Thursday, October 1, 2009

Why Roman Polanski Should Be in Jail

As a pinko leftist scourge of humanity, I have many unholy preoccupations. Reading, making havoc, and according to some ex-Marxists murdering embryos, which I fit in between my ritualistic sacrifices to pagan gods that I unknowingly worship. Folk like us are naturally supposed to be on the side of the little person/specie, and generally speaking I try to be. One of those areas of interest and problems for me is the manner in which we incarcerate people in this country, in creative ways that would have made even Jefferson debate the legitimacy of criminal codes. We have over 2.2 million prisoners piled in our jails (local, state, and federal prisons). We have a quarter of the world's prison population with a mere five percent of the planet's overall population. We lock people up for virtually anything these days and we allow cops to shoot, tase, and basically terrorize our population under the notion of law and order. We have gone from a system that has over the past three decades increased our prison population by 300% and inverted our violent offender ratio amongst those prisoners from 60% in 1980 to 33% today (meaning the vast majority of our prisoners are non-violent offenders). All of these are facts and widely known to cops, prosecutors, or anyone involved in our criminal 'justice' system.

Nevertheless, in spite of the aforementioned, I am not someone who believes people should be given a free pass to commit crimes of violence. There are not too many crimes that are of a violent nature, compared to the non-violent ones we throw our citizens in jail for these days, but there are a few biggies. Among those, next to murder and assault, is rape. It is not just a crime of violence but of control--physical, emotional, and psychological torture. When it is committed against a child, it is compounded because that torture and abuse cannot be as easily dealt with and discerned as by an adult. The trust issues involving a child, when their trust has been violated, oftentimes will stay with him or her for the rest of their lives.

On an overcast evening in March 1977, Mr. Roman Polanski, director extraordinaire, enticed a 13 year old girl to a fake photo shoot at Jack Nicholson's home. By Polanski's own admission, he intended to have sex with the girl. To accomplish this, he inebriated and drugged the girl with alcohol and quaaludes. Upon inebriating and drugging the child, Mr. Polanski forced himself on the youngster, to which she responded, "I said, 'No, no. I don't want to go in there. No, I don't want to do this. No!', and then I didn't know what else to do," adding: "We were alone and I didn’t know what else would happen if I made a scene. So I was just scared, and after giving some resistance, I figured well, I guess I’ll get to come home after this." During his rape session, Mr. Polanski violated the 13 year old victim in nearly every conceivable way, even though she protested before each act, and knowing that as a (then) middle-aged man he could easily overpower and force himself on her.

By any reasonable standard, Roman Polanski is a child rapist. If anyone else committed a crime like this (i.e., a non-celebrity), and particularly in today's legal environment, he would be facing a long prison sentence, possibly for the rest of his life. Polanski, however, is an award-winning director. A beloved man. A holocaust survivor. A man whose pregnant wife was murdered in cold blood by followers of Charlie Manson. For this, Polanski has been allowed to live life as a free man for the past three decades, even though he admitted and pleaded to the crime he committed, and avoided punishment by jumping bail and exiling himself to France. Imagine if a child rapist, who so happened to be a non-descript worker, ran off to Canada to avoid punishment for a similar crime. Not only would this person be hunted down, he would be quickly extradited, prosecuted, and almost certainly convicted and sent to prison.

Mr. Polanski, of course, plays by different rules. What is even sadder is the sight of many of Hollywood's elite actors and directors coming to his defense and calling for his immediate release from Swiss authorities. Do you think Mr. Scorsese would be so supportive if that was his daughter who Polanski assaulted? And am I not the only one who finds it ironic to see Woody Allen's name among those other luminaries calling for Polanski's freedom?

