Monday, September 28, 2009


Often, when I find myself struggling with a feminist issue, not quite able to sort my feelings out, I turn to Amanda Marcotte for clarity and on this particular issue she does not disappoint. It's hard when a public figure whose work one admires turns out to have behaved heinously in his/her private life (Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Woody Allen) but, adding to the dilemma of this case is the fact that so much time has passed, the victim herself is calling for clemency, and one questions whether or not this might be a case of an overzealous prosecutor seeking a celebrity trophy. But weighed against the principle of equality under the law (our system is heavily stacked against the poor; H/T von, who has more thoughts), and the need for an affirmation of national values, as Amanda puts it so well:
But these kinds of crimes aren’t just about the current victim, but the larger problem. Polanski committed his crime before rape and the sexual abuse of children were really considered serious crimes. Punishing him can help as a collective retribution of our society’s former values, and a way to assert new ones. One case that comes to mind is the conviction of Edgar Ray Killen 41 years after he conspired to kill three civil rights workers in Mississippi. These kinds of cases are about symbolically rejecting a history of racist violence and trying, at least, to move forward. And while I’m not trying to compare the crimes in severity---again, the victim in the Polanski case is thriving, and obviously the murdered men are not---I sincerely think there’s a useful lesson here about the importance of facing up to our history and doing what we can to make the necessary changes.
and I come down on the side of support for Polanski coming back here to serve his sentence. Now, if we could only be as diligent and principled in our stand against war crimes.

UPDATE: Scott Lemieux suffers no ambivalence on this issue at all.


heydave said...

Just don't try to deal with this matter too curtly, and keep that sarcasm under control, otherwise you'll get labeled a rape lover, as I was.

I think Polanski certainly has accountability to render in this case. While I find it hard to see value in this matter, given the signal to noise ratio of news events in our world, some thoughtfulness was welcome.

heydave said...

Oh, and color me jaundiced, but I only wish that the prosecution of the killer of the civil rights workers made a difference. People suck.

Other people, not us, of course.