Ink Paper Words' Profile

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Pacific Northwest, United States
In elementary school, I desperately wanted my mother to order books for me from those flyers Scholastic hands out to kids. She refused, citing the "perfectly good library down the street." I exacted revenge by becoming a card-carrying ALA accredited reference librarian. Ha! Take that!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

An Ambiguous Take on Roman Polanski

The news that Roman Polanski had been arrested in Switzerland and held for possible extradition to the US to receive the sentencing he fled from 32 years ago has stirred up no apparent end of fussing and fuming on those Interwebz. As I read through various articles on the commentary on them, I am shocked by several things.

First of all, there is a startling lack of middle ground in the opinions of those posting. Comments seem largely to fall into 2 camps: either the “let's string him up by his balls” school of thought or the “her mother pimped her out/he thought she was older/she asked for it” approach.

Why do people feel the need to make everything so black and white, regardless of the perspective? Few things in life are as simple as that. There's the problem with life and reality: all those pesky shades of gray.

Ironically enough, those most vocal about prosecuting “to the fullest extent of the law” care not a whit about the feelings of the victim of the case. As if prosecuting this case will prevent future rapes...sure, on some planet. “This isn't about justice for the victim, it's about justice for society!” some self-righteously claim. Well gee, nice to know you care. Samantha Geimer has repeatedly stated that she just wants to let it go and not allow the media to re-victimize her. As a fellow rape survivor, I can certainly understand the sentiment. It's bad enough that from the earliest stages of the resulting investigation, the victim is made to feel dirty and at fault. The emotional fallout isn't so hot either. In my case, I wasn't allowed a good look at the perp and hence was unable to identify him at a lineup. The result of that was that for several months afterward every man I saw at work, on the bus, at the grocery store could have been him for all I knew.

People in many artistic circles say that on the basis of his oeuvre alone he should be allowed to put it all behind him. Sorry but I have a hard time buying into this. Despite his stature as an artist, he still drugged a teenager and forced himself upon someone who, even if she had consented (she didn't) was legally unable to give consent. Even if her mother had been pimping the girl, consent wasn't hers to give. And regardless of age, at least according to the California Penal Code (current version, anyway, I have no idea what it was in 1977) if you have to slip someone champagne and a Quaalude to get them to have sex with you, that's rape too. I'm sure that rich, famous and powerful people commit crimes all the time and are able to use their connections to avoid prosecution for them. That doesn't make it right.

And then there are those who say he's been in exile for 32 years, isn't that punishment enough? While I'm not sure how I feel about that one, sure, he's had to alter his life somewhat, but aside from not being able to enter the US or countries likely to extradite, I don't really see how the time itself is much of a factor. Except for the fact that he is now 76 and one presumes that at his advanced age he is unlikely to commit any rapes in the future. I do think that some statute of limitations should be in effect on a charge of fleeing sentencing. He has already pleaded guilty to the rape itself, so the involvement of the victim is not necessary (which certainly has not prevented the media from dragging out pictures of her at age 13 and forcing her to relive the events – all the while making money off her tragedy). Besides, California is hardly in sufficient financial shape these days to be spending a ton of money on a high-profile case. Considering that criminals of all stripes are being released due to the budget crisis I really do not believe that the state is viewing this case rationally or with any sort of realistic view about what they hope to accomplish by it.

The argument that shapes my thoughts on this matter the most, I suppose, is that Polanski himself is a victim. I don't mean the Holocaust, which was horrific to be sure and in which his mother was killed. Rather I refer to the gruesome murder of his pregnant wife Sharon Tate by the Manson family. I cannot begin to imagine how a person could continue to go on after such a thing and I have to believe that this has damaged Polanski far more than his actions against a teenager have damaged her. I say this not to minimize the trauma that Geimer was forced to live through, nor to excuse Polanski, but merely to highlight the horror of that night in Los Angeles. I daresay that few among us will ever have to experience anything like those murders and the resulting cultural flash point it has since become.

And it isn't as though he didn't serve any time or went completely scot free. He did serve 43 days in the state prison in Chino. That might not sound like much but I suspect it's more than many people serve for similar crimes. Furthermore, Geimer's family filed a civil suit, for which Polanski paid a sum that apparently satisfied them. If the victim and her family are fine with the outcome, why is it up to the State of California to decide that more needs to happen? What do they have to gain by going ahead with the prosecution?

IMO, at this point California should just slap Polanski with a fine for avoiding sentencing and call it a day. It's clear that proceeding with this case will not help the victim, and it's questionable that it will help the state either.

let this one go.

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