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Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008 at 6:34 PM
Where are we heading with all this? Will America be satisfied with nothing less than a holocaust perpetrated against anyone who has violated its sexual norms? It seems unthinkable that people who consider themselves progressives should be silent on this issue, and should even, at times, be in the forefront of those who are invested in continuing to ratchet up the sex abuse panic.
The following letter was submitted with two newspaper articles -- one from the New York Times and one from the Los Angeles Times -- to a town council that was considering a proposal that would prevent sex offenders from living within a half-mile of schools and various other places where there might be children...
For a variety of safety concerns, the author does not wish to be identified.
Statement For the Town Meeting on the Proposed Sex Offender Ordinance
December 7, 2006
The American people, it would seem, have embarked on a project to totally destroy the group of people it has defined as "sex offenders." It has, in other words, decided that it wants to purify itself by means of a holocaust. The term "holocaust," which has the literal meaning of a complete destruction by fire, is commonly used to refer to any massive destruction of a group of people by another group of people. The best known example is the Jewish Holocaust under Hitler. Is it overstating the case to use this term with regard to the treatment of sex offenders in the US ? I would submit to you that, on the contrary, what we have been witnessing for some years now with regard to the sex offender issue has all the earmarks of an emerging holocaust.
The first and perhaps most important step in the creation of any holocaust is the demonization of the group of people that is to be destroyed. I will not dwell on this point. If you read newspapers or watch TV you will be quite aware of the relentless portrayal of all sex offenders as monsters -- as less-than-human creatures that deserve only scorn, punishment and death.
The next step in the development of a holocaust is the creation of a means of public identification. With sex-offenders the primary means of achieving this is the registry. But signs, bracelets, and pamphlets are also used.
The combination of demonization and public identification sets the group members up for vigilante action -- which may range from simple harassment to murder.
Then we witness the undermining of a person's ability to secure or hold down a job. Among other things, the listing of the person's place of employment on the registry contributes to this.
After this we have the exclusion of the person from the community. This occurs on two levels. First you have the absolute shunning of the person by virtually all members of the community. Then you have the various measures employed to make it almost impossible for the person to find a place to live.
Further isolation is achieved by the refusal to allow the members of this group to socialize with each other.
The various restrictions on places where people can live force the members of the population at risk into ghettos. This was clearly a part of the experience in Iowa and elsewhere.
Then we see an attack on the ghettos into which the population has been forced. This is happening, for example, in the attack on the few places where many sex offenders have found to live in H.... and elsewhere.
So after this group of people has been vilified and demonized, after they have been set up for vigilante action, after they have been excluded from gainful employment, after they have been thrown out of their apartments or houses, after they have been shunned, after they have been denied the right to socialize even with others who are in similar situations, after they have been denied access to your communities, after they are further persecuted in the few ghetto-like places into which they have been forced, what more will be called for?
For it would seem that no amount of punishment or persecution is enough. Now we hear talk of putting all sex offenders in permanent "treatment centers." "Treatment centers," in this context, is of course just another name for concentration camps. And I hear talk of requiring capital punishment for anyone who "re-offends."
The question I would ask is this: Do you really want to continue down this road to the full enactment of America 's own holocaust? Perhaps you do. After all, you might say, we are doing this in the name of purity and righteousness and for the protection of our children. Fine. However, I would caution you that all wars, genocides and holocausts are justified with the language of righteousness, are deemed necessary in order to preserve the purity of a community, and are conducted to protect our citizens -- and especially our children -- from real or imagined threats.
As one very successful world leader put it:
The State must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.
Those are the words of Adolf Hitler.
How then have we arrived at this state of hysteria and irrationality that is driving us toward the accomplishment of our own American holocaust? Several factors are important:
One of the most important factors that is spiraling us toward an unnecessary holocaust is a media that has chosen consistently to sell newspapers or achieve higher audience ratings by sensationalist rather than fact-based reporting. Self-appointed experts are often quoted with regard to statistics that may have simply been pulled out of thin air. Actual scientific results, or carefully established statistics, on the other hand may be ignored or even denied if they contradict popular prejudices. One of many examples of this irresponsible reporting is the endless repetition of the factoid that there is a high level of recidivism among sex offenders. (A factoid is a statement that may have no basis in fact, but that is generally believed because it is repeated so often.) The fact is this: One of the more extensive studies on this issue is called "Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994" It is available from the US Department of Justice. (Langan, P, Schmitt, E., and Durose, M., 2003) According to this study, "Within the first three years following release from prison, 3.3% (141 of 4,296) of released child molesters were rearrested for another sex crime against a child." I mention this as only one of many factoids that are repeated ad nauseam in the media.
