7 Quick Takes Friday #7

Check out Marie’s site to see what others are talking about on this first October Friday. 

I came of age staying up late to watch David Letterman when he was arguably in his goofy prime as a late-night talk show host – the mid 1980’s.  When he still worked for NBC.  When he had more hair and even less control over it.  Before he was the media mogul he is now.  While he was still dropping things off a 5-story building.

And so it grieved me to see his public confession yesterday of an attempted blackmail scheme.  But I also admired him greatly.  Rather than focusing too much on vilifying the person attempting to blackmail him, Letterman took a painful amount of time to talk about himself.  About his culpability.  About the “terrible” things that he has done.  Unlike other more educated or more ‘holy’ leaders who have been exposed in their sinful behavior, Letterman stepped up and addressed the issue.  He didn’t deny.  He didn’t equivocate.  He didn’t justify.  He admitted that he had skeletons in his closet that are exposable.  That would cause embarrassment or harm to himself or to others. 

There were many avenues he could have taken to make himself look better in this situation.  He didn’t take them.  It was a candid admission of fear and of failure.  I’ll take his word that whatever he has done is “terrible”.  His admission did not make those things any less “terrible”, but there was a refreshing honesty and willingness to own up to his behavior without bragging about it, and in so doing to disarm those who sought to hurt him through his past, and to weaken the hand of others who might be inclined to make a similar attempt.  While skeptics might argue that this is really his main point (and he certainly didn’t deny that it was) in his candidness, I still admire the way he handled the situation. 

Junk mail may be shrinking in our mailboxes, but that doesn’t mean that marketers aren’t keen to get our attention in any manner possible.  Big Brother is certainly not the only family member that’s interested in keeping an eye on us.  Marketers are utilizing facial recognition technology as one avenue of personalizing advertising, whether by monitoring responses to a billboard, or actually identifying individuals in a crowd and delivering personalized advertisements. 

If that doesn’t creep you out a little bit, well, I dunno.  I think it’s pretty creepy.

I have to admit the first time I heard about dead bodies being plasticized and displayed in various positions for people to examine the skeletal and muscular structure, I thought it was pretty crazy.  Crazy in a sorta whoa-I-wanna-see-that sort of way. 

But the more I think about it, and the more the show has evolved into some fairy questionable displays of post-death human interaction, the less I think this is a good idea.  The more it seems to be capitalizing on something other than educational inquiry.  The more it begins to sound like some sort of bizarre, Dr. Frankenstein-type of experiment, of genius gone morally astray.  How is this showing respect for the dead, regardless of what the dead themselves agreed to or thought was a good idea?  Is this just another way of hiding death from us, this time in plain sight? 

On the heels of the ELCA’s vote to permit homosexually active pastors to be ordained and called to service, I thought that this was an interesting little side-note.  The ELCA also agreed to full communion and pulpit fellowship with the United Methodist Church.  In short, this agreement means that an ELCA or UMC congregation can call a minister who has been ordained in either denomination. 

Except that the UMC is pointing out that the ELCA has gone beyond what the UMC permits in terms of permitting homosexual clergy and vowing to treat homosexuality in general as a non-sin.  The UMC currently permits the ordination and calling of celibate homosexual men and women, but has not as yet agreed that practicing homosexuals can be considered for clergy status.  Which means that a UMC congregation that wants to call a practicing homosexual ELCA pastor is not allowed to do so, under UMC guidelines.

I’m sure this will all be taken care of in the not-too-distant future when the UMC will undoubtedly follow the ELCA’s recent decisions.  But in the meantime, it’s a reminder that things are not as glowingly simple and wonderful as ELCA publicity would lead us to believe.

Time to start saving money.  I would dearly like to attend this conference next July!  

In the meantime, this is a smaller-scale, closer to home conference I’ll be attending. 

Southern California is certainly a land of fashion, and women here of all ages wear high heels to practically everything, with practically everything.  The beautiful and the tanned, the modified and the enhanced are certainly in no short supply, and they dress to accentuate these facts. 

After a recent trip to Disneyland, my wife and I were discussing some of the more jaw-dropping fashion choices.  As parents, we know only too well that we will soon begin educating our nearly-5-year-old daughter on issues pertaining to how we attire ourselves.  What do our clothes say about us?  What do we want them to convey?  How do we choose to wear something or not wear something?  It’s an important topic, I think, in a media-saturated advertising culture where children are pressured into expressions of sexuality that are questionable at any age, but certainly the more so for young children. 

It seems obvious that women dress in a revealing manner in order to gain attention.  I’ve had women argue with me about this, but I still can’t see the logic.  Accentuating aspects of your body seems to me to be an action that expects and desires attention.  Otherwise, why else do it?  It can’t actually be comfortable wearing the 4″ heels while pounding the concrete at Disneyland.  It would certainly seem unsafe.  And by showing off as much as possible of your body, aren’t you inviting the sorts of looks and thoughts that feminists have fought for decades and longer against?   Isn’t it simply a means for greater objectification?

Don’t get me wrong.  In most every culture, men and women have separated and specific forms of dress that are considered appropriate.  Oftentimes, these modes of dress flatter the body styles and shapes of men and women alike.  I don’t see anything wrong with dressing in a gender