Silsbee Texas: Apologists for Rapists

A girl was raped in the Texas town of Silsbee by a student athlete.  Since the rape, she has been ordered to “lay low”, kicked off the cheerleading squad for refusing to cheer (when ordered by superintendent Richard Bain Jr) for her rapist.  The community turned against her, supporting the rapist (and his accomplice), calling her a slut, and a bitch (one cowardly family even going so far as to put their 2 year old up to the task) and even threatening her life.  The Supreme Court of the US has shown brazen moral bankruptcy in refusing to hear her free speech case (rape victims don’t rate as high on their priority list as corporations seeking to influence elections).  As a result she now owes school district $45,000 in legal fees.  (You can donate directly here, or commission comic art with all proceeds going to help pay the fees here (via)).  Trigger Warning: Full Details Here.

While it is worth calling attention to the heroic actions of the two young men who broke down the door (putting an end to the attack) and even attempted to chase down and confront her attackers (in one case succeeding), on the whole the town of Silsbee and its citizens have shown themselves to be the very worst sort of people.  There is a vile rotting husk of flesh where there ought to be a heart, and their actions epitomize so much of what is deeply wrong with our country.  They need to be taught a lesson in morality.

I’m not sure what form that lesson ought to take, whether a boycott will have any meaning for instance.  Given the campaign of shame and harassment aimed at this young woman, I think it only appropriate to respond – legally – in kind.  Below the fold is contact information.  For the superintendent of schools.  For city hall.  A link to a google search with a list of Churches.  Call the superintendent and let him know what kind of person he is.  Call city hall and let them know their town is no longer the home of “Tiger Pride”, their new public face is “Rapist Pride”.  Call the churches and ask ministers and priests to work their thoughts on rape into their sermons.  Clearly communicate both what you think of the people you call, the community at large, and what it is their moral responsibility to do: Regardless of their court victory, the school district owes the rape survivor and her family an apology – and to absolve them of any responsibility for paying the district’s legal fees.

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Immaculate Rape

Immaculate Rape (noun) – Rape in which there is no rapist, merely a victim who may be found culpable due to one or more of the following: ingestion of alchohol, wearing of revealing clothing, living in a society that permits sex outside of marriage, being near a male in the throes of the evolutionary perogative.

Immaculate Rape as an accusation usually grows out of a right-wing religious cosmology, yet any attempts to link right-wing religious cosmology with mysogyny are met with accusations and derision.

Peter Hitchens makes this argument in an article eviscerated by Jessica and Melissa.  The crux:

Of course she is culpable, just as she would be culpable if she crashed a car and injured someone while drunk, or stepped out into the traffic while drunk and was run over.

Getting drunk is not something that happens to you. It is something you do.

I think Melissa shuts that down very effectively (Trigger Warning) in her post.  Jessica does it in the following line:

Hitchens can’t seem to get his head around the idea that rapists rape women, rather than women magically “getting themselves” raped.

But maybe Hitchens and purveyors of the immaculate rape myth ought to be taken at more than face value.  If alcohol is an invitation to get raped, why aren’t we making it a felony to serve rape juice to women?  Why doesn’t every bottle of rape beer contain a surgeon general’s warning: “may excuse rape”?

One things for certain, I wouldn’t be caught dead drinking with Peter Hitchens.

(image source)

How Purity Invites Murder

The word theocracy is a powerful one.  It brings to mind the prospect of a religious authority ruling people.  And religious control of politics is always that: rule.  It is a single authority exercising its will on the people.

A subtler form may also take root.  This unfortunate news via Pandagon:

I suppose this was inevitable, but the growing movement of doctors and pharmacists who decide that you’re not worthy of medical treatment if you’re female and engaging in sexual behavior they disapprove of has reached the point where some doctors are refusing to perform Pap smears on unmarried women. I guess you probably don’t really need one if you’re a virgin, because they’re looking for cervical cancer, which is linked to HPV, which is sexually transmitted. For the people who think unwanted pregnancy and STDs are just the proper punishment for unmarried, sexually active women, it follows that death from cervical cancer should go on the “punishments for sluts” list.

Make no mistake about this.  Doctors are refusing to perform a vital medical test on women they personally do not believe should be having sex.  From the article:

To look for answers, I turned to Patricia LaRue, Executive Director at Canadians for Choice, to see what she could tell me if doctors have the right to refuse ANY procedure that they see as going against their religion.  She reminded me that doctors have a “conscience clause,” allowing them to refuse prescriptions for birth control, abortion, and now pap smears.  The conscious clause is put in place by the Canadian Medical Association so that physicians are not forced to act in any way that goes against their personal beliefs.

