Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Tune in and drop out?

Sometimes I feel like it is time for normal people in the US to just drop out of the general society. This week has brought 3 stories that make me wonder if now is perhaps the time to do just that, and whether our country is really starting to be taken over by the loonies. 2 are criminal law stories, the other is an educational/political story.

In the last couple of generations, the only people who have dropped out of society in large numbers have been hippies and Christian fundamentalists (alright, I'm sure that there are other groups that have as well, these come to mind as the 2 largest and most well-known groups). Christian fundamentalists have jumped back into society in very strong numbers, and now I'm wondering if it's not time for those of us who are not Christian fundamentalist to drop out.


In Utah, an 8 year old boy was arrested after telling his mother that his 14 year old female babysitter (for once, a female pedophile - you don't see that happen much!) dared him to touch her breast. When the mother told the police, the DA FILED CHARGES AGAINST HIM!!!! That's right, they filed charges against him for lewd conduct!!! What kind of a nutty society does that? The police said that he was a "willing participant!"

What does this mean? Well,if he's a willing participant, then how can it be lewd conduct, unless he's somehow a victim of it? If he's not a victim, what is exactly is lewd about it? What kind of fundamentalist idiots (I'm just guessing because it involves sex and Utah) would consider charging an 8 year old on these facts? Does this mean that in every child molestation where the victim doesn't resist, the victim is actually a co-participant, and therefore a defendant?

What kind of a society will this make? Will this make us better, or worse? For me, it says that perhaps it's time to retreat behind my liberal walls away from conservative society that condones such idiocy. You don't go to the "authorities" to resolve disputes anymore, since the authorities will mess them up worse than they were before you went to them. The authorities are the problem. What parent will every bring their kids to the police complaining about something happening to them if they think their kid may be arrested.

Of course, I wrote last week about the case of the teenager charged with murder and serving in CYA until he's 25 (incidentally, his mother finally spoke publicly about why the judge and DA screwed up so badly on this one, read it here), and here's another one.

An 11 year old girl was arrested, jailed for 5 days, and charged with felony assault (facing 5 years in the California Youth Authority) for throwing a rock at a boy. Apparently, while in her yard with her younger siblings, a few boys came by and threw water balloons and rocks at her, striking her in the face a couple of times. She threw a rock back, hit him in the face, cutting him (not terribly, mind you, he'll be just fine, and probably will think twice before picking on some girl again). The police came, spoke with him and his friends, and arrested the girl and hauled her away. This happened in Fresno, in rural central California. The girl is from a poor hispanic family, and the family charges that she is being treated this way in part because poor hispanics are far easier to mistreat than rich white people (no debate from me there, I saw far worse growing up, and no one arrested, but maybe that's due more to changing times, but I still think Beverly Hills youth get a greater pass).

Again, this makes me want to scream. Of course, the mayor of Fresno applauds this, it's just so easy to want to get tough with them violent out of control teens and poor folk swamping our country, but please! What is going on here. What is happening to our society when no one says enough, and the mayor applauds the police for doing this. How about saying to the parents of both kids - "hey, control your kids." But, it is so seductive to moralize, to talk about evil, to gleefully punish and lock up, to sermonize that evil must be met by harsh measures, with no sympathy for those who would fall off the path of the righteous.

This last part is not law related, so if you get tired of me talking about non-law related things, skip it, but.....

The final straw that makes me think it's just time to retreat into my own little world of normal people who believe in simple things like, say, science, is our own president's little comment that he thinks that evolution and intelligent design deserve equal play in the schools, that we should teach both, show both sides of the issue. This is so crazy on so many levels, that it would require a book to say them all, but I'll try just a few.

First of all, intelligent design isn't a theory, it's about poking holes in another theory - evolution. Now, poking holes in theories is something that I'm rather fond of, it's sort of my profession, but I don't substitute my profession for actually proving something. I'm just trying to create a reasonable doubt about that theory, not trying to substitute it for what may be the truth, or may not be quite believable as the truth. All intelligent design people try to do is create doubt about evolution - fine enough - but just so that they can substitute their completely non-scientific theory - that it's all bible based - in it's place. That's not teaching science.

Bush also says that people should hear both sides, and I certainly don't disagree with that - but NOT IN A SCIENCE CLASS!!! Debate the issue in civics classes, raise the issue that there are missing pieces of the evolution theory in the science class, but what are you saying? Well, we can't prove beyond all doubt that this is the way that things happened, so we're going to teach you about Genesis right now in your biology class for the next 6 weeks. ARRRRHHHHHHHHH!!!!! What kind of a nutty country do I live in?

Bush says local schools should be able to teach whatever they want. Well, didn't he push No Child Left Behind so that there would be national standards? Let's face it, no evolution, no biology, no organic chemistry, pretty much none of the advances that we've had for the last, oh, century or so. Is that progress? Is that going to help us compete with the Chinese and the Indians in getting good jobs?

So, at times like this, I really feel it is time to get together with normal people the country over, and form our own school districts, our own police forces, our own institutions, so that we can push all this wackiness out of our lives. It really does drive me crazy.


Greg Worthen said...

When my daughter was in elementary school, she came home one day acting rather sheepishly. I pressed for details and she told me about the boy in the schoolyard who was feeling her up. I asked what happened and she told me she kneed him in the groin. As she was taught to do. Thankfully she got a high five for quick thinking and not a jail sentence for assault. I agree, it's time to drop out.

Constance Reader said...

Whenever I read stories such as this I threaten to drop off the map, too, by emigrating to Australia and going bush. This always makes me feel better (until the next story), repeat after me:

Waltzing matilda, WALTZ-ing matilda, who'll come a-waltzing matilda with me?

