Wednesday, January 10, 2007

SEX AND SEX AND SEX

It seems that’s all we ever think about. Too bad, because while we were thus away, the country has taken a violent lurch toward authoritarianism and we’ve made the Vietnam mistake all over again, only this time it’s worse (in the ‘60s we were still the world’s dominant economic and industrial power, our middle class was comfortable and confident in its own and the country’s future, and there was a wide consensus that being “American” was mostly a good thing and you’d want it for your children and your children’s children - not so any more). We have lost our “internal empire” in a fit of absence of mind. Or rather, we have taken it apart, timber by timber, in mid-ocean. Repairs are in order, if we can keep our minds to the task.

But that last was a metaphor and metaphors can only take you so far. To be on a self-deconstructed ship in the middle of the ocean, to see water coming in where there used to be solid timber … yes, that indeed can have the effect of concentrating the mind wonderfully. But rarely in ‘everyday’ life are we confronted with such a clear sight of our situation: all sorts of distractions and denials are possible, since non-immediate and subtle warnings can be spun – even to ourselves – as a ‘glitch’, an ‘oddity’, or even an undigested bit of beef. So if any concentrating is going to be done, we’ll have to do it ourselves. If we’re up to it.

Kim Ridley reports that “precocious puberty” is on the rise (Ode Magazine, see www.truthout.org/issues_06/010907HA.shtml). It appears that girls are now reaching puberty as early as 8, and boys as well. The culprit appears to be accidental exposure to “hormone-mimicking” chemicals. The shocker is to find out that such chemicals are in all sorts of everyday stuff: plastics (mimicking estrogen) are found in personal-care products, pesticides, and flame-retardants, and at least one type of PVC that’s in shower curtains, toys, and packaging; boys had absorbed inordinate amounts of testosterone from normal skin contact with fathers who were using testosterone-enhanced cosmetic and sexual products.

Thoughts as to effects – “sequelae” as they say in the medical trade – flood in. Will these children now be further drugged in an effort to reduce or reverse the exposure? What will be the psychological effects on them? On boys specifically? On girls specifically? How reliable will these children be – when grown – as workers, as citizens, and (we’re really gonna need’em) as troops?

And of course, in light of what was noted in the immediately previous Post, what are the implications for the Republic of yet another aspect of the on-going ‘Emergency’ of sexoffensemadrapistsdaterapechildporngoraphychildmolesting that, like a particularly resourceful and agile virus, continues to mutate into a new and more virulent strain each time its initial ‘outrage-carrier’ has worn itself out, to the possibly permanent detriment of the structural elements of The Republic? With the already dubious ‘sexually unaware child’ now reaching puberty at age 8, will the government – at the invitation of the Advocacy – demand even more authority to intrude in the lives of everybody?

It had been noted a Post or two ago that up in Boston its paper, the “Boston Globe”, had piously commemorated the 5th anniversary of its sex-offender-priest campaign in the Sunday edition. An Op-Ed wondrously showed up on its pages, in which an advocacy organization specifically erected for the purpose back then vowed now to expand its ‘war’ to the entire world, and would not close down shop until “the truth” was out all over the aforementioned planet. Such extension of a war has a familiar ring these days.

Tuesday, under the rubric of reporting, the paper did an article on a “solemn midday march” by “about 60 people” from the local Cathedral to “a nearby law school” who were demonstrating in favor of more legislation to combat this “silent, violent epidemic”. And as always, “a cheering crowd” (number not even estimated, perhaps as low as 60) supported the unveiling of a proposed set of “reforms” to the law. The only bright spot in the ‘reporting’ was that the posters carried along – also de rigeur for this sort of event – carried photos of children “allegedly” abused by priests, a sub-class of the species Homo Sapiens that could include – granted the “allegedly” – just about, oh, anybody and everybody.

The “epidemic” is a three-fer: granting the authority of science and the urgent compassion of medicine in the face of a worsening crisis. Well it’s a four-fer, actually: the ‘crisis’ is “silent” … which is code for “hidden” which is code for “there’s no palpable evidence of it” which leads the devotant to the only conclusion allowable: there is no evidence because a massive world-wide conspiracy has hidden it. Add to this then the academic ploy: but you can read all about it in our Theory, which will fully fill in any gaps in facts that cannot be located out in the actual world.

Anybody familiar with the old Soviet reality can read this ‘reporting’ and the event itself to plumb the full depths of its many calculated dimensions. We are dealing here with a ‘script’ taken almost wholly from the manuals of the old Socialist Realism and the days of those ‘spontaneous demonstrations’ so familiar in Communist capitals.

