Monday, October 5, 2009

I'm Back, and Weighing-in on Roman Polanski

Ok, it's embarrassing to write a blog after a 3 month hiatus, which had me thinking maybe I should call it off for good even if I had my reasons. But in deciding whether I ever wanted to blog again I found I had written at least three of them in my head but was too lazy to type them. So, I'll give it another go, and first up is Roman Polanski.

Ah, where to start. First off, let me say what he did was heinous, no excuses, and no mitigation; but I'll come back to that later.

I think what really strikes me about the debate about what should happen next though, such as it is, is that some people on both sides are missing the most salient point at risk here. That point is about the will to pursue the rule of law, for no less a reason than to preserve the civilization we hold so dear.

Justice is not about revenge, punishment, retribution, any of that--not directly. At its root it is about how our society, perhaps even civilization, can survive, progress, and even prosper. says it's the quality of being righteous or fair, and wikipedia appears to borrow the next concept from the same site saying it is "the proper ordering of people and things." Wow! It is a key element of the "thin veneer of civilization." We should work just as hard at enforcing the rule of law as we do security, sovereignty and taxes. Consider then, and appreciate, the cliche "justice delayed is justice denied." We must maintain the will to pursue it regardless of circumstances.

So what are the arguments for mitigation in Polanski's case?
1. His body of work. I dismiss this offhand as ridiculous. Chris Rock put it best: "Even Johnnie Cochran don't have the nerve to go, 'Well, did you see O.J. play against New England?' "
2. It was a different time. Yes, it was. Some people my age seem to think you have to look at it with that perspective. Well, I lived it too, and even then this was wrong wrong wrong. The law was in place and for the record, any illegal acts committed by people under any circumstance are still illegal. As for the times, there is a scene in a '60s movie made by counterculture hero/musician Arlo Guthrie based on his song "Alice's Restaurant," in which Arlo discovers that a groupie who wants to sleep with him is underage. Anti-establishment, dope-smokin', authority flauntin' Arlo does not hesitate to turn her down and immediately makes arrangements to return the waif to her parents. So much for entertainment-business permissiveness in those days.
3. It was statutory rape. Yup, and yet regardless what anyone thinks the age of consent should be, "no" means "no." I have not read the child's testimony but I hear she described every act Polanski performed and prefaced every one with the word "no." It was statutory rape but it was also, first and foremost, rape.
4. The judge was crooked. Supposedly justifies him fleeing. Well, Polanski's money, power and influence bought him a pretty scant deal in the first place. There is every reason to believe it would have gotten sorted out eventually. He could have had all this behind him.
5. The parents dumped her on him with the expectation of her getting the "hopeful starlet treatment." I'm sorry, and bad parenting justifies his behavior, exactly how?
6. It's been 30 years, and he's suffered enough. Well, a lot of anger has been vented on this, but I have no comment on whether he's suffered. It is for a judge to decide, and he needs to stand before the court, justice demands it.

What of the people who want to hide this under the carpet for any of the above reasons? They are deluded, and truly don't realize what's at stake, represented in this one instance. In truth, not all victims get justice, not all guilty are punished, and not all people in prison are guilty. But this is our system, we must see it through, you must "get your day in court." Anything less invites anarchy, chaos, and injustice into our civilization, destabilizing it, even one case at a time.

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