Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Roman Polanski's crime

I simply cannot get my head around the outrage some very prominent people in the film industry and some politicians in France are expressing about the arrest of filmmaker Roman Polanski as he arrived in Switzerland to attend a film festival.

Let's review.

These are the facts that Polanski himself has admitted:

In March 1977 Roman Polanski invited a 13-year-old girl to come to Jack Nicholson's house, where Polanski was staying. Nicholson was not there.

Polanski, who then 46, told the girl he wanted her to pose for photos for a magazine for which he was acting as a guest editor. He gave her Champagne and a Quaalude.

He knew she was only 13. He even called the child's mother to tell her they were delayed. The frightened girl asked to leave. Polanski photographed her naked in a hot tub. He then had oral and vaginal sex with the girl. Later he penetrated her anally.

The girl testified before a grand jury that she repeatedly asked him to stop, that she was afraid and that they were alone in the house.

Polanski pled guilty to sex with a minor in a plea bargain that was struck to spare the girl public exposure. The plea bargain dropped the rape and sodomy charges, something I find outrageous still. But Polanski feared he might have to spend time in jail. Even though he had pled guilty to a felony, he was allowed to remain free pending sentencing. During that time, a judge gave permission for him to travel abroad for some film work, and so in 1977, he left the country and never came back.

He has been living in France since then, traveling the world, getting on with his nice life, continuing his film work, winning awards and accolades.

The girl, now a woman, has long since identified herself -- her name is Samatha Griemer -- and has said that she has forgiven Polanski and that she wants the criminal case to go away.

"I have survived , indeed prevailed, against whatever harm Mr. Polanski may have caused me as a child."

I applaud her for that. But while she may have prevailed over Polanski, he has not paid for his crime against her.

Let's be clear what that crime was. A grown man lured a child to a house with lies, drugged her, photographed her naked, and then raped and sodomized her. Then he fled the country to avoid punishment.

I don't care how rich he is, how famous he is, how talented he is, this is despicable behavior. What's more, it's criminal behavior.

And it gets worse. Soon after Polanski's arrest, his lawyer, Douglas Dalton, according to the New York Times, said "he wanted to explore the 13-year-old's sexual history."

Dalton said, "We want to know who was involved, when; we want to know why those other people were not prosecuted."

You know, if other people were involved in sexually molesting this child, they should be prosecuted. But let's explore THEIR sexual history, not her's.

Exploring her "sexual history" smacks of the old "blame the victim" defense in rape cases. According to this reasoning, if a girl or woman ever said yes to ANY man, she can never say no again. She is fair game to any man who decides he wants her.

See anything wrong with that reasoning?

What Polanski did was not about sex. Rape never is. It's a crime, not of passion, but of power and control. When it's an adult raping a child, it is even more so a crime of power and control.

The passage of time and Polanski's career do not mitigate the horror of his crime. It's time he paid for it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Drawing a circle to bring us all in

Here is a great sermon from a priest in Mississippi.

As I read it, I wondered how many priests in Fort Worth would have the courage to stand in the pulpit and say this. Sadly, I can think of only three.

Here's an excerpt:

Forty-six years ago this week (August 28, 1963), Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the greatest orators and leaders of the twentieth century delivered his “I Have a dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. His words inspire me to this day. I also have a dream: a dream about full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life, ministry and worship of the churches I serve and the Episcopal churches in Mississippi.

Why am I moved to state my dream now? Our bishop, Duncan Gray, is on record as stating that exclusionary practices toward ordination of homosexual persons will not change during his episcopacy. There are no changes on the horizon, unless the Holy Spirit moves us, as a church, to change. I felt the call to share my hopes and dreams about the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church before, but I kept waiting until “the time was right.”

