Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sexual Harassment, Herman Cain, and Buddhism

Fourth woman details sexual 
harassment allegations against Cain

By's Michael O'Brien (abridged)

A fourth woman, Sharon Bialek, leveled new allegations of sexual harassment against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain at a press conference on Monday.

Cain's spokesman denied the new allegations in a statement while the press conference was under way. "Just as the country finally begins to refocus on our crippling $15 trillion national debt and the unacceptably high unemployment rate, now activist celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred is bringing forth more false accusations against the character of Republican front-runner Herman Cain," said J.D. Gordon, referring to the attorney, Allred, who is representing Bialek.

"All allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are completely false. Mr. Cain has never harassed anyone. Fortunately the American people will not allow Mr. Cain's bold '9-9-9 Plan,' clear foreign policy vision and plans for energy independence to be overshadowed by these bogus attacks," Gordon added.

Bialek is the fourth woman to have accused Cain of harassment during his tenure as the top official at the restaurant lobby. The association settled with two of them, and a third woman was reported last week by the Associated Press. None of these women have made public their identities, and NBC News hasn't independently verified the stories of the third woman or Bialek.

But Bialek said that the new allegations had prompted her to go public."Now I'm coming forward to give a face and a voice to those women who cannot, or, for whatever reasons, do not wish to come forward, and on behalf of all women who are sexually harassed in the workplace but do not come out of fear of retaliation or public humiliation," she said.

The Practical Buddhist Responds

The Practical Buddhist has no idea what Herman Cain did or didn't do to women. , though his petulant denials lack the smoothness of a Clinton or the self-righteousness of a Gingrich. The fact remains that countless powerful men have abused their positions and exploited females, including their own wives, for eons. Until recently, a cruel double standard has seemed to be the norm. Even so, a thoughtful reader can find guidance in millennia of Buddhist teachings.

Like Jesus, the Buddha was a product of his times. Both were reluctant to admit women to the inner circle, with few exceptions.  Still, in times when women were seen as subservient or even as property, both  preached compassion and respect for all, and would never condone exploitation or coercion in any relationship.  Take a look at Thich Naht Hanh's version of the Third Precept:

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.

The fuss about Cain's alleged past will fade in weeks, but it reminds me of my obligation to show profound respect for every human, and every living thing.