The media must bear a huge responsibility for this mess (Iraq and the sex-offense mania). In both instances its utter lack of skepticism has lubricated the whole thing. In the Iraq matter, a ‘sensitivity to’ and a ‘respect for’ the government resulted in no hard questions being asked and no revealing pictures to be shown; thus not only were returning military coffins not shown (not very often and far too late, anyway) but in April or May of 2003 the media filmed a “spontaneous” demonstration by the liberated Iraqis, who went and pulled down Saddam’s statue. As Molly Ivins recently pointed out, the wider-angle non-American footage shows a sparse bunch of Iraqi onlookers and a Marine tank or tank-like vehicle actually pulling the hefty thing down with a cable. No wonder the government felt it could get away with torture. Before that, in the sex-offense matter, ‘sensitivity to’ and ‘respect for’ the self-declared victim has emasculated any skepticism. Almost anything can be claimed, almost any change in the law will be called a ‘reform’, almost any theory will be listened to respectfully.

No wonder then that the media have crippled themselves. By not only embracing a bad idea (the abandonment of objectivity in reporting) but then erecting it into a Plan (advocacy journalism, as it is called) they have undercut their role as watchdogs. It has now reached the point where they can’t credibly investigate the government and report their findings because their ‘reportage’ of the assorted doings of the Advocacies has been so skewed that the government – sleazily but with some truth – could claim the media are being ‘biased’ against it. This loss of its soul happened to the media long before the corporate interests began treating ‘news’ divisions as profit-centers and we might even surmise that the 1996 Act allowing news outlets to be amassed by monster for-profit corporations was simply an acknowledgement that the media had forfeited their special status within the Constitutional Republic, and were now just another hawker on the consumer highway.

As has been noted previously on this site (see “Bishops Bomb”) the Catholic Church in America was a large, slow-moving target, and sorta low-hanging fruit, back in the day. It was stolidly all-male in a world where feminists were angling for more space and power; it was heavily dependent on Reason and Tradition in an era when Feelings were raised on high and all Tradition was suspect as a tool of ‘oppression’; to hungry, theology-and-ministry-challenged Fundamentalists it was an unbeatable and enviable opponent; and it had a very irreverent habit of speaking out against abortion and gayness – annoying the increasingly rabid Left, and (the unpatriotic impudence!) of lecturing the government of Ronald Reagan and the Pentagon about the immorality of nuclear war - annoying the increasingly rabid Right.

And the Church in America was beset by numerous internal issues. Since 1965’s Vatican Council had ended the Church had been stressed by numerous competing and vocal factions, none of whom were looking to “reason together”: feminists who wanted men out of – or at least women into – the priesthood and the right to abortion if the need arose; traditionalists who wanted the gays out, the 12th century back, and who doubted the validity of every Pope since John XXIII; radical reformers who wanted the hierarchy sorta out and a ‘democracy’ of some sort put in its place; gays who wanted to be living an ‘out-er’ life; a priesthood trained more for garrison duty and ‘maintenance’ than for breaking new ground in matters spiritual; and an episcopacy coasting along on its ‘status’ as doctrinally sound and quite content to ‘administrate’ rather than rock any boats (the aforementioned nuclear-war lectures being the work of ‘rogue’ prelates and troublesome priests since passed from the scene). A true medieval carnival brought into our own times. And a heavily-laden, wallowing, lumbering, inattentively-captained treasure ship if ever there was one. Once upon a time in Hollywood any C-list screenwriter could have ginned up an optionable script with this stuff in a week.

Enter the sex-offense advocacy, fresh from its massive mis-steps in the kiddie daycare/serial-molestation-in animal-suits events, which had scored a couple-three convictions (almost all except the Massachusetts ones now vacated or reversed) but at great cost to the credibility of sex-offense ‘law’ and sex-offender ‘science’.

The Advocacy had become, in an eerie similarity, “Teflon”, like the Great Communicator himself. Instead of retiring in sackcloth to reflect upon its sins, the Advocacy immediately returned to the fray (that it itself had started). It deployed sensationalism and awful crime in high places (grounding itself in the scientific creds of Freud – such as they are – and seducing the increasingly seducible media); it deployed either-or thinking to capitalize on particularly awful cases to mobilize fear and outrage and suppress not only dissent but even doubt, and to distract from the thinness of the provable (or even perceptible) facts on the ground; it deployed ‘science’ that based itself on anecdote, self-reports, speculation, and shoddy research; it attacked law as ‘obstructive’ of justice and ‘insensitive’ to the needs of the victims (whose status as such had not yet been established by a trial of the facts) and demanded ‘reforms’ that would effectively dismantle the male-oppressive emphasis on Reason, Due Process, and Rules of Evidence (all precisely in place to prevent the awefull police power of the state from being deployed inaccurately against a defendant).