Another important factor in our escalation toward a holocaust is the deliberate use of incendiary words and phrases that serve to misrepresent reality. The ordinary meaning of "rape" for example, is the imposition of unwanted sexual acts on a person by violence or the threat of violence. When this word is used to describe any violation of society's sexual rules, it creates a very misleading impression of what is actually happening. In fact, from the average newspaper article, it is very difficult to tell what a sex offender may actually have done.
Closely related to this use of incendiary language is the refusal to distinguish between acts that are actually violent in the ordinary sense of the term and those that are "violent" only in a metaphorical sense. Any act -- consensual or not -- that violates any social norm with regard to sex is labeled "violent." This has the unfortunate effect of making it very difficult to distinguish between the small minority of sex offenders who actually are violent in the literal sense of the term -- and consequently do represent a danger to the community -- and the majority who are not in fact violent. The blurring of this important distinction does not further the aim of protecting children.
Another important factor in this situation is that a large group of people who in fact have very little in common are being treated as a homogeneous group. The most lurid, violent and shocking examples that can possibly be found are regularly presented as typical examples of what people in the group are like. The nineteen-year-old young woman who had oral sex with a sixteen-year-old boy -- such as the one mentioned in the New York Times article, the man who was murdered by the vigilante here in ..... because he had a fifteen-year-old girlfriend when he was nineteen, a man who has involved himself in a mutually desired sexual relationship with a bi-sexual or homosexual teen-age boy, or an exhibitionist who has exposed himself to a child and then run off may all have violated laws. But they have very little in common with the man who literally kidnaps a child and drags her into the woods where he rapes and kills her. Again, the blurring of these distinctions does not further the aim of protecting children.
It is curious how often proposals such as the one before us disregard constitutional concerns. The message would seem to be that the dangers are so great that we must -- at least with regard to this group -- set aside constitutional concerns. The problem is that you cannot ultimately remove the constitutional protections for any one group without bringing them into question for all groups. The Constitution with its Bill of Rights is not something to be evaded nor gotten around. It is the basis for the entire American experiment. The Constitution is something to be cherished, upheld and defended. Surely this is the one thing all Americans can agree about.
In prisons, sex offenders are relegated to a virtual prison within the prison. They are daily subjected to humiliation, discrimination and harassment that are meted out to no other group. Then, when they are released, they find themselves in a community where conditions are deliberately set up so that the daily and systematic humiliation will continue, and so that it will be very difficult or impossible for them to get their most fundamental physical, social and spiritual needs met. When one looks at the total picture, it is hard not to see it as cruel and unusual punishment.
The kind of draconian measure that the town is planning to implement is often justified as protection. This justification is an attempt to circumvent the constitutional issues of adding punishments to those already established by a court of law. I am submitting to you articles from the New York Times and from the Los Angeles Times in support of the idea that passing such ordinances makes the community a less safe place for all concerned. In addition to the arguments put forward in these two newspaper articles, one has to question whether forcing a person into a position of absolute hopelessness will make him more likely to conform to society's expectations. On the contrary, by pushing him into a corner where he has nothing to lose and no way of improving his situation do you not in fact create a person who is much more likely to act out in a dangerous manner? Would not anybody be made more dangerous by such demonization, isolation and general persecution?
Since making the community a more dangerous place for all is the probable consequence of ordinances such as the one you have drafted, we must conclude that the real intent of the proposal is punishment and revenge. When one reads the rhetoric in the media, it is in fact pretty obvious that punishment is the real intent of this kind of law.
Adding the punishments that you are proposing to the extremely severe sentences already imposed by the courts is a serious violation of our nation's constitution and protects no one.
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