September 16, 2014

Can we please stop talking about Adrian Peterson’s child???

Not too long ago on a visit home I ate at one of my old favorite restaurants (name and location withheld for what should soon be obvious reasons). When my waiter (who I had not seen in quite a long time) came up to serve me he looked demonstratively different than he had in the past, in a very bad way. I was not comfortable asking him what happened, but I found out anyway as someone a couple of tables away did not share my compunction. He had been jumped by a couple of guys and they had beaten him senseless. It appears his hair was a little long, his clothes a little ratty, and the guys didn’t like “his kind” hanging around in their neighborhood (which also happened to be his neighborhood). A measurable portion of his face has no feeling (and it never will). He will never closely resemble the young man I had come to know. He will never speak clearly again (a portion of the “dead” part of his face is half of his lower lip).

I bring this up, in relation to the Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Ray McDonald (et. al) stories of this week because I feel we are really missing a beat in the conversation. This is not an excuse piece for those guys (there is no excuse for their actions, here or anywhere else). It is not meant to condone, encourage or enable any kind of abuse. However, it is meant to say, maybe there is another lens we should be looking at these situations through.

What I keep hearing about is how a four year old feels looking up at Mr Peterson, or how a defenseless woman feels getting punched while trapped in a elevator, as if these circumstances need to be present for an act of violence to be wrong. While I am as disturbed as the next person at the mental image of a 4 year old getting whipped, I have to suspect that my waiter friend – if he were inclined to think this way – might be wondering “What about me? Is what happened to me really less abhorrent than what happened to Mrs Rice?” I, personally, would answer “no, it is not.” Someone else might say it is, but what is relevant to the point i’m trying to make is that this discussion does not take place, there is no narrative for him. Because we are so focused on the victim, we lose track of the fact that violence is not wrong because of who it manifests itself upon, but rather, because of it’s very existence. Violence is the problem, not “violence inflicted on a certain type of person.”

The target of a wanton act of violence should be irrelevant. As a society we have started to digest the idea that victim blaming (the act of saying, for example, “that girl was raped because of how she was dressed… she asked for it”) is bad; which is good, solid progress. However, it’s time to take the next step and stop using the victims to filter (or sensationalize) the dialog. You shouldn’t need to know the person beaten with a tree branch was 4 to think something is amiss; you shouldn’t need to know it was a woman that was knocked out in an elevator and unceremoniously dumped in a hotel lobby (still unconscious) to see a problem with that evenings activities. Victims of violence need to be supported, but they do not need to be demographic drama fodder in order to emotionally validate the moral integrity of Ray Rice’s left hook.

November 11, 2010

I guess I’m not done with Amazon and pedophiles…

I seldom do this, but as a result of some of the great comments I have received, I’m going to comment on my own post.  Actually… perhaps a whole new post is in order…

First of all, I may have led people to believe that I supported a “freedom of speech” claim used to defend having this book available.  I do not.  My comment about “how close to yelling fire in a theater does one need to be” was supposed to indicate clearly that I thought this was clear and present danger.

What danger you ask?

Well, lets start with this.  If you are in a crowd, someone tells a racist, sexist, homophobic or other similar joke; and you laugh or say nothing about the inappropriate nature of what was just said, you are enabling (if not encouraging) that persons mind set.

In fact, in my opinion, you are complicit in anything that person does going forward of a bigoted or predjucdicial nature… up to and including a hate crime.  Thats how seriously I take this sort of passive support of bad behavior.

I am admittedly judging a book by its cover here, because the damage can be (and is being) done by the cover alone.  In writing, publishing, or reselling this book the parties involved are blatantly excusing, encouraging, and attempting to protect those who commit crimes against children.

I do not defend their right to freedom of speech, rather, I flatly state that not only do I not think it is protected by the constitution, but further it is unlawful by the Imminent Lawless Action test established by the Supreme Court in 1969*.

My assumption is that there is no imminent call to action in this book, however given the rapid and repeating practice of sexual abuse in children, I would say that the crime is imminent at virtually any given moment.  Consider that, depending on what numbers you choose use, a child is estimated to be sexually abused every 1 to 2 minutes in the United States. Cases that have been reported and substantiated, which is obviously a large minority of instances, are documented to occur every 6 minutes.

