Sympathy for all victims: As noted yesterday, we agree, if in a limited way, with one of Jennifer Weiner's reactions to Chanel Miller's substantially well-written book, Know My Name: A Memoir.
Miller's book "especially deserves to be read by the next generation of young men," Weiner writes in her glowing review of the book. As we suggested yesterday, Weiner perhaps goes on to over-emote about that large group of young men.
As we ourselves read Miller's book, a memoir about an act of sexual assault and its lengthy aftermath, we had that same general thought about her Chapter 4. In that well-written chapter, Miller describes the street harassment she says she experienced during the summer of 2016, when she was taking art classes in distant Providence, Rhode Island.
We also agree with something Lisa Ko wrote in a somewhat dogmatized column about Miller's book in the New York Times. We'll likely discuss Ko's column next week, but we ourselves took this thought away from Miller's impressive if imperfect book:
"There is no singular, or universal, survivor experience."So wrote Ko in her column. For the record, Miller describes herself as both a "victim" and a "survivor."
("I have no qualms with this word," she writes, referring to the fraught term victim, "only with the idea that it is all that I am.")
Miller describes her long experience dealing with the sexual assault which occurred in January 2015, but also with her experiences with the legal system after she decides to file charges against the young man who was eventually found to have criminally assaulted her.
Based on her well-written account, it's plain that Miller has endured years of struggle in the aftermath of this assault. We often wondered, reading her detailed accounts, how her lengthy experience compares to the experiences of other people subjected to such assaults.
From Miller's accounts of her experiences, it's plain that she has struggled, in endless ways, to recover from that act of assault and from its legal aftermath. In part because she plainly is a "gifted young writer" (we're quoting Weiner), her extremely detailed writing made us wonder about the experiences of the many other people, mostly women, who endure such assaults.
We don't mean to say that Miller displays perfect judgment as she recounts her various experiences. Nor is there any earthly reason why she should be expected to do so.
Miller was still just 26 as she composed her widely-praised book. There's no reason to think that such a young person should display perfect judgment as she assesses these life-altering events.
As we'll discuss next week, we don't think she does.
In certain ways, it gets even worse than that! We think Miller's well-written book extends the culture of novelization which has become a major part of struggling liberal culture as exhibited by much older writers and talkers.
We liberals! Within this culture of novelization, we tend to disappear accurate facts and invent inaccurate "facts." We also tend to ignore basic points of logic, all in search of perfect morality tales peopled with perfect heroes and with perfect villains.
In our view, Miller's book is fascinating, in large part, because of the extent to which it adopts and extends this generally unhelpful culture. That said, we can hardly blame a gifted but very young writer for adopting the culture her elders have built, especially when that very young person is still trying to come to terms with a criminal act of assault.
Let's set Miller's well-written book to the side for the briefest of moments. We think the way her book has been assessed and reviewed by older, upper-end journalists brings this culture of novelization into view in a deeply instructive way.
As Miller's book has been reviewed, elementary facts have been disappeared. Elementary points of logic have been ignored.
In the process, elementary questions have gone unasked, unassessed, unanswered. In our view, one obvious potential villain has been permitted to walk away from the scene of this (extremely common) crime.
Next week, we'll review a few basic facts which have been almost wholly disappeared from the way this story is told. We'll also explore some basic points of disappeared logic.
We'll see these disappearances occur in Miller's well-written book, but also in the major reviews. As we do, we'll be working from three basic premises, the first of which is of course blindingly obvious:
First premise—no one should ever be sexually assaulted: We'll assume that this is obvious, That said, tribal impulses will encourage us to say that people who don't recite stale tribal dogma are failing to honor this premise.
In such ways, we keep enabling, and electing, people like Donald J. Trump. For at least the past three decades, our tribe has been extremely unimpressive, except to our own tribal minds.
Second premise—Chanel Miller was the victim of an act of sexual assault: We base this upon the unanimous verdict of a duly constituted jury. Within our journalistic conventions, when juries reach such decisions in criminal cases, allegations of criminal conduct are transformed into facts.
Why do we feel the need to say this? We do so because of the rather puzzling logic we will explore next week.
Third premise—it doesn't make sense to criticize the reactions of a victim of assault: In our view, Chanel Miller, a gifted young writer, has perhaps displayed imperfect judgment in some of the assessments she offers in her well-received book.
Our reaction would be, So what? We've never had an experience like the experience she describes. We have no reason to think that we would display perfect judgment in all ways in reacting to such an event.
We do think that upper-end, adult journalists should be held to conventional standards when they assess Miller's book and the events it describes. It seems to us that many upper-end journalists have hurried off to fail this test, in ways which help explain how our floundering, upper-end tribe has helped elect people like Trump.
Starting perhaps with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, our tribe has tended to craft a series of novelized tales which recall the Brothers Grimm.
We reinvent facts and recast logic in search of illustrative moral fables with perfect heroes and villains. This conduct looks stupid to everyone else and in fact it pretty much is.
Even as we state our three basic premises, we'll promise one special treat. All next week, we'll be offering you a new villain, since that's what we liberal tribals seem to want and need.
That new villain will be a person who enabled the remarkably stupid drunken brawl which preceded the criminal act of assault which sent one young person to jail and has left another young person in a difficult process of recovery over the past several years.
For ourselves, we're not eager, as a general matter, to see people marched off to prison. For that reason, we won't be naming the name of our new villain, and we won't suggest that he should languish there.
We do think that this person behaved very badly in creating the brain-dead circumstance out of which this assault emerged. Our frequently ridiculous, floundering tribe has agreed to ignore all this.
We've done so because, like all human tribes, we tend to default towards dogmatic and dumb. Or so top major anthropologists keep telling us, despite the objections we lodge.
That act of assault should not have occurred. No one should be assaulted.
Next week: Are basic facts missing here?