And in effect, the Framers’ scenario of a predatory and ever-engorging police power of the government versus an independent, individual citizen was scrapped for: the innocent victim of a crazed and irreformable monster-stranger living in pain and unavenged, demanding rescue and redress from the powerful but somnolent government police power (which, of course the hero-Advocacies would wake up).

And then, at some point, it must have occurred to the hombres in government that rather than being pesky ‘wimmen’ – even in a man’s body, some of ‘em – interfering with the traditional mano-a-mano of Cop-vs-Robber, these advocates might be a very convenient wave upon which to launch their ever-ready surf-boards. The advocates provided the police power with one of those Kowabunga moments that have sweetened the dreams of every ambitious policeman since time immemorial. And suddenly, rather than being rebuked, ducked, or simply ignored, this Advocacy was brought in to be photographed with law enforcement honchos and prosecutors. And – as used to be intoned at Santa Anita – they were off.

Back to the “Globe”. Priests had occasionally been snagged in the increasingly wide trawl nets of the sex-offense sensibility since the early 1980s. Whether there were more priests, statistically, committing these offenses than in other groups or professions, was (and still is) not clearly known. The ‘rape’, cases of which had initially engaged the legitimate outrage of the public, became ‘abuse’ and then ‘molesting’, the media reporting the exponentially-increasing numbers of incidents even as media descriptions of any particular case became increasingly vague, and finally dissolved into the simple rote descriptors of ‘abuse’ and ‘molestation’.

None of this is to imply an approval of the perpetration of any form of unwanted sexual experience, nor does it imply a blanket dismissal of or pardon for any such perpetrations by Roman Catholic priests. But given the manipulations of this Advocacy, abetted after a while by the hugely well-placed opportunism of the government police power, we simply don’t know, in each individual case. This engorgement of the police power – especially the criminal police power - included the substantive weakening of classic justicial boundaries put in place to preserve the achievement of Truth in determining an individual’s guilt or innocence.

Now, seen from the point of view of the Framers’ vision, it’s as if Kong was being purposely released, the walls holding him into his part of the island were being breached and the massive gates swung open, on the assumption – never put to The People for serious and deliberate discussion – that Kong could be made to do ‘good things’ and would be amenable to control.; could be – eerily enough – domesticated, even as his feminist cheer-leaders were seeking to free themselves from this or that form of ‘domestication’ through him. Again, this script would be optionable and it almost writes itself. But then – as in so many of these Advocacy-managed phenomena – the thing has already been carefully scripted at the outset by the Advocacy’s professionals themselves. A screenwriter would almost be superfluous.

And if it be asserted that the purpose of this vast engorgement of the criminal police power was not to accurately apply the Law to mere (mere!) individual cases but rather was to ‘send a message’, then we are regressed back to Stalin’s poo-poohing the gambit with the aphorism that In order to make your omelet you have to break some eggs. Such is the morality of revolution. But then, hadn’t it been clearly said that that’s what the feminists were all about in the first place? Who could be surprised? They couldn’t have made themselves clearer back in the days of the (whichever) Wave.

But by the middle of the 1990s, it appeared to the bishops that the storm had passed; a few priests had been swallowed up in the waves – hopefully guilty but whatever happened was God’s will – and business could be gotten back to usual. And so it was within the walls of the Church’s enclave.

But then came Bush, and with him his Fundamentalist base that had been quietly engorging throughout the later 1980s and had really started to bite deeply when the Republicans made their thousand-year Contract with America in 1994. And them Kathliks were still – as they had always been – in the way. And then came 9-11, and the Pope of the time was known to frown upon war, having – unlike Mr. Bush or his echelon of advisors – been through a war and an Occupation himself and he hadn’t skipped town. It is hard not to imagine some folks there in Washington City wondering if the worthy gentlepope and his organization might not be somehow distracted? And might not at the same time the Incumbency’s increasingly enthusiastic ‘base’ be fortified for the exertions to come (the revelation of which had not been seen fit to vouchsafe to such excitable types)? A two-fer. What wasn’t to like?

Be that as it may, on January 2, 2002, even as the plans for war were being secretly drawn up in Washington City, the aforesaid “Globe” did with deliberation aforethought ‘break’ the ‘story’ of Kathlik sex-abuse. It would receive a Pulitzer Prize for reporting. But of course by this time the Advocacy had managed things such that all a ‘reporter’ really had to do was put a name on the front page with an allegation: that chum in the water, it was merely a matter of time – and not usually a lot of it. Since allegations and claims could be made with a reasonable certainty that one wouldn’t be too closely examined oneself and/or that matters had happened so long ago that few witnesses and little evidence might be left and/or that the offensive act might have been unprovable even when it was allegedly committed … these ‘reforms’ of media and justicial praxis bid fair to provide an increasing number of allegations and claims.

