A Retrograde Party

Roy Moore has been accused of sexually assaulting Leigh Corfman as a fourteen-year-old girl when he was approximately thirty years old.  This may or may not be true, of course.  But given all the events of the past few months, it is fair to follow the dictum of believing the woman first and asking Judge Moore to refute – or admit to – the allegations.

Thus far, Moore has denied the accusations, but his supporters have gone further, suggesting that if it did happen, so what.  Republican State Auditor Jim Ziegler asserted that “[the Biblical] Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus,” and that “There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

On the legal question, the age of consent in Alabama is sixteen years old, notably lower than most other states. An adult having sex with a child who has not reached the age of consent is statutory rape.  Corfman has not claimed sexual intercourse occurred, just inappropriate touching. But assuming Corfman’s allegations are truthful, I am dubious that Moore did not intend for the meeting with Corfman to proceed towards sexual congress.  That Moore’s alleged actions were technically legal because sexual intercourse did not occur as he had perhaps wished is hardly a position of exemplary legal certainty.  Say I had opened the door of an unlocked car and tried to steal it but failed because I could not hot-wire the vehicle.  It might be a good technicality for a lawyer to work with but it isn’t exactly standing on a rock of righteousness.

Moore denies the allegation that the events Corfman described occurred, and forty years out from the alleged incidents there is no clear way to determine the veracity of Corfman’s claims.  However, the reporter who developed this story found individuals willing to corroborate what Corfman said at the time about the events and to confirm some general facts presented in her reporting.  Following the rule of “Believe the woman first,” I tend to believe Corfman.  Moore so far has only offered claims of political motivation, refuted by Corfman, and character assassination in rebuttal.   Whether it amounts to anything “illegal” or not, I can’t say, but Moore is squirming as if guilty, in my opinion.

Which brings us to the moral question.  The argument seems to be that since Joseph married Mary as a teenager while she was pregnant, that now, two-thousand-plus years later, we should be allowed to follow the same standards.  At a time when lifespans were short, infant mortality was high, and the need for children as “insurance” for old age was a necessity, the Darwinian imperative to have child brides made sense.  Two-thousand plus years ago in a remote outpost of the Roman empire, marrying – or even raping – a fourteen-year-old bride may have been socially and morally acceptable.  Many primitive cultures today, such as rainforest-dwelling Amazonian tribes, regularly allow marriage as defined by their religion at the age of puberty or shortly after.

But times change.  Today in the Western world lifespans are dramatically longer and infant mortality significantly lower than the time of Christ. Most states have adopted a legal standard of the age of consent as between sixteen and eighteen, with specified exceptions.  Western countries have followed suit to the point of funding massive public education campaigns in the developing world to discourage the practice of child marriage.  Allowing young women to remain unmarried and childless to adulthood is fundamental to the goal of empowering women.

When Evangelicals – Moore’s supporters, also a significant part of the GOP/Trump base – turn a dismissive eye to the accusations leveled against Moore, they are in essence condoning statutory rape. They reveal the moral unsuitability of their beliefs in the today’s world.  Their religious views are a relic from a past we need not return to.  Increasingly, these are the views not just of the far-right, but of the whole of the GOP.  The Party of Lincoln is fast becoming the a retrograde party of racist, misogynist, theocrats who would welcome a white Christian takeover of our country.

I have little confidence in the willingness of the Alabama electorate to see through Moore’s denials.  Twice he has been removed from his judicial bench, and twice Alabamans have returned him to office.  He is a conspiracy hound, homophobe, anti-Muslim, and may be a white-supremecist.  But his constituents seem to love him anyway.  My hope is that enough enlightened people in Alabama see fit to vote for his opponent, but I hold out little hope for his defeat.

Posted in In the News, Personal, Politics | Leave a comment

Treat or Deceit?

Every year around Halloween, I am always stunned at the variety of choices for Halloween candy available.  I tend to purchase something with an assortment of chocolate miniatures, perhaps some Tootsie Rolls.  Bubblegum, Nerds, Smarties and other “bottom-shelf” candies are good choices too.  The bottom-shelf treats are usually less expensive, and I suppose their manifest inferiority makes the better stuff seem a little more delightful.