Anonymous said...

For whatever it's worth, the story says the DA's office dropped the charges against the 8-year-old boy in the babysitter case.

I want to know if the babysitter was charged.

PD Dude said...

Anon - True, it was dismissed, but so what? Imagine getting charged with lewd conduct, anytime in your life, and think about how it would stain you. Then, imagine being charged as an 8 year old and how it could forever harm you.

What does this say to future parents who want to go to Protective Services in the future (remember the title, to protect, not to destroy - this destroys the fabric of society when this happens).

Furthermore, who knows why it was dismissed. Bad publicity? So what if they don't dismiss it next time, or what if there are plenty of other, equally egregious cases in which they haven't dismissed. Something made them file here, something made them feel that they could, and that it would not go south on them (because this, more than anything else, is what motivates a prosecuting agency). So what was it that made them think this? That they had done similar things in the past? That this was inherently evil, but now that their hands were caught in the cookie jar they were backing off?

It just sucks, all the way around, and the fact of dismissal does very little (although something) to mitigate against that.

markm said...

"You don't go to the "authorities" to resolve disputes anymore, since the authorities will mess them up worse than they were before you went to them." It took you this long to notice?

In the rock-throwing case, it's liberals, not conservatives, that want self-defense to be illegal.

PD Dude said...

Liberals want her put away? Really, how's that? Generally, I've found most prosecuting and police agencys are conservative, so there has to be something peculiar for me to find, in a particular instance, that liberal pressure is leading to arrest and prosecution.

Mind you, it clearly happens, but when it does, it's usually some very definitive liberal ax being ground when that happens, like the re-prosecution of the Rodney King cops in Federal Court (clearly liberal pressure led to that happening), or other cases where liberal oxes are being gored. I don't see it in this case. This make me default on my first premise, that since most cops and prosecutors are conservative by nature, it's more likely a conservative reaction.

BigRedOne said...

PD Dude

If I were arrested, I think I'd want you defending me.

Great site and insights, please keep it up.


Todd said...

So in the case of sex offenses you want to the state to step in and take the place of parents. But in the case of violent attacks the state should be hands off, saying to the parents of both kids - "hey, control your kids."

I think you have it right in the second case. In the first, you have realized that You don't go to the "authorities" to resolve disputes anymore, since the authorities will mess them up worse than they were before you went to them." The end result sounds like just what you are asking for in the second instance - parental responsibility.

PD Dude said...

Todd, absolutely not. The only thing that I want is for the state to not screw things up. Clearly, the state should be involved when there is a predator out there, or if someone is committing serious misconduct (as may arguably be the case in the situation of the babysitter - from the babysitter's side, not from the child's side). I can't think of any reasonable person agreeing that the child should be charged though.

In the second case, all I'm asking for is reasonable minds to stop and consider, rather than running for the handcuffs. This is like the cops in Florida who hauled a 5 year old off to jail for a temper tantrus - idiotic. Just stop for a moment and say "Is this something better suited for the parents to handle" before the cops start pulling out their cuffs, unlatching their tasers, and begin going through a process of commands designed to take down a 20 year old 200 pound meth crazed killer on an 11, just because they can somehow fit the facts to some crime in the state of California.

Understand this, everyone has committed numerous crimes in their life, I don't care how minor or how long ago, or how young you were, you've done it. Saddle everyone with a conviction and jail, which may be technically within the law (especially as you have an ever more right wing Supreme Court and legislature), then you only screw up society, not make it better. Use reason and compassion, two things in short supply these days (they're such ugly words, aren't they, since we're a faith based society and compassion is something for those liberal limp-wristed weaklings).

Todd said...

I think we agree more than we disagree. I certainly concur with the main sentiment of your original post that the state should have more of a clue in these cases. Charging the 8-year-old in the first case and charging the girl for retaliating in the second, certainly shows that something is wrong with the system (though I doubt we have gotten anything near the complete story from the media.)

I think that you may have incorrectly labeled the girl in the first case as a pedophile (or a predator) though. I see no evidence that she intentionally sought out younger children for sexual pleasure. I don't want to sound like I am apologizing for her behavior, it was certainly unacceptable and steps need to be taken to prevent recurrence.

I think that in both cases the first step is for the parents of the victims to talk to the parents of the aggressors. Good parents (of the aggressors) would be able to remedy the situation or arrange for the necessary counseling without involving the authorities. We have no evidence of whether that happened or what resulted from it. I think it's quite possible that the victims' parents went straight to the authorities without trying to work with the families involved first.

You are correct that saddling everyone with a conviction and jail even for the most minor offenses is the path to screwing up society, not saving it. Unfortunately we are all too eager to call in the state to deal with these issues rather than handling them privately with reason and compassion.

Anonymous said...

The sooner we all realise that this american experiment has failed dismaly, and we are in a great toliet bowl getting sucked down with the rest of the terds .the sooner we learn to drop out of this unreal,phonie,hypocriral,society of ours ,the better off we will be we have been programed since birth to depend on the powers that be ,for our very existance.we have givin them the responsability of our wellfare. which they can't ensure.we have become totaly dependant on their institutions we have stopped taking responsability for our own lives.we have learned to stop thinking for ourselves and let them think for us.telling us what to do and how to think about issue's through a biased news media.we are not in control people wake up ,turn off your t.v. and think for yourself.the truth is all around you ,if you choose to execpt it in the words of timothy leary tune in turn on and drop out.

Anonymous said...

I'v had it and want out!!When did we start taking words out of the dictionary. What ever happened to "Names will never hurt me!" If I said the N word I can go to jail. But I can be called a White Cracker anytime. ( At Fourty-nine my children had to tell me what that ment ).