I'm having a tough time with a lot of the grandstanding I've been hearing today about Roman Polanski. Certainly what Polanski did 32 years ago was monstrous, horrible -- he has been suffering for his crime, and he will continue to suffer for it, whether or not he is ever sent to jail. Certainly, also, his talent as a filmmaker and his sad personal history do not excuse his crimes in any way.
So, granted, Roman Polanski will rot in hell -- either in jail or in a fancy French villa. But what about the rest of us? What I'm finding surreal about the media circus following Polanski's arrest is the idea that we need to extradite a Polish/French film director from Switzerland to find a case of child rape to discuss in the United States. Why doesn't Kate Harding's much-praised and much-linked Salon condemnation
mention that similar crimes to Polanski's are committed constantly, frequently
every day right here in America? Why the sudden intensity of news coverage about this one case? Do we really need a celebrity to be arrested to understand how prevalent sexual abuse is in all our lives?
This is where I'm sensing hypocrisy -- and a disconnection from reality -- in much of this coverage. Think of your loved ones, your friends and family. Look around you on a busy street. It's a good bet that somebody here is a victim of sexual abuse. And here's the harder pill to swallow: it's also a good bet that somebody here is a perpetrator of sexual abuse -- in many cases, unlike Polanski, a perpetrator who will never be caught and stopped. Coercive rape and abuse of children happens all over, from Hollywood to every small town.
What disturbs me about the rabid invective being poured out from all sides about Roman Polanski is the idea that evil is something external, something exotic. "Put him in the cage, lynch him." Point your fingers: there he is, there's the bad man -- over THERE. I'm not buying it.
I am truly at a loss how to think about this. I had a conversation with my wife Caryn about it last night, after I posted a line from the Bible on Twitter:
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
"Do you really have to bring Jesus in to defend Roman Polanski?" Caryn said. She has a good point ... though on the other hand it's a fact that Jesus talked about forgiveness a lot. Again, though, none of us really care very much about Roman Polanski, and it's no big concern of ours whether or not he ever gets forgiven.
Forgiveness may be a difficult step, but beyond forgiveness is an even further goal, something harder to attain: understanding. What is it within human nature that makes presumably decent people like Roman Polanski do evil things? I would really like to understand.
We can lynch this one poor sorry fool, but I don't think that brings us any closer to an answer.