And then there is Candy Corn.  It is a timeless, all-American candy.  I can eat it by the handful.   Never at the top of the list when it comes to Halloween candy,  but never at the bottom either.  According to the Wikipedia entry for candy corn, American’s consume twenty-million pounds of the orange, yellow, and white morsels every year, if we assume all the sold candy is eaten.  But based on some unscientific polling among friends, there is no consensus view on these sugar-and-wax confections, either you love them or hate them.  My hunch is about a few billion corn pyramids head straight for the trash.

As I said, I am good with Candy Corn, a chewy, sugary delight with the flavor of…candy corn.  Some may disagree, but to me, Candy Corn is part of the essence of Halloween.  Then there are Smarties.  I like them, but they are chalky and weirdly flavored.  But they are better than NECCO wafers, though, which are also chalky, and even taste even stranger.  There are plenty of other candies that deserve to be banished from Halloween treat bowls.  Mary Jane’s, Squirrel Nut Zippers (good band, band candy), Good & Plenty, Mounds and Almond Joy, anything with coconut and chocolate.

How about you?  What are your least favorite Halloween candies, the ones that you once believed were a treat, only to discover their deceit?

Posted in Personal | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Identity, Race, and Policing

Driving down Greensboro Street last Saturday morning, I was ready to enjoy a beautiful day when suddenly, a silver car lurched from a parking lot, turning left in front of me.  I could see the driver looking to her right as I was heading toward her, my foot firmly on the brake.  There was really nothing I could do.  I slammed into the side of her car, a slow-motion, slow-speed collision.  Restraining my anger, I checked to see if the other driver was alright, and then I called the police.

I live in a small, Southern town affectionately known as the Paris of the Piedmont.  Carrboro, NC, is the lesser-known half of Chapel Hill/Carrboro, Chapel Hill famous as the home of the UNC Tarheels.  Carrboro is a liberal town, arguably the most liberal in North Carolina with the possible exception of Asheville.  Our town elected the first openly gay mayor in the state, and Carrboro is a welcoming community for people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds.1

But as a community, we are not immune to the forces at play in the wider culture.  Racism, homophobia, and other divisive “-isms” might not be explicit, but I am certain that some people harbor divisive, hateful attitudes in their hearts, even in Carrboro.  Those attitudes rarely come to the surface, but they are alive even here.

Carrboro lies to the west of Chapel Hill, a similar town where a horrific hate-crime took place a few years ago.   Three young Muslim students were killed ostensibly over a parking dispute, but the shadow of hate hung heavy over the incident.  The murder occurred four months before Donald J. Trump announced his candidacy for President, and I am certain the seeds of hate have been well fertilized by Trump’s rhetoric, and his refusal to repudiate the vile rhetoric of others.

Some of the most disturbing comments from 45 are his assaults on the free speech rights of NFL players taking a stand against discriminatory policing targeting people of color.  When a football player takes a knee, it is not an act of disrespect, it is an expression of a fundamental American right to protest the over-zealous police actions against people of color.  There is plenty of evidence, both statistical and anecdotal, indicating racial disparities in police response is often related to the race of an alleged perpetrator.

I believe this differential in police enforcement is real, but I will not try to explain, prove, or defend my belief here.  But consider what happened after I called the police last Saturday, after that minor accident.

The young police officer arriving on the scene was white, as I am.  He asked for my identification, and proof of insurance.  I gave him what I had.  He pointed out that the registration I was out of date, and that according to his database, my insurance was expired.  After a quick call to my wife (thankfully available) she was able to bring the paperwork demonstrating that it was all a misunderstanding.  The car was properly registered, the insurance was paid.  In all likelihood, the police database had not been updated yet, as the insurance payment was very recent. I thanked the officer for his courtesy and understanding.

But I have to wonder, had my skin been brown or black, would I have been offered the same courtesy?  Would I have been given the opportunity to call my wife?  Alter the circumstances a little – say the accident occurred at night – would this young white police officer have shown the same kindness?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I sensed no racist sentiment from the young officer, but then why would I?

I can not hide my identity as a white male any more than a black or brown man or woman can.  Each of us enjoys the privileges or suffers the pain that society sends our way until the day arrives when the color of our skin truly does not matter.

I love my town.  I love living in a town where kindness is the norm, diversity is celebrated, and a police officer is understanding and courteous on a Saturday afternoon. That should not be a white privilege, but a privilege for all.

Written in response to a Daily Prompt from WordPress.com: Identity

  1.   If you can afford it.  As with a lot of communities, low-income housing is a       perennial problem. 
Posted in Causes, Personal | Tagged , , | Leave a comment