“I took her love at seventeen
A little late these days it seems
But they said heaven is well worth waiting for.”– Robert Plant/Jimmy Page
Those of you that have been paying attention to the news have undoubtedly heard about the controversy surrounding Matt Gaetz. The embattled Florida congressman always seems to find himself in the center of some controversy. A lot of this is self-inflicted. The details are a bit circumspect at this point, but I’ll do the best I can.
At the center of it all is a report that he had a sexual encounter with a 17 year old girl (thus the Led Zeppelin reference). Gaetz is currently in his late thirties, but I’m not sure when this sexual encounter supposedly happened. On the other hand, unless it happened when he was 18, he is in the same hot water politically. Legally, it might be a whole other matter.
Meanwhile, Gaetz is spinning yarns about a blackmail scheme that is at the heart of it all. He is defending himself of charges that haven’t even been levied. I’m sure the psychologists among us will opine about what that fact means. I have had some psychology training, but I’m going to leave that nugget to the professionals among us.
Oddly enough, I find all of this to be a huge Rorschach test. For those unfamiliar with the term, it refers to those nebulous ink blots that we are supposed to interpret for the therapist. Supposedly, our answers say a whole lot about us. In this case, I think they say more about our particular feelings for these individuals than it does about us specifically.
Gaetz is a polarizing figure. Conservatives love him and everyone else seems to hate him. So, it makes perfect sense that those particular groups would handle these allegations differently. When I look at Matt Gaetz I see a jackass. So, it isn’t that difficult for me to imagine him doing anything like this. The fact that he is awkwardly defending himself tends to be icing on the cake. Still, there is always the possibility that everything he is saying is true.
We can see no greater contrast than looking at the situation Andrew Cuomo is in right now. We could throw in the likes of Al Franken as well. The level of sympathy we feel for any of these guys is directly proportional to the level of animus we felt for them before their controversies. In plain English, if we like them we tend to believe them. If we hate them we already see them as guilty.
This is usually when I remind myself of the guy from my dorm that I talked about earlier. He was accused of rape and ended up being cleared of all accusations. See, most of the guys in the dorm thought he was an asshole. My only interaction with him was memorable to say the least. So, when he was accused of assault it didn’t take a lot of mental gymnastics to imagine him doing it. Sexual assault and harassment seem to be one of those crimes. If there are no witnesses then physical evidence gives way to which party is more believable. Assholes automatically are at a disadvantage here.
Make no mistake. Matt Gaetz is an asshole. I’m sure in a proud moment he would admit to that. He might not use those exact words, but he has made his bones acting in an obnoxious fashion. Maybe he would call himself spirited or a gadfly. Then again, he might not be smart enough to get the gadfly reference. Either way, he already has one foot in the jail cell for many Americans. It will be hard to resist the temptation to push him in. However, we must do it if we ever expect anyone we like to be given the same consideration.