The immediate catalyst for this vision arrived at the Fourth Annual Retreat of Ministry with Gays and Lesbians in Canton, Mississippi, this weekend. The retreat leader, The Rev. Dr. Ruthanna Hooke, opened our session by assuring us that we are all in “a safe place.” I realized through comments made by gays and lesbians in attendance that there were many places where they did not feel safe. I thought, “that’s what the church should be: a safe place, where all can experience the love of God with peace and acceptance. That’s what the churches in Belzoni (St.Thomas) and Rolling Fork (Chapel of the Cross) are, ‘safe places’ where all are welcome.”
My dream emerges from personal experience and deeply held beliefs, which I will set forth. I realize, however, that others have experiences and beliefs which differ from mine, so I share this dream to invite conversations in the quest for Christ’s love in the midst of disagreement and dissent.

I want to establish the perspective on inclusion of gays and lesbians through a poem by Edwin Markham* (see endnote):

He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.

Again, go here to read it all.

Note that his bishop has stated that exclusionary practices toward gays and lesbians will continue under his episcopacy. That alone would be enough to cow most priests into silence on the topic. It certainly would around here, because even though we have made great progress in this diocese on inclusion, talk of full inclusion for our LGBT brothers and sisters in Christ remains the third-rail of the church here for many clergy.

Sermons like this give one hope that things can and will change.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Obama's speech to the children

How many of you adults out there have taken the time to listen to what President Barack Obama actually said in his address to the school children of America?

You can read a transcript and watch a video of the speech here. It's about 19 minutes long, including a introduction by a young student that is itself pretty inspiring.

I would like for you to watch it and tell me anything in it you might find remotely offensive.

My grandsons saw it at their school on Thursday. They saw it on Thursday because the principal wanted to watch it first. The school sent home slips for parents to sign if they did not want their children to see it. I don't know how many opted out, but after watching the video, I'm sorry for their children.

When I picked up the boys after school on Thursday, my 5-year-old grandson came running up to me, eyes shining, and said, 'Mom! Do you know who came to our classroom today? Orock Obama!!"

[Not only do I love the way he pronounces the president's name, I suspect the president would like it too. Gavin used to call him Orock Orama, but he's learned to pronounce the last name.]

I said,"Really! What did he say?"

"He told us to work hard and stay in school and learn a lot. Don't tell Curran. I want to surprise him!"

I said, "Ok." But as we walked over to pick up Curran from the second-graders' line, he also came running up and said, 'Mom, the president talked to us today!"

Gavin said, 'He talked to us too!" and suddenly both boys were talking at once, telling each other about the speech.

I asked Curran, "What did you like best about it?"

He thought for a moment, and then said, "He said that if we give up on school, we're giving up on our country."

He was quiet for a moment and then said, "That would be a really bad thing to do."

I said, "Well, you have a lot of people who will help you work hard. You've got Mommy and Daddy and me and Da and all your teachers."

And Gavin piped up, saying stoutly, "And we already work hard, don't we, Curran."

I have to say, doing homework that afternoon was much easier than usual. The boys had been inspired and it showed.

I am baffled as to why having the president of the United States inspire school children to work hard is considered a bad thing by some Americans.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Falling like grace upon us all

It's been raining in Fort Worth -- blessed rain that has come down in sheets at times but more often has fallen gently on an appreciative thirsty earth. It has fallen on all of us too, the worthy and the unworthy, not unlike God's love and grace.

This Sunday morning, I sit at the table upon which my cat Simon is reclining -- he helps me read the paper while I drink my coffee -

and listen to the tiny snores of contented dogs sleeping on the couch and floor nearby.

It's a sleepy day, with the raindrops patting the roof and blurring the windows. It's that last that makes me feel as if I'm in Giverny, living in the middle of a Claude Monet painting. At long last, my Texas garden looks like an impressionist's garden in France -- all soft lines and blurry colors.

The front porch even looks romantic.

And the walk outside the front window looks all soft and dreamy.

It would be easy to just sit here for most of the day, sunk in daydreams and thoughts of how easily worked the earth will be when the rain finally stops and I can be in the garden again.

But it's time to get ready for church, to join my friends in giving thanks and praise to the loving God who brings us rain, sweet cats, and contented dogs.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where am I?

Sometimes I wonder what nation I'm living in.

I watched the president's speech last night during which a U.S. Congressman called the president a liar.