If a women is denied a vital medical service, and then dies, the doctor is directly responsible for her death.  This is no different than a doctor refusing to help a gunshot victim or test the swollen lymph nodes of a patient because of the color of his skin.

For me, this goes beyond the question of whether or not a person may cite religious objections when going directly against the Hippocratic Oath. I wonder, what kind of religion comes from such a place of cold arrogant judgment that its adherents believe they have the right to commit murder?

The obsession over purity is really an obsession over a lack of control.  A control that should be forever beyond the reach of governments and churches.

How long until doctors claim the right to refuse to treat homosexuals?  Until people of other faiths are off-limits?  Will everything from the Ten Commandments to the most obscure line in scripture become justification for refusing to stand by the Hippocratic Oath?

Texas Minister: Murder and False Idols

A Minister turned himself in for a murder he committed 14 years ago, and the reactions from the community are striking (CNN, Hat tip to Sally Jane Beaufort):

The youth minister who confessed to a 1994 killing is being widely forgiven by members of his former congregation, who say they admire his courage in finally surrendering to police.

Calvin Wayne Inman, 29, confessed to a slaying he committed nearly 14 years ago, police say.

Calvin Wayne Inman, 29, remains jailed without bail since he was charged Wednesday with capital murder in the stabbing death of a convenience store clerk during a robbery. He was 16 at the time.

On approach, you do have to admire the courage it takes to turn yourself in for a crime you essentially got away with. Especially when the crime carries such significant consequences. But some of his flock want to erase those consequences (emphasis mine):

He’s a hero, really,” said Kelley Graham, 24. “I don’t know how many people would do what he did. The Bible says you just need to confess to God. Calvin took an extra step.”

“The debt he’s paying to our society is teaching our young people to do the right thing,” said Cheryl Ellis, a member of the church’s youth staff. “To lock him away someplace and say he owes it to society is robbing the next generation of a mentor.”

Robin Thac said her 17-year-old son was active in the youth group that Inman led.

I am thrilled my son has a role model to accept responsibility the way Calvin has,” Thac said. “There are way too many men who don’t accept responsibility.”

This is scary stuff.  And a great reason why letting Church run State is a really really bad idea.  How many Christians actually believe in the idea of redemption so strongly they would remove the legal consequences for it?  This reminds me strongly of Amanda’s piece asserting a link between extremist belief and our justice system.

A man who killed another man is not a hero.  He should absolutely not be pardoned.  While any person who turns themselves in ought to see a reasonable leniency and pragmatism applied in their case, to imagine that person utterly skirting responsibility for their crime is really beyond the pale.  This man is not a hero to be worshiped.  He is a murderer who needs help and deserves punishment, and who finally found the courage to ask for it.

God is Not Just

A random encounter on the metro yesterday turned into an unexpected debate.

Upon reflection, I realized that the evangelical mindset has a worrying impact on our justice system, and how we approach both crime and criminals. In other words, I had run smack into the premise of one of Amanda’s posts over at Pandagon.

During the course of our debate, we came to the question of Justice. I was taking the position that God would never commit murder, while my evangelical friend asked “what about justice?”. One particular story we sparred over was that of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Two points of contention arose. One was whether a perfect being can commit an imperfect action. If a person were to say, set off a bomb in a city, killing all of its inhabitants, this person would be rightly condemned to prison for life. The biblical god does it, and he is praised for his “justice”. This is a similar problem to the questions of God having emotions like anger and jealousy. Why would a perfect being possess imperfect, negative, human emotions? By the same token, one wonders why it is the biblical god gets away with murder.

Which leads into the second point of contention. “Do you suppose”, I asked, “that there were children under the age of two in Sodom?”. After this was affirmed, I asked whether such young children could be justly punished so violently and cruelly for their parents sins. The answer? “Its different because when God does it, it is just. The children would go to heaven, which is better than Earth.”.

This immediately raised a very worrying question. Was this evangelical suggesting that it was ok to kill children under 2? That sending them to heaven was somehow just, or even kind? What kind of a God was being worshiped, when his actions were cruel and evil enough that were they committed by a human being, they would be harshly condemned?

The actions we ascribe to God as moral are those we ourselves aspire to. I cannot think of a theistic religion in which the practitioner does not attempt to be like God. So how does one interpret scripture that insists God killed the innocent? How does one read this and continue to believe that those words describe or even approach perfection?

What does such a mindset bring to practical questions of law and justice as practiced in our country?