Clearly abuse is happening and, taking the most “optimistic” number, I think one – on average - every 6 minutes is pretty close to imminent (if there hasn’t been one since you started reading this… there probably will be one before you are done).  Are they all caused by this book? No.  However, the chances of someone who would otherwise not commit such a crime gathering the courage to do so after reading the encouraging words in this book – or even simply hearing that such a book exists and perhaps thinking someone is sympathetic to their desires – are, in my opinion, very real, possibly even likely.

And that has to be considered a clear and present danger of a imminent and lawless action… if its not, I don’t know what it.

At the very least, this is socially irresponsible of Amazon.  I shudder to think about the consequences of anything other than “at the very least.”

*By the way, this test actually replaced the “Clear and Present Danger” test that everyone is so fond of quoting these days and is the test commonly used in courts when deciding freedom of speech issues.  So, with all due respect to Judge Holmes, the most relevant use of the terms Clear and Present Danger in todays society is in reference to a spy novel (a really good spy novel, but a spy novel none-the-less).  Just a little tid bit of info you might be interested in :)

November 10, 2010

Conflict of interest?

Making the rounds today is a story about a book entitled (and I quote) The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure.  The book is described (I believe by it’s author) as follows:

This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian rules for these adults to follow. I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps liter sentences should they ever be caught.

There was an interesting bit in the San Francisco Chronicle about Amazon not really having a clear path to removing this piece, as it does not technically violate any of Amazons Kindle TOS clauses.  And yet, I am forced to ask again (and again and again for anyone who’s been around for a while) how close to yelling fire to we have to get before it is considered clear and present danger?

I’m the last person who wants to get to some sort of “Minority Report” world where people are criminalized on their potential or liklihood to commit or enable a crime; however I also feel there is some middle ground between book ‘em Dano (before they do anything) and casually turning the other cheek to  potentially dangerous situation.

Do we really want to desensitize our reactions to things to the point where the best solution to child abuse is educating the abusers on how not to get caught… or (and I’m quoting now) “perhaps liter (their spelling not mine) sentences should they ever be caught”?

I’m not even certain, based on the description if this is intended to be in the best interest of the abusee or the abuser… perhaps both?

I understand (and support) free speech.  I also understand the unenviable predicament that Amazon finds itself in here (don’t think for a minute that they will not be bombarded by free-speech proponents the moment they pull this book, should the elect to do so).  From a business standpoint there is no winning play here.

However, sometimes you just have to do whats right, regardless of the potential outcomes.

In this case, for Amazon, I believe it means pulling this book as fast as their little delete button can carry them.  For me, it means not clearly stating my opinion by not using a service or company that is unable to determine if it is right or wrong to sell (and make a profit) from this “book.”

And so… my beloved Kindle is, for the moment, retired (and the kindle reader ap on my Android phone has been deleted.  Once Amazon takes a public stand on this issue, I will reevaluate my position… not before.

June 18, 2010

Good, in that Schindlers List sort of way…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — sbj @ 11:47 pm

Last week, while perusing facebook I found the following “status” from the 14 year old daughter of a good friend of mine.  I probably would have been a bit more disturbed reading than I was, had I not known how important the fight against child abuse is to her (she has never experienced it herself, but cares very deeply about the issue and those who have become victims).

It is very good, in that Schindler’s List sort of way, which I am telling you because if you are looking for something upbeat and positive, you are not going to find it here.  Instead you are going to get a thought provoking, emotion tugging, awareness piece that is sadly probably not very far from the reality of some of our very own neighbors.

She has given me her permission to share it with you.  In fact as she has aspirations of doing some freelance work, preferably writing stories for “causes” such as this one; when I told her I wanted to re-publish it, she told me to pass along to any of my readers the offer to put something together for them… so, there you go.

Without further ado, I give you Ashes; a writer, an entrepreneur, a crusader for social justice, and, well, a 9th grader…


The voice was young, juvenile; in a way, it was feminine. But the small lump of a t-shirt and jeans had a defined masculine shape, tousled hair gleaming black. The sunset’s light was weak, blotted out by the silhouette of an oak tree.

The boy standing there was approximately five years old, his clothes matching his hair. His inquisitive green eyes were level with the other child’s, if you could call it that. There were tears slowly drifting down his cheeks, dripping off his chin and hitting the soft soil beneath his bare feet.

His arms were covered in bruises, some larger and darker than others. On his left cheek, a two inch cut pulled away from the bottom of his eye and reached toward his ear, though it didn’t get far. With closer examination, it would be easy to see the scars tracing along his forehead, chin, nose, everything.

