Monday, November 02, 2009

MORE FROM ‘THE AMERICAN PROSPECT’

Immediately following the one-page piece that was the subject of my previous Post, there is another one-pager entitled ‘The Polanski Paradox’.

Let me say right off that I’m not a supporter of Mr. Polanski’s criminal activity way back when.

But again, this article twists itself into a pretzel trying to simultaneously a) keep the pressure up on violence against women and b) make sure that the law does what the ‘woman’ in any particular case wants.

The author brings up the most recent DOJ data: between 1993 and 2008 overall rates of domestic violence and sexual assault dropped. But she’s not going to let that stand in the way: “But violence against women is still at epidemic levels”.

This is the type of assertion that should become the starting-point, not the end-point, for some careful fact-finding and serious thought.

“Of every 1,000 American women, 4.3 have experienced domestic abuse.” The decimal point is a nice touch. But in the first place, is a rate of 4.3 per 1,000 an ‘epidemic’? And isn’t that a kind of manipulatively vivid image – “epidemic”?

And second, how are we defining “domestic abuse” here? As I have mentioned before, you can ‘batter’ somebody simply by not speaking to them on a telephone from a dozen or a thousand miles away. I’m not supporter of unhappiness in relationships, but in matters of huge national policy I’d like to see some careful and accurate information before voting to open the cage of the government legislative and police power.

Ditto when she immediately adds that “89,000 women reported being raped last year”. How are we defining “rape” here, because that term has ‘expanded’ far beyond what the average person would consider “rape” to mean. And “reported” is a starting-point for investigation and analysis, not a trumping end-point.

In a painful contortion, she then seeks to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act by noting that “while its goals seem hard to disagree with – protecting women and deterring assault and abuse – the law remains controversial among conservatives who argue that it is sexist against men (even though VAWA provides funding for services for men, too, despite the fact that women are five times more likely than men to be victims of domestic violence”.

Soooooo – this is or is-not a law pretty much mostly aimed at ‘men’?

And have I not read somewhere that while the original research – even back then – revealed that something less than 45% of males admitted physically striking a spouse or partner, yet over 50% of females admitted to initiating physical violence? And that in lesbian relationships, the incidence of violence was higher than in ‘straight’ relationships.

For some reason, these bits of research were ignored – although they seem to indicate some hugely significant areas for study.

And the current Domestic Violence regimes at the State level have imposed a level of government and police authority into domestic relationships which equal totalitarian law enforcement practices of earlier (and failed) regimes from recent world-history.

She moves quickly on.

VAWA is also “controversial among some liberals” because even though it has been “incredibly successful” at increasing protections for “survivors” [a rather loaded word] yet by the same token VAWA “injects our flawed criminal justice system into personal relationships”.

Yessss – despite the good intentions of wanting to see violent abusers (however defined) get what’s coming to them, there is the problem of bringing the government, like a vampire invited in the front door, into the very hearths and bedrooms of the citizenry. I could see where that would be of some concern. Criminal justice being as flawed as anything else in this world – including government, human relationships, and human beings generally – then it’s a good question whether vastly and deeply expanding its area of operations is in any way wise as national policy and legislation.

She mentions that the original VAWA legislation called for “mandatory arrest” – without mentioning that such arrest, in one’s own home perhaps, would be triggered merely on the say-so of your domestic partner or spouse; which is most surely the old totalitarian law-enforcement practice known as ‘delation’: a citizen could be arrested by the police merely on the say-so of another citizen. Ach!

But – you will no doubt be happy to know – “this requirement was ratcheted down to ‘pro-arrest’ when VAWA was re-authorized in 2005, a mere decade and more later.

And again, now, this new note: having pretty much run the old play for the first half of the page, she shifts gears suddenly. “It’s understandable, given the prevalence of violence against women [the ‘men’ have disappeared again] in this country, to want to push for big, systemic solutions to the problem. That is the premise on which VAWA was based.” Sort of a Soviet gambit – big, central, top-down government and engorged police authority. But – hey! – it was the early 1990s and the Soviets had dissolved and wouldn’t be needing their tyranny tools any longer, and with the USSR gone, then nobody could point out the similarity to Moscow and Stalin if the US government went and started using them before they got rusty. Neat.

Still, this new tack continues: “But the deeply personal nature of this crime is what makes such a broad response inherently problematic”. Not, I’m guessing, for the male … his lumpish concerns are of no account.

Making some references to Rihanna and Polanski’s partner refusing to bring charges in their respective cases, the author decides that “these women have a right to decline to get involved with the justice system”.

Well, but if this is an epidemic … and if this is so outrageous a crime …

But of course, it’s always been about ‘the woman’ and not about the common weal. A crime is a crime, and if it’s bad enough to be listed as a felony, then its commission harms the entire body-politic, for which the government is responsible, and so must be prosecuted. The government is not simply the ‘agent’ of the ‘victim’, to be let off the leash or not depending on what the victim ‘prefers’.

But of course that’s been the profound skewing inherent in the victimism movement: the government has been seen not as the responsible arbiter of the overall common-weal, but rather as the on-call avenger and deliverer of victim-vengeance.

(Which is not to say that the government and prosecutors haven’t gotten rather happily used to that engorged role: once they realized that ‘the victim’ could generate the type of pressure-wave in public sentiment that would blow aside numerous Constitutional and jurisprudential protective structures, then ‘the victim’ was duly totemized by the government and prosecutors themselves.)

So the new philosophy of it all, concludes the author, is that “violence against women is a public scourge, but respecting survivors’ wishes must be paramount”.

It’s all about what the woman wants, y’a see, and has been all along. What’s good for the country and the common weal has never really played an effective role in these matters. Which perhaps goes a long way to explaining how such frakkery made its way into law and national policy to begin with.

So now, “when it comes time to reauthorize the legislation next year” [aha] that’s where we should put the focus – on educating men and empowering women”.

Wellllll - that’s a ray of sunshine. Not to say that ‘mistakes were made’, comrades, but rather that new wisdom is simply continuing the fine record of the prior wisdom; in all things, comrades, Moscow knows best.

So the country is to be spared some of the worst of this hash at last. But not because anybody – lobbyist or legislator – has given serious thought to what’s good for the country (including ‘the men’). No, but just because ‘the women’ – or their self-appointed spokespersons – have changed their mind after a decade and a half.

That’s nice in its way, but no basis for hope that anybody in the chattering classes and the Beltway lobbies and Capitol Hill is actually “speaking for America”. Nope, not yet – maybe not any more.

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