At Long Last: Love
How many of these people can you actually remember seeing or reading about during your lifetimes when they were in the midst of theirs?
Gloria Steinem, Betty Freidan, Shirley Chisholm, Germaine Greer, Aretha Franklin, Susan Sontag, Betty Ford?
O.K. How about the Equal Rights Amendment, which failed?
Lilly Ledbetter? At least Lilly Ledbetter?
Margaret Chase Smith?
The last name belongs to the first and only elected woman to have served in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate.
Of course, what we’re talking about here is equal rights for women, equal pay for women, women in combat, women as CEOs of industry.
This week gave us a footnote to history, one millions of women, unwittingly perhaps but nonetheless for real, have been seeking for years.
The chance to behave just as badly as men and get away with it.
At last we have an example of that, which may last for a few weeks or for millenia, who knows?
Ms. Pierson is the woman at the Secret Service appointed to put that organization on a firm, law-abiding footing. Called up from the agency’s lower ranks to straighten out Secret Service agents, i.e., men who drank, whored, disappeared without leave, in general behaved as though they were on holiday and beyond the reach of the law, any law.
Ms. Pierson is reputed to have had a wonderful thirty year career at the agency.
We think she probably sat at a desk taking notes, watching her colleagues get in trouble, writing down names and places and times, and then putting this information somewhere safe where only she could find it. We also think that she may even have done this without intent to harm any of her pals. Boys will be, after all. And what could be more fun than occasionally even being invited to crack a bottle, or tag along? No one paid any attention to her. She could be trusted as a confidante. She was well-under official Washington’s radar, which was where all along she’d wanted to be. After all, she was pulling down an annual salary with annual increases, probably in the low six figures. Her annual evaluations were complimentary. And she got to travel!
Elevated without warning to a new position of oversight within the agency, Ms. Pierson sat on her hands. Through one embarrassing incident after another, she never spoke out. As far as we know, her attempt to discipline the agency going rapidly rogue was an entirely private one, intramural, among friends. What happens in Caracas stays in Caracas, or Paris, or Tokyo. The guys in the agency liked her, really liked her. Just like Sally Field.
Until, in the least likely of places, after an unexpected armed passenger rode with the President in an elevator in Atlanta, Georgia, something went amiss. Somebody squealed.
In Ms. Pierson’s experience, the Secret Service had its own code of omerta: silence.
When she left a senate hearing room late Tuesday afternoon, no doubt she was going to get back to the office and let this weakling have it right between the eyes. She’d been humiliated twice that day. First in front of publicly viewed hearings, and second behind closed doors. She was out for blood, we like to imagine. She was a wounded endangered species, a one agency woman who loved her fellows.
Until, aghast and surprised, she was confronted by one of her favorites, who suggested in clearly understood prose what was expected of wounded warriors like herself. She had to fall on her sword.
Unlike Kathleen Sebelius, for whom there was genuine sympathy when Obamacare imploded upon entry, Julia Pierson had neither followers nor backup nor adherents to defend her.
Wounded fatally, Ms. Pierson posthumously achieved an apotheosis earlier women only dreamed of. Lying to the country, lying to the Senate, lying to the President…and walking away Scott free, just like a man.
At long last: love.