You'd think the apprehension of a brazen sex offender would be an unqualified cause for rejoicing, but the Swiss government is already being excoriated for nabbing Roman Polanski and holding him for possible extradition to the U.S.
Elsewhere in Europe, however, reactions to Polanski's arrest were swift
and damning. France's minister of culture, Frederic Mittterrand, says
he is "stupefied" and is demanding Polanski's immediate release. The
country's highest officials are already talking to Swiss and U.S.
officials in hopes of ending the detention, it was reported Sunday.
The Swiss Directors Association is also condemning the act,
calling the arrest as "a grotesque farce of justice and an immense
cultural scandal." Directors and actors worldwide have begun
circulating petitions calling for Polanski's release.
I don't care how many film awards the man has won, nothing excuses the rape of a 13-year-old girl. I don't mean he can't be forgiven, and I don't mean it's not understandable that a man might be driven onto dark paths following the spectacular and much-publicized murder of his wife and son. There are mitigating circumstances that his lawyer could justifiably raise at his trial. But why should he be exempt from justice because he is an artist, and famous? And why should France, a country I love and respect in many ways, and of which Polanski is a citizen, wish to harbor a child molester? That seems much more worthy of Europe's condemnation than the molester's incarceration.
Monday, September 28, 2009 at
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I'll bet that a lot of those people dont just support Polanski because he's famous but also because they think satutory rape is no big deal. They basically view sex as the equivalent of shaking hands. Any Polanski supporter who doesn't feel that way is welcome to explain otherwise. IMO they're psychotic.
Even if one buys the idea that statutory rape is "no big deal," this points up the dangers of plea bargaining. Our friends in the legal system assure me that what a plea bargainer is actually guilty of is often much, much worse than what ends up on his record. Reading the news stories you can get the impression that what Polanski had was a consensual dalliance with someone who happens, in our current society, to be considered underage. But if you look at what Polanski was charged with (at least if you trust Wikipedia on this one), it's a lot nastier than that.
I know, there are also innocent people who accept a plea bargain because they can't afford the fight; somehow I don't think Polanski falls into that category.
Statutory rape is a term we have because fornication is no longer considered a crime, but we can't shake the feeling that not all consensual copulation is born equal, that perhaps the consent of a thirteen-year old under influence of champagne, a jacuzzi, and a smooth authority figure isn't what we mean by consent. Sure, plenty of people think the letter of the law is silly, making the older of a seventeen-year-old pair of lovers a criminal on his next birthday, but as we see with the public by and large agreeing with Polanski's arrest statutory rape with enough of an age difference still intuitively counts quite a bit for a good chunk of the population (I'd say 100%, based on the teenagers interviewed for the free newspapers here).
But I think the main reason we have this flap over a pedophile being arrested is that people confuse forgiveness with justice. Apparently, the wronged girl has since grown up, had children, and forgiven Polanski - and a good number of loud people seem to think that makes everything all right. They remember enough hearsay from the Bible that they associate forgiveness with redemption and make a leap to "well, that's taken care of, now let's forget about it and move on," maybe because some well-intentioned preacher once told them something about "forgive and forget," and the nasty alliteration stuck. But justice must be done, no matter how forgiven the criminal, and justice must be blind, not forgetful.
There are unsettling questions, such as why he wasn't arrested any sooner (say, on his skiing vacations in his chalet in Gstaad), but they're minor irritations.