If one took seriously the varied excuses for Mr. Polanski by these signatories, it would be impossible to think of worse reasons to do such an unpseakable act to a child. To illustrate, one of the arguments for letting Polanski go, according to director David Lynch, is that Switzerland is a "neutral" country and as such a place of refuge for international citizens. Really? Well, Mr. Lynch, is Switzerland neutral from the extradition treaties it signs with other countries, including our own, and therefore should not abide by its laws? And speaking of avoiding punishment by running off to other countries, where were these directors in calling for the release of General Augusto Pinochet from British authorities back in 1998 (who was imprisoned by a country he was never in charge of, based on the court order of a Spanish judge)? So, if you murder dissidents then you are a bad person, your character obfuscated by the magnitude of the crimes you commit? Well, what about raping kids? I grant you, it is not the same as having a few thousand people murdered in a coup, in such diverse ways as shooting them in the back of the head at a stadium, or throwing them out of helicopters into the ocean bound and blindfolded during Operation Condor, but when I last checked rape, especially the rape of a child, was a crime deemed by most societies as only a step below murder on the scale of wickedness. I would think it a crime that some might consider bad enough that it would overrule a person's celebrity status, but apparently not.

Yes, it is true that the victim, now in her 40s, has 'forgiven' Polanski. That is fine and good, even admirable, but if you bother to look at the victim's life and what happened to her after she was raped, it is not an uncommon story with countless other sexual assault victims. Her life and the endured abuse which followed the next couple of decades bears the mark and scar of what Polanski did to her 32 years ago.

There is a reason why we punish people for crimes like this. It seems fundamentally hypocritical for us to let Mr. Polanski get away with his crime. Even if it is just to extradite him long enough to let him go again, even if it inconveniences him on the way to another Oscar-winning movie. Even if it is all that and nothing else, it is the least he deserves and the least we could do to a man who could commit the kind of crimes we wish the worst for when committed by everyday people.

And I am aware that some would accuse me of playing the class envy card by juxtaposing Polanski's career with that of a common worker, but it is more about the nature of the offense that offends me. That he has been allowed to get away with the crime is the byproduct not of my class consciousness, but that of a court system and society which allows people like Polanski to commit heinous crimes and remain unpunished. If there is any justice in this world, Mr. Polanski would be made aware of what he has done in such a way as to guarantee he would not recommit such an offense. I cannot have a conscience and feel any other way after the decades of collected victims of Mr. Polanski's preferred behavior with the underaged at the hands of the employees of my (no longer a member of) old church.

2 comments:

Jane said...

Thank you for this. I just got finished reading Cockburn's incoherent screed on this at Counterpunch.org today and found your blog after Googling "Cockburn misogynist".

Cockburn reduces Polanski's arrest to American prudery and "part of the ongoing demonization of the Sixties and all that ebullient decade spawned." ????? My God, she was 13! I would ask him: Where do you draw the line? Regarding the sixties, in addition to enabling men to get their wicks dipped more often, they also spawned a new awareness of human rights, including that of women and children.

If I weren't already finished with Cockburn before, I certainly am now.

Regarding the elitist jerks who signed that petition, I think it's good to know what people are made of, and what we're really up against. I already knew the liberalism of Hollywood was thimble deep. I would remind them that the interwebs do not forget.

TA said...

I cannot say that I am surprised. Actually, I would have been surprised if ole Alex felt differently about Polanski, since it would require him to look at 13 year old girls, and females in general, as something like full human beings, not anti-prudish receptacles waiting to be fed alcohol, drugs, and sexually assaulted. Just read his attacks on feminists, pro-choicers, and progressives when flacking for the religious right on embryonic stem cell research (and that's in between his past support for such working class heroes like Bob Dole and Mike Huckabee). And yet now he claims to be opposed to Puritanism! Only when the victims in his mind deserve it. Disappointing does not even begin to list how feel about Cockburn anymore.

That said, in spite of the latest ex-Marxist's invocation, I have as great of a disappointment in the directors who signed the public letter, and to folks like Whoopi Goldberg, who could go so far as to say that what Polanski did was not real rape. Those supporters of Polanski need to read back over the grand jury transcripts and consider what he pleaded guilty to.
http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2008/0610081polanski1.html

I do not care who that person is, what he represents, his claimed beliefs, values, etc., that is rape, not some phony plea for sexual tolerance or commentary against the Salem Witch Trials.

I think actress Alison Arngrim said it best, "If Roman Polanski were a Catholic priest or a Republican senator, would these people feel the same way?" BTW, here is a really good article on the case, from another progressive and feminist perspective.
http://womenandhollywood.com/2009/10/01/rape-is-a-feminist-issue