such allegations, but supporting the right of the women making the allegations to be seriously heard, he may not have had to resign from the USA Senate! But I think that if he had done that KNOWING that at least in some cases, he was responsible for some bad behaviour, then he would have been a lesser man. And, as a devout believer in God and God's law of Karma, I think that he then would have incurred additional powerful negative Karma for that. Now I think that Senator Franken will benefit from a Karmic point of view, for having acknowledged some of his bad behaviour and sincerely apologizing for it (with the first such lady who made these allegations accepting his apology; don't know about the other cases so much). My devout belief is that God is merciful to those who repent sincerely for bad behaviour.

Given below are large extracts from Senator Franken's speech referred above:

A couple of months ago, I felt that we had entered an important moment in the history of this country. We were finally beginning to listen to women about the ways in which men's actions affect them. That moment was long overdue. I was excited for that conversation, and hopeful that it would result in real change that made life better for women all across the country and in every part of our society.

Then, the conversation turned to me. Over the last few weeks, a number of women have come forward to talk about how they felt my actions had affected them. I was shocked. I was upset. But in responding to their claims, I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard, and their experiences taken seriously.

I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that, in fact, I haven't done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently.

I said at the outset that the Ethics Committee was the right venue for these allegations to be heard, and investigated, and evaluated on their merits. That I was prepared to cooperate fully. And that I was confident in the outcome.

You know, an important part of the conversation we've been having the last few months has been about how men abuse their power and privilege to hurt women.

I am proud that, during my time in the Senate, I have used my power to be a champion for women - and that I have earned a reputation as someone who respects the women I work alongside every day. I know there's been a very different picture of me painted over the last few weeks. But I know who I really am.

Serving in the United States Senate has been the great honor of my life. I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a Senator - nothing - has brought dishonor on this institution. And I am confident that the Ethics Committee would agree.

Nevertheless, today I am announcing that, in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.
...
But this decision is not about me. It's about the people of Minnesota. And it's become clear that I can't both pursue the Ethics Committee process and, at the same time, remain an effective Senator for them.

Let me be clear. I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice. I will continue to stand up for the things I believe in as a citizen, and as an activist.

But Minnesotans deserve a Senator who can focus with all her energy on addressing the challenges they face every day.

There is a big part of me that will always regret having to walk away from this job with so much work left to be done. But I have faith that the work will continue, because I have faith in the people who have helped me do it.

I have faith in the dedicated, funny, selfless young men and women on my staff. They have so much more to contribute to our country. And I hope that, as disappointed as they may feel today, everyone who has ever worked for me knows how much I admire and respect them.

I have faith in my colleagues, especially my senior Senator, Amy Klobuchar. I would not have been able to do this job without her guidance and wisdom. And I have faith - or, at least, hope - that members of this Senate will find the political courage necessary to keep asking the tough questions, hold this administration accountable, and stand up for the truth.

I have faith in the activists who organized to help me win my first campaign and who have kept on organizing to help fight for the people who needed us: kids facing bullying, seniors worried about the price of prescription drugs, Native Americans who have been overlooked for far too long, working people who have been taking it on the chin for a generation - everyone in the middle class and everyone aspiring to join it.

I have faith in the proud legacy of progressive advocacy that I have had the privilege to be a part of. I think I've probably repeated these words ten thousand times over the years, Paul Wellstone's famous quote: "The future belongs to those who are passionate and work hard." It is still true. It will always be true.

And, most of all, I have faith in Minnesota. A big part of this job is going around the state and listening to what people need from Washington. But, more often than not, when I'm home, I'm blown away by how much Minnesota has to offer the entire country and the entire world. The people I have had the honor of representing are brilliant, and creative, and hard-working. And whoever holds this seat next will inherit the challenge I've enjoyed for the last eight and a half years: being as good as the people you serve.

This has been a tough few weeks for me. But I am a very, very lucky man. I have a beautiful, healthy family that I love, and that loves me very much. I am going to be just fine.

I'd just like to end with one last thing.

I did not grow up wanting to be a politician. I came to this relatively late in life. I had to learn a lot on the fly. It wasn't easy. And it wasn't always fun.

I'm not just talking about today. This is a hard thing to do with your life. There are a lot of long hours and late nights and hard lessons, and there is no guarantee that all your work and sacrifice will ever pay off. I won my first election by 312 votes - it could have easily gone the other way. And even when you win, progress is far from inevitable. Paul Wellstone spent his whole life working for mental health parity, and it didn't pass into law until six years after he died.

This year, a lot of people who didn't grow up imagining they'd ever get involved in politics have done just that. They've gone to their first protest march, or made their first call to a member of Congress, or maybe even taken the leap and put their name on a ballot for the first time.

It can be such a rush, to look around at a room full of people ready to fight alongside you, to feel that energy, to imagine that better things are possible. But you, too, will experience setbacks and defeats and disappointments. There will be days when you will wonder whether it's worth it.

What I want you to know is that, even today, even on the worst day of my political life, I feel like it's all been worth it. "Politics," Paul Wellstone told us, "is about the improvement of people's lives." I know that the work I've been able to do has improved people's lives. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

For a decade now, every time I would get tired, or discouraged, or frustrated, I would think about the people I was doing this for, and it would get me back up on my feet. I know the same will be true for everyone who decides to pursue a politics that is about improving people's lives. And I hope you know that I will be right there fighting alongside you, every step of the way.

With that, M. President, I yield the floor.
---- end extracts from Sen. Al Franken's speech ----

[I thank USA Senator Al Franken and have presumed that he will not have any objections to me sharing the above large extracts from his Senate speech on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

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