For the Birds, Gracefully

“There are today many Communists in America. They are everywhere — in factories, offices, butcher stores, on street corners, in private businesses. And each carries in himself the germ of death for society.”
― J. Howard McGrath

That guy, who most of us today never heard of, was President Truman’s Attorney General, as well as a US Senator and the Governor of Rhode Island. He left the Attorney General’s office shortly after I was born. He was a politician for almost all his adult life.


Surely he knew something about the political ideology of Americans. He was an expert, wasn’t he? A Senator, an Attorney General, a Governor? He was surrounded by politics. He experienced it every day of his life. He lived through World War II. He was a contemporary of this man, who you probably do recognize.

Joe McCarthy could easily have made the same statement that McGrath did. He certainly believed it. He made the lives of many Americans a living hell because he believed it so vehemently. There is no reason to believe that these men were not sincere.

But they were sincerely wrong.

carriage truck

And this leads me to cars. Actually, to be more exact, to a truck. This one. A Chevrolet dually, otherwise known as Dave’s sweetheart. He loves this truck. It is a nice one, I have to admit.

But what is interesting about that truck is that while we were in the market for a truck and shortly after buying it, we were astonished at the number of Chevrolet trucks exactly like it that suddenly flooded the market. They were everywhere. We could hardly go anywhere without seeing one.

General Motors had flooded America with trucks just like ours.


But of course, they hadn’t. All that had happened was that Dave and I had become more aware of these trucks, and we noticed them, simply because we owned one. The effect subsided after a while and while we still own the truck, we don’t notice other trucks just like ours any more.

During that period, though, when we were experiencing that cognitive bias (that’s what it’s called), we would have been very poor people to give any testimony or evidence about our knowledge of the incidence of ownership of Chevrolet trucks in our area. Like McGrath, who saw a Communist under every rock, we saw Chevrolet trucks in every driveway.

And from trucks we go right here:


This is a short excerpt from the GRACE report on Bob Jones University. The entirety is available as a PDF here, but be aware that it’s 300 or so pages long.


So, abuse victims are like canaries. They are more aware than the rest of us of “victim-blaming” and so we have to really pay attention when they “sound the alarm.”

That sounds good, doesn’t it?  After all, “victim-blaming” totally sucks. It does. I know it does. I’ve been there. 


And oh my goodness, how this quote has resonated around social media. Everyone seems to just love it. It’s not just the Queen who loves it, although her remark is the one I’m putting here because I am a nasty bitch and don’t like her, but lots of people like the quote.

“…this is what we’re after here,” she says.  Because it sounds so. . . true. So. . . right.

After all, victims know about victim-blaming. They’ve experienced it. They are hyper-aware, just like we were hyper-aware of Chevrolet trucks.

And just like McCarthy and McGrath were hyper-aware of Communists.

Oh, gee, wait.

That doesn’t really work, does it? There really weren’t a bazillion Communists in America plotting to take over the government, were there?


Because McCarthy was holding a hammer, everything he saw was a nail. We all do it. He did it really publicly and really badly, and that was regrettable, but we’re all prone to it.

But, you see, the GRACE report goes on, with a little paragraph that everyone who is quoting all this leaves out.


Oh, this is better, I think. Some people who were interviewed had positive experiences at BJU. Honestly I don’t know how that’s possible,  but I know some of them and they are honest people and they tell me they did, and their perception is just as valid as those who say that they had negative experiences.

That doesn’t mean that bad shit didn’t happen. That doesn’t mean that BJU is really adept at counseling. They clearly are not.

But it does mean that victims are really not canaries.

One of the positive things I saw in the GRACE report was that they appear to have given a great deal of weight to the actual writing and words of the men that they criticized. That’s far better, far, far better, than condemning these people based on a story told by people who won’t (for whatever reason) step into the light of day and let us see their faces.

So, it’s all good. Bob Jones sucks at counseling. We already knew that. I already talked about it, in fact. And GRACE has called them out on it.  And that’s good.

But the canary stuff is simply bird shit. Victims may or may not be accurate reporters. They may or may not be able to see facts clearly. They may or may not remember details accurately.  Just like the rest of us. They are not super-human beings with special insight.

The fact that I was told that the guy from my church who came on to me did so because I had on jeans doesn’t make me better able to recognize this sort of thing than my husband is. If that were really true, why didn’t Boz and company have victims do all the reporting? Why did they spend a bazillion hours listening to sermons and perusing books and other writings by these men?  Why bother? After all, if the victims are canaries, then the rest of the investigating is simply a waste of time.

I like truth. I like justice.

I do not like witch hunts, or McCarthyism. Not then, when I was a teeny baby, and not now when I’m an old lady. If you’re going to quote this little section of the report, please quote the whole thing. But really, just skip it and use that page to line your bird’s cage.


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