One of the most fascinating classes I took in college was Introduction To Ethics. The focus was on not what was moral and ethical, but how to define the terms and apply them. It was a completely nonjudgmental class, in the sense that you were not judged on what you believed, but how well you could defend it.
There were two lessons in that class have stuck with me to this day.
The first was the definition of “moral.” It merely means “consistent with one’s own personal code of conduct and beliefs.” If one had a truly heinous set of beliefs, such as a sexist white supremacist thug, but acted in accordance with them, then that person was “moral.” They might be monstrous within the context of society, but by their own definition they were all right.
The other principle I recall is that for an ethical principle to be valid, it had to be universal. In other words, the rules had to apply equally to everyone. And that’s the one that’s gotten me into trouble over the years.
For example, the people who call “racism” at critics of Obama who use simian imagery. To them, this is especially bad because of the decades of history of racists likening black people to monkeys. There’s a part of me that sees their argument, but my inner troublemaker (who spends a lot of time on the outside) wants to point out we just wrapped up eight years of Obama’s president being derided as a chimp. As well as a Nazi, a ghoul, and a bunch of other unsavory things. So that troublemaker of mine starts saying “hey, sauce for the goose, dipshits. You loved eight years of President Monkey — you don’t get to call it unfair now that it’s your guy that’s getting the ape treatment.”
That troublemaker took over my keyboard yesterday, when he brought up the Roman Polanski case and speculated about sexually assaulting a friend of mine.
Let me set the record straight: I have no interest in doing that to my friend, or any other woman. Or any man, child, or animal, for that matter. I am an advocate of the most draconian punishments for those that do such things, and would turn a blind eye if the defenders of such people were set on fire.
Further, although she’s a lot smaller than me, she’s a lot, lot healthier and fitter. She’d most likely kick my ass.
The point I was attempting to make was that those who are defending Polanski need to have their noses rubbed in the double standard they are practicing — that they are standing up for the right of this man to escape justice for his obscene acts.
It needs to be spelled out, as often as possible: Polanski took a 13-year-old girl, plied her with drugs and alcohol, and then sexually violated her both vaginally and anally. When caught, he negotiated the charges to lesser offenses, paid off the victim, and fled to avoid even the reduced sanction he had agreed to. As part of his plea agreement, he acknowledged that he had done all those things to the girl. That is indisputable.
By any valid moral or ethical standard, Polanski needs to go to prison. He accepted responsibility for his actions and agreed to serve the sentence imposed, then reneged on his word, fled the country, and has been living high on the hog for decades.
And he continued to indulge his predilections. He engaged in a threesome as part of his affair with a 15-year-old Nastassja Kinski, and I would not be surprised if he had relations with a string of other underage girls.
There’s a truism that “justice delayed is justice denied.” Well, Lady Justice should be denied no longer.
Polanski did the crime. Let him do his time. Then, after, perhaps he can resume his artistic ventures.