LEO MORRIS: ‘#UsToo’ shout Indiana legislators
Hoosiers disgusted with legislatures that don’t apply the same laws to themselves that they pass for everyone else can take heart that the Indiana General Assembly seems to be breaking from this deplorable tradition.
The #MeToo movement has apparently achieved such volume and intensity that it can be heard even in Indianapolis, prompting state lawmakers to jump up and shout, “Oh, and #UsToo, please, #UsToo!”
And there are several indications that they’re deadly serious about it, not merely engaging in a feel-good publicity stunt.
For one thing, they’re not just promising or pinky-swearing not to engage in sexual harassment. They’re going to subject themselves to actual anti-harassment training, just the way legislative staffers already must. And a preliminary House vote on the measure passed 95-0, with no debate.
That is just staggering. It’s the same gravity with which our legislators have treated resolutions to designate the state insect or square the circle by legislative decree. Consider the amount of time legislators are willing to take out of their busy schedules — at least an hour a year for the grueling training. Yes, an hour — that’s 60 whole minutes.
That is 20 minutes longer than it takes legislative staffers, when they can spare the time off from harassment seminars, to come up with those compelling constituent surveys with such brave questions as, “Should I vote no on bills that perpetuate waste and fraud in the squandering of taxpayer money?” and “Will you stand with me in support of our great country and its flag?”
And it’s a full 30 minutes longer than the average legislator spends reading the typical 1,000-page bill before voting it into law.
Finally, there is the brilliance of the form chosen for the training. There will be no classroom lectures, which are so boring they are likely to be forgotten as soon as they are heard. There will be no written material to study and take tests on, which, as any Hoosier student could tell us, would be just one intellectual minefield after another.
No, lawmakers will watch a video.
It is being produced by the National Conference of State Legislators for use by all 50 states, so we know it will be of the highest quality. And anybody who has been following the news out of Hollywood lately can attest to the power of the visual medium to instruct us on matters of morality. As luck would have it, there are many recently sidelined film workers who could produce and act in the video.
There are some details we don’t know that we should watch out for.
We aren’t told, for example, exactly what will constitute the harassment legislators will be warned against. Perhaps language will be borrowed from the rules now governing legislative staffers, who are forbidden, The Indianapolis Star informs us and the Associated Press repeats, “from unwanted whistling, touching, pinching and requests for sexual favors, along with more overt types of unwanted sexual behavior.”
(As an aside, it would be nice if someone could explain what type of harassment could be “more overt” than “unwanted touching.” For that matter how could touching be anything less than overt? Is there some kind of ghost-touching of which we are unaware? Maybe by “more overt,” what is meant is “more serious.” Such is the state of the English language today.)
We also don’t know what punishment might be faced by our sexually harassing lawmakers, who can’t be summarily fired the way their staffers can.
Obviously, we need another constituent survey:
“Legislators more than a year away from a re-election bid and guilty of sexual harassment should:
“1. Have to watch a two-hour video.
“2. Receive a stern letter from the governor.
“3. Be required to read thoroughly all legislation they plan to vote on and pass a test on it.
“4. Calculate the value of Pi to the 10th place.”
All frivolousness aside, we send our representatives and senators to Indianapolis to represent Hoosier values and interests, which means, among other things, that they should simply behave decently and treat others with respect.
But they already know that.
Leo Morris is a columnist for The Indiana Policy Review and is the former editorial editor of The News-Sentinel.