Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Will The Real Scott Brown Please Stand Up


Yesterday we were disappointed that Alternet's otherwise awesome post on the 8 worst governors in America-- Rick Scott (FL), Scott Walker (WI), Paul LePage (ME), Rick Perry (TX), Jan Brewer (FL), Rick Snyder (MI), Tom Corbett (PA) and John Kasich (OH)-- left out an obvious member of that sordid fraternity, New Jersey's loudmouthed Limbaughesque slob, Chris Christie. If they're juggling Jim DeMint, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Ben Nelson, Jeff Sessions, Miss McConnell, John McCain, Ron Johnson, Lieberman, David Vitter, Rand Paul, Jim Inhofe and Pat Toomey for a similar post on the country's worst senators, I'm certain there's someone who won't be a contender: Scott Brown. That's why it's a must for them-- and everyone in Massachusetts-- to read the exhaustive and well put together feature on Senator Brown by Eileen McNamara in this week's Boston magazine, Campaign Confidential. She's read Brown's much-ballyhooed autobiography so the rest of us don't have to:
Brown’s memoir might be a voyeur’s delight, but it has no wisdom to impart. No counsel to offer battered women besides making better choices. No guidance to offer children trapped in violent households besides toughing it out. No example to offer sexual abuse victims besides getting on with their lives.

Make no mistake: There can be only compassion for a boy abandoned by his father, kicked around by brutish stepdads, shipped out to resentful relatives by a beleaguered mother, set upon by neighborhood bullies, and molested by a camp counselor. But the bromides Brown peddles as the lessons to be learned-- self-reliance and human resilience-- undermine the hard-won recognition that violence and sexual abuse are not private traumas to be overcome by force of will; they are pressing public health emergencies that demand a communal (dare I say governmental?) response.

...Brown is in the mythmaking business, weaving childhood hardship into a narrative that casts himself as the inspirational hero of his own life. He and his ghostwriter have rewritten the well-worn fable of the American Everyman, an ordinary guy who, fueled only by his dreams and his determination, overcomes the odds to achieve extraordinary things.

But Brown’s emphasis on the individual’s capacity to bend circumstances, no matter how horrific, to personal will is a disservice to those without his remarkable ability to shake off the past. The hundreds of traumatized children counseled every year by Boston Medical Center’s Child Witness to Violence Project. The 30 domestic violence victims in Massachusetts, age 2 to 75, who were sent to their grave last year by their abusers. The thousands of sexual abuse victims worldwide who are forcing the Vatican to confront its decades of complicity in crimes against children.

Brown claims he wrote his book for people like them, to reassure them that “we each create our own playing fields and that we are all capable of overcoming whatever challenges might otherwise hold us back.” Because he “knit back stronger in the broken places,” he tells us he would not change his childhood-- not the sexual assaults, not the violence perpetrated by psychopaths against his mother and kid sister. I suspect his mother and sister might feel differently, but this is Scott Brown’s story, not theirs. It is the story of a very special man, unique among the sexual assault survivors I have met during a long reporting career in not devoutly wishing that the abuse had never happened.

So completely has Brown triumphed over the past that, in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, he could equate all the publicity generated by his book’s abuse revelations to his halcyon days as a nude centerfold. “I haven’t felt so exposed since I appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine back in 1982,” he joked.

So successfully has Brown remade himself that he sees no contradiction between his mother’s reliance on federal assistance and his support for a political agenda to dismantle the very safety net that put that “government-issue cheese” in his family’s refrigerator.

So effectively has he distanced himself from his predatory camp counselor that he can write that he “purposefully erased his name from my mind” and tell interviewers that while he actually does remember the man’s name, he sees no need to pursue him legally, since “he’d probably be 70 now”-- as if child molesters come with expiration dates and he has no responsibility to protect the children his assailant might yet target.

As he travels the country hawking his book, Brown makes much in interviews of his efforts on behalf of child abuse victims. His book, which devotes fewer than six pages to his legislative career in Massachusetts and almost 60 to his campaigns, is a more accurate reflection of his record. Brown was on Beacon Hill from 1999 to 2010 before moving on to Washington. During that decade there were lawmakers who worked tirelessly on behalf of abuse victims, but Scott Brown was not among those indefatigable advocates. That he jumped on an overloaded bandwagon in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis in the Archdiocese of Boston falls somewhere short of leadership on the issue.

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