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Call the Cops!

Generally speaking, I am not the most law-and-order-oriented citizen. I'm sort of lefty; I remember Kent State; I smoked pot back when it was really a crime. But recently I note three instances- categories of instances, actually- in which we don't call the cops when clearly we should.

A news item today, April 12 2014, has Pope Francis taking "personal responsibility" for the rape and molestation of children by priests. That's absurd: every last grope would have happened if Francis had never been born. But it's  a brilliant misdirection.
The pedophile priests are (strange that this needs saying, but) individually responsible for their individual criminal acts, and should naturally be prosecuted and punished the same way I would be if I were credibly accused of such acts. The Roman Catholic Church has prevented this from happening for generations, and continues to do so.
Now we have a pope who invites us to hold him personally responsible: but does that mean he is willing to stand trial and serve a sentence? Of course not! We don't deal with this sort of thing that way, or even think in those terms, and the pope hopes it stays that way. What we can hope for is that known pedophile priests will not be given further access to kids- that is, that the Roman Catholic Church will stop actively abetting these crimes.
Pope Francis' claim of personal responsibility is certainly novel. It serves nicely to distract us from what should obviously happen, and which still doesn't. Pedophile priests should be sent to prison. Whether the Church sees fit to de-frock them is the Church's business. The effect that priests-in-prison will have on the Roman Catholic Church is neither here nor there. A crime has been committed: call the cops!  Isn't that what we do? 

During the time that I have been working on this essay, it is likely that a member of the U.S. armed services has been sexually assaulted by a fellow serviceman, like as not by a superior or commanding officer. But it is very, very unlikely that, during the same interval, anyone has been convicted, tried, or even arrested for such an assault.
By its nature, rape is hard to report. It is degrading and traumatic, there typically aren't witnesses, and more than any other it is the crime for which the victim is blamed. In the military setting, the victim is furthermore in the unenviable position of ratting out a fellow soldier. It isn't a good career move.
There are some victims brave enough to come forward. Or perhaps foolish enough: here again, credible accusations of serious crime don't necessarily lead to a trial, a plea, anything. Such things will happen if and only if a general decides that they should. If a general decides that a rapist should go free and continue to serve his country (if you want to call it that), that's what happens. If there is no trial, the rapist can claim innocence; all we'll know for sure is that the victim ratted out a fellow soldier and caused a problem for the unit. Good luck to him or her!
We are told that the generals must have this authority in order to be able to command the troops.
Huh?
So, it just wouldn't be workable for there to be any actual rules, rules the general can't change? The general can't command without the right to excuse rape?
Then how about murder? Does the general also get to say "These things happen" about that? And if so, just exactly how is that supposed to make the soldiers feel better about their situation? Or is the idea that refraining from rape is just too much to ask of guys who have signed up to serve?
The argument is preposterous. The practice is designed to make it career suicide to admit to having been raped by a soldier, and it works rather well to that end. If we wanted to punish rape, we'd call the cops.

Mary Barra, newish CEO of General Motors, had some uncomfortable moments on Capitol Hill recently while trying to explain her company's decade-long failure/refusal to correct a known defect in several models, hundreds of thousands of vehicles, while they knew there was a safety problem. The figure one hears quoted is maybe a dozen deaths; I heard one suggestion that the real number might be a few hundred. That would explain the stonewalling!
Ms. Barra said the only thing that it was imaginable that she would say: that of course she didn't precisely know how this had come about, or exactly who was responsible, but that she would find out.
So let me get this right: People (not computers or robots) at a for-profit company have decided, over the years, to hide this problem rather than fix it; because of the decisions they made, some indeterminate number of people are dead, injured, or aggrieved. The investigation into these untimely deaths will be conducted by...who?
This case is different from the others because this was a different sort of crime. It was impersonal and perhaps collective. But put it this way: could the law itself be so forgiving that people working for a company can act that way, for that many years, with those results, and have nothing to fear except perhaps a career setback? Could that happen without any actual people breaking any actual laws? I doubt it: and if so, actually, god help us!
But the thing is unfolding very much as if that were the case. It is being pursued in-house, like an investigation into why the paint cracks on some models in cold weather. Does anyone believe that Mary Barra is going to get to the filthy bottom of it all and name names?
We know what to do when the deliberate actions or decisions of some people cause the foreseeable deaths of some other people. It's the cops who are trained to wade into a situation like that and figure out who did what and when and why. Obviously they aren't infallible, but it is what they do. Somehow, though, I don't hear the sirens closing in on General Motors. 

Of course, we could embrace this practice of carving out exceptions to the general rule of law and order. Let's say a sixth grade teachers loses it on a Friday morning and smacks the shit out of some obnoxious twelve-year-old boy: should he be prosecuted? Well, who are we to say what a teacher needs to do to maintain order in his classroom? Maybe the principal of the school, and then the superintendent of the district, should have the right to just give the teacher a bye. Or require the teacher and the student to go on a retreat together, or impose some other non-judicial settlement.
Let's say you're a grandmother, and your offspring has just shaken your infant grandchild to death or irreparably harmed it in a fit of rage. Now, nobody loves that grandchild more than you do, right? And on the other hand, maybe nobody knows more than you do about the pressures your child happened to be under when the thing happened. So what could be more fitting and natural than to make it your call whether we prosecute? It wasn't so long ago when the cops avoided any kind of domestic dispute; men beating their wives and parents beating their kids just wasn't their beat. We could bring those days back, I guess....
But it would probably work out better somehow if we just called the cops!        






   

 

Garden Party

It was a lovely day in Heaven. They were having another garden party; somebody was playing a harp. The angel Jeff was humming along, some show tune he couldn't place, but as usual he was preoccupied. Jeff had never really lost interest in events on Earth, where he had been a political science professor at a prestigious east-coast university. Most of the other angels didn't think much of Earth. Some referred to it as "the old dirt-ball". Jeff sort of knew he was out of step in maintaining an interest.
It was 2002 down where they kept track. As the nameless show tune ended Jeff was thinking about the fact that 2002 was a numeric palindrome- the same backwards and forwards. When was the last time that happened? 1991. Whoa! thought he: both years, the president of the U.S. was named George Bush! Not the same George Bush, but still! Wouldn't that be a hoot if it was another one next time, in 2112?
There was a lull in the conversation; nobody could think of a new way to praise the clouds. And God was standing right there; He did tend to make people get quiet. But Jeff turned to Him and said out of the blue, as it were, "Did you know that a fellow named Donald Rumsfeld has become the most powerful creature on Earth?"
As the words left his mouth Jeff knew he had stepped in it very big time. (Much later he realized that, for one thing, it was idiotic to ask God if He knew something. Whatever it was, He knew about it. Duh!) After a long moment God turned to Jeff and gave him what was known locally as the "What-was-I-thinking-when-I-created-you?" look.
"Hey Jeff", said He finally, "stuff happens."
The party continued. Some new clouds appeared, to choruses of praise. The harpist went into "Mandy". Suddenly Jeff felt a firm pair of hands on each of his wings. He was propelled swiftly backwards and down into the cloud cover. He struggled and thrashed....   
  

Drive-by Haiku

Good old Lance (Armstrong):          
His name is an anagram          
for clean. That's some dope!        


Nixon would be proud
of today's Republicans:
suppressing the vote

Filling in potholes
would be too good a job for
Governor Christie