Fuck Off Decency Police (Puritans vs MYOB)

What ever happened to “Mind your own Business?”.  With all the fuss over celebrities photographed being human, its like the nastiest of small town gossip has become the media norm.  This feeds a cycle of humiliation (Amanda, Pandagon):

The media’s desire to find white women misbehaving so they can humiliate them in public and then have them beg for forgiveness on TV—a routine narrative that allows the media both to distract from the real issues and promote a reactionary agenda, usually in opposition to female liberty—has reached a new low with today’s naughty-lady scandal.

Let’s take a look at how the social cages for “socially acceptable, decent” women are being crafted.  From an article by Wayne Parry (Newsday, emphasis mine):

Steven Jungman, director of recruiting for Houston-based ChaseSource LP, told of a young woman his firm helped land a job with a company working on a sensitive project.

“This was a project that had to be kept secret, that if the competition found out about it or the media wrote about it before it was rolled out, it would be very bad for business,” he said. “It even had a secret nickname.

“Every day, twice a day, the company did a … search for that title, just to make sure nothing was getting out about it,” Jungman said. “One morning, an interesting link came up, to someone’s My Space page. It went, ‘My name is so-and so, I’m working on such-and-such for so-and-so.’ And right next to that were photos that would make Anna Nicole Smith blush, and Paris Hilton go, ‘Whoa!”

Two days later, the woman was fired.

Ostensibly Steven Jungman’s initial description of the project appears to indicate mentioning the name of the secret undertaking is the issue at hand.  So why make a deal about the pictures?  If the company policy is “don’t mention our project online”, and a new hire does, then that is a clear violation of said policy.  Finding “photos that would make Anna Nicole Smith blush” is fucking besides the point.  The clear implication is that it is the unacceptable photographs were the reason for termination.

Other tales abound of job applicants getting passed over because their online pages showed them smoking marijuana, passed out after drinking, or flashing too much skin.

Have we become a nation of puritans?  Why is “flashing too much skin” grounds for passing over a job applicant?  Why not pass over an applicant because their hair cut doesn’t say “I’m a go-getter?”.  Or how about because their blog criticized your favorite in the ’08 race?  Why should any legal activity performed in one’s free time have any bearing on one’s professional prospects?

At least some people are listening. A survey last year by the Web site CollegeGrad.com found that 47 percent of recent graduates had changed or planned to change their Web pages because they were looking for a job.

And what if a friend or an acquaintance posts photos of you to their website?  What if its just a bunch of assholes who decided to post pictures of you with nasty comments (Jessica, Feministing)?  It isn’t a matter of changing your personal myspace page or your facebook profile.  Its whether or not you ever do anything that can ever possibly be used to embarrass you in any way:

“I used to say ‘Cover your tracks,’ but it really should be, ‘Don’t make tracks that need to be covered,”‘ Barba said Thursday. “Once anything is online, it’s free rein.

This isn’t just about celebrities.  This is about anyone who applies for a job or to school (how long before universities start browsing myspace looking at potential students?).

As a society we need to get a fucking grip and get over this puritanical ideal of public behavior.  People are people, and they shouldn’t have to hide their lives in a closet because a few repressed concern trolls don’t approve.

Morality: Action vs Identity

There is an interesting step some religious folks take when arguing over questions of morality. They make the jump from discussing moral action to moral identity. I think this jump plays into how people vote, act, and speak, and would like to delve into it a little further.

In the comments of my post “We Don’t Need God to be Good“, Bill writes:

I would say a liar is a bad person. I would also say that if you’ve ever told an immoral lie, you’re a liar. How many murders do I have to commit before I’m a murderer? When you lied you had free will, and you chose to deceive another person.

So if you commit a single immoral act, you become defined by that act. This cannot also logically apply in reverse. Otherwise in committing a single good act, along with a single immoral act, one would be both good and evil, by definition.

Hmmm.

It gets more interesting if we take a look at two particular examples. If we look at the Biblical God’s destruction of entire cities, God might be defined as immoral. After all God killed a mass of people (including children). Who would think every single person in said city was truly guilty and deserving of death? Worse, why couldn’t an omnipotent God act in a more compassionate way to achieve the same end? Justice is the tool of the weak by nature, humanity. Surely God can be greater than merely just?

A second example is one of redemption. One of the most powerful moments in the biographical movie “Gandhi” was when a man approaches Gandhi who is fasting in protest. The man laments that he is going to hell, since he murdered a child of a different religion (to gain revenge for what had been down to his child). Gandhi calms the man, saying we are all going to hell, and then asks him to find and raise an orphaned child of that same hated religion, in that religion. This is a beautiful example of redemption. Can the essence of the man himself still be said to be that of a murderer? Why is he a good man who became irreversibly corrupted by the act, rather than a good man who committed an evil act?

What compelling reason is there for determining that identity follows the act?