The haplessness of the episcopacy, that chose not to honestly contest but rather to quietly try to ‘bury’ individual problems, was soon demonstrated, as the ‘individual’ claims rose to a flood. But too, by that point what prudent defense lawyer would have recommended ‘contesting’ since the media and courts had already ‘reformed’ themselves into a partiality all the more obnoxious for its smarmy and righteous protestations of good intentions (so similar to fundamentalistic style).

Nor did the bishops prove themselves particularly conversant even with the virtues of their own tradition. The Catholic tradition of patience with the long, sustained, staggery struggle of the individual human person toward spiritual growth was allowed to be ‘spun’ as sleazy and feckless collusion in the maintenance of vast underground cabals of sexual depravity. It seemed after a while a real question as to how much the bishops knew … about the Catholic ethos they were consecrated to nurture. But they were ‘administrators’, sanctity being considered a bit too malleable a foundation for the principles of sound management.

Ominously, the righteous impatience with Evil and the violent thrusts to expunge it were far more characteristic of the fundamentalistic approach to life and people. After watching that approach’s success – if it may be so called – in the “Globe’s” gambit, perhaps the Incumbency took increased devotion to the assumption that such an approach would work as effectively in foreign affairs as it had in domestic.

In its current article, the “Globe” obliquely compliments and justifies itself (yes, things are starting to reach that point) by noting in the accents of science that “between 1950 and 2003 162 priests were accused of sexually abusing minors. This group represents about 7 percent of the priests serving in the Archdiocese during that period …” This is a clear statement that paradoxically (except to readers who learned to read under the unique tutelage of “Pravda” and “Izvestia”) raises far more questions than it purports to answer.

Over 53 years 162 priests were accused. That comes out to 3.05 priests per year. They were accused, but what was the outcome of those accusations? What was the definition of the ‘abuse’ – was it rape? Improper touching? Improper thoughts? How many interactions between priests and minors of the Archdiocese might reasonably be calculated to have taken place over those 53 years? And of that number of interactions, how great a percentage is constituted by the quoted acts of ‘abuse’? And of those acts of ‘abuse’ how many were rape? Improper touching? Improper communicating? And so forth.

This would give us some hard numbers. As opposed to ‘extrapolating’ and ‘reverse extrapolation’ or “unofficial studies” or “unofficial records” or anecdotes or stories or memories dim or repressed or – still conceptually implausible and professionally unaccepted – ‘recovered’.

None of the foregoing is any way meant to condone misconduct, and physical violence against any human being is utterly criminal. But it is an awesome and awe-full thing to deploy the criminal law – or even the civil law – against any individual. Those who choose to deploy it and execute its operations must be held accountable for the force they unleash, and for the consequences intended and unintended, foreseen but even unforseeable (and does any of this sound familiar?).

And we desperately need the hard numbers in order to help us get some perspective on just how big a threat we face. WMD would have been a huge threat, had they existed. The size of the ‘bomber gap’ screamed by anti-communist Republicans against their own Party’s President – Eisenhower – would have been fatal, had it existed. The size of the ‘missile gap’ deployed by candidate Kennedy against candidate (and Vice-President) Nixon would have been utterly lethal, had it existed. On the basis of those exaggerated numbers our fears were exaggerated, and Truth went overboard as far too burdensome a cargo to be carried in such a tempest. Such ‘emergencies’ create a deforming damage not easily mended.

And it cannot be enough to say that all is justified if we ‘mean well’ or if we ‘save even just one’. The road to hell is proverbially strewn with good intentions. And the damage we have inflicted – not only on any inaccurately accused but on the framework of our own Constitutional Republic and on our own ability as its citizenry to People this Republic – will not easily be mended. And the consequences of that damage, in an eerie mirror image, are demonstrated palpably in the now un-spinnable and undeniable debacle that Iraq has become.

What will happen to this sex-offense activity may seem of less concern than the wreck of our interest and our standing and our honor and integrity in Iraq. But this particular Advocacy has not only wrought its own damage but provided, it seems to me, the playbook for the Iraq misadventure. That blood cries out from the earth.

Let every priest and every bishop take serious and renewed devotion to his responsibilities, interpreted in the deepest and broadest and highest way. Let every authentic victim be graced to come forward and speak, and let everyone of goodwill who chooses to assist in that find strength and let every ‘reporter’ committed to accuracy and the truth amplify their experience.

But let every single mother-loving one of them remember that, contrary to the postmodernists there is indeed a Truth, and that contrary to the Fundamentalists that Truth is not determined by adherence to a flag, and that contrary to the garrison-mentality of churchly organization that Truth is so alive as to raise the blood-pressure and the hair on one’s neck as it draws near, and contrary to the flattened vision of a world collapsed into its surfaces and its appearances there is a Vertical dimension to each of us – up and down – and a Beyond over all of us. And It draws near. Wisdom attend!

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