Jaws dropped all over the chamber. Jaws dropped in our living room.

My husband said, "I hope that's somebody's guest and not an elected official who did that."

Well, it was an elected official -- South Carolina Republican Representative Joe Wilson -- who yelled, "You lie!" at the president when Obama said the health care reform would not cover people who are here illegally.

What is happening in America? People are disrupting public meetings, shouting down their elected officials when they try to speak and intimidating other citizens who try to ask questions. One man even showed up at a meeting at which the president was speaking with a gun strapped to his leg.

People are willing to believe Barack Obama wants to put old people to sleep, like old dogs who are in pain. They are willing to believe the U.S. Congress -- their elected representatives -- would approve "death panels." Some people who don't even know that the Medicare they are so happy with is a "government-run" program are happy to speak out against "government run health care." This includes veterans who rely on a "government-run health care system" called the VA.

Between Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA, well over half of Americans are already in a "government-run health care system." Not many of them call this socialism.

The president of the United States wants to talk with our schoolchildren about staying in school and working hard and some parents go into hysterics that the president will "indoctrinate" them and turn them into socialists. They carry signs saying to the president, "Stay away from our children."

Anybody remember what George Bush was doing when he was told about the 9/11 attacks? Right. He was in a classroom reading to children. And in fact, the Arlington, Texas school district -- which declined to show Obama's speech to its students because it would "disrupt the school day" -- is going to bus fifth grade students to Cowboys Stadium to hear a speech from former president George Bush and his wife, Laura.

What will the kids hear? Knowing Laura's passion for literacy, I suspect it will be a speech about staying in school and working hard. And I'll bet we won't have parents picketing the stadium with signs telling Bush to stay away from our children.

So why the uproar over Obama's every move?

Someone asked, "Have aliens landed and sucked out people's brains?"

Had major stupidity broken out in our nation? No, but some political leaders and many commentators in the media -- on both the left and the right, but particularly on the right -- have been cynically ratcheting up the volume and pumping fear and resentment out like fire hoses.

And because these people occupy positions of trust in the government and in the media, people who are already worried and scared tend to believe them.

Not that this absolves people of the responsibility to think for themselves. The problem is, after listening to some of these folks being interviewed, I do wonder if they ever even tried to think things through for themselves.

It's not elitist to expect grown people to take some responsibility for finding out the facts about a situation before they go ballistic over it. It's not elitist to expect adults to be able to act in a civil manner in public hearings. It's not elitist to expect adults to show common courtesy to elected officials -- respect the office even if you can't respect the officeholder.

I'm not saying we can't disagree and I'm not saying we can't poke fun at our leaders -- that's a proud American tradition and one I engage in with gusto at times. But there's a difference between making jokes about Obama's ears and calling him a liar while he's addressing a joint session of Congress. There's a difference between pointing out inconsistencies, inaccuracies and outright lies in a civil debate and in screaming curses at an elected official.

Listen, I am not a fan of George W. Bush. I disagreed with just about everything he ever did except maybe his common sense approach to immigration reform. But I never "hoped he would fail" as Rush Limbaugh has said he hopes Obama will fail.

I wrote about my disagreement with Bush on many occasions. But if he were to walk in a room where I was, I would stand up and show respect to him. He was my president.

And that's the thing. He was my president. So was Bill Clinton. So was the first President Bush. So was Carter and Reagan and all the others all the way back to the late 40s when I was born. Democrat or Republican, they were my president.

Obama is my president. And he's the president of Rush Limbaugh and the hecklers too. Not that they seem to know that. They seem to know almost nothing about how our system of government works. They seem to think "civics" is a bunch of small Hondas and that "civility" is a a group of non-military people.

I suspect Joe Wilson, Rush Limbaugh and all those hecklers would assert that they "support our troops." But if I were one of the soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan watching all this, I'd wonder exactly what it is I'm fighting for.

Once we lose the ability to have civil discussion about our differences, our democracy is in grave danger. And that scares me.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Thanks to Mad Priest for this.

Meanwhile in a bunker deep beneath the Fox Nework newsroom . . .