He held two flowers in his right hand; one of them was dead. It would be hard to tell that he had taken it away from the child without actually inspecting the area.

“This one’s for you, Benjamin.”

Instead of sticking the dead rose in the other child’s hand, he kept it and handed over the living one. It was thriving, freshly picked and full of bright pink coloring. His expression was almost wistful as he watched it go, but he didn’t complain. “Happy birthday, Benjamin,” he repeated.
His eyes moved from the gray child and down towards the brick that it stood on. With his lip trembling as he tried to fight back the coming tears, he closed his eyes and turned.

“Goodbye, Benjamin.”

He walked away slowly, leaving his younger brother’s tombstone behind. “It was nice seeing you, Benjamin.”

The poor boy didn’t understand that his brother was dead. He didn’t know what had happened, but he knew that his brother was gone and he was the statue standing on the stone with his hand outstretched to hold the flowers that he put there every day.

Benjamin’s brother walked back to his abusive home, the place where he got all the bruises and cuts. His father’s expression as he entered the house was one meant to terrify him, but it didn’t affect him anymore. He wasn’t scared anymore, even though he really should have been.

“It’s Benjamin’s birthday, Daddy,” he said softly.

“I don’t give a shit, Alistair,” hissed the voice of the cruel animal that Alistair was forced to call his father. “Come here. You’re not supposed to leave the house like this.”

Of course, the innocent child had hope. He’d never given up his faith in his dad, always having a soft glimmer that he wasn’t really the way he acted and that, if Alistair waited long enough, he would be blessed with a perfect father who loved him and took care of him.

Of course, he was too ignorant to realise that this would never happen. Obediently moving closer to the tall figure, he looked up almost hopefully.

He didn’t know what happened next. He never did. He knew he always ended up on the floor, like he was now. He knew that there was always pain somewhere on his body; right then, it was his face. And that wasn’t the first time that he saw blood, nor the first time that one of his eyes was blinded by it. Alistair stayed on the ground– although he was ignorant, that didn’t mean he was stupid. The last time he had gotten up, his father had gone after him and cut his cheek with a knife. That was also the only time he had gotten up; although it had been quite a while ago, his father never let the cut heal.

He felt his father’s hands wrap around his neck and he flew off the floor, rising in the air. Against every single one of his mental processes trying to stop them, his arms moved up and clawed at his father’s.

The tall man grinned, then threw Alistair at the wall.

When he hit the surface, he lingered for a second. Alistair could feel the wall absorbing the movement, managing to remain conscious even with the pain shooting through his veins. It took everything not to scream in terror, in pain, in shock.

He looked up, eyes surveying the room. His father was gone. Biting his lip to keep himself from crying again, Alistair stood and stumbled into the bathroom.

His father always left so that Alistair could fix everything, which was what he did now. He’d learned a long time ago how to clean himself up before his mum got home.

Alistair rinsed out his eye several times until it was clear, letting the tears finally come to help clean it out. His hands were gentle as he pressed a soft cloth against the blood, washing it off. Two bandaids eventually found themselves lying on his cheek, covering the cut. He never knew what to do with his bruises; that was what the excuse was for.

His father had bought this house for a reason– it had stairs. That was what Alistair always had to say. He hated lying to his mum, especially when the only reason he did was to protect the beast.

“I’m home!”

The voice was almost like music to his ears. Alistair ran out of the bathroom after he’d stuffed the cloth and bandaids in a drawer that he made sure his mum never needed to use.

“Hey, Beth! How was work?”

Alistair’s expression was one of pain at the sound of his father’s voice, but he fought past it because he didn’t want to get hurt again. He was almost glad when his mum completely ignored her husband and instead rushed towards him, thumb carefully brushing over the bandaids.

“What happened, Ali?”

He glanced over at his father, then back to his mother. “I tripped on the way back from Benjamin’s grave. It’s his birthday today.”

Beth looked down. “It is, isn’t it,” she whispered. “I’d almost forgotten.”

Alistair’s chin trembled and he let himself begin to cry. Beth picked him up and held him, kissing his forehead as she turned to face the monster. He didn’t let his father see his lips as they moved as quickly as he could make them, but he knew his mum would give it away with her expression.

She did.

Only three days later, Benjamin had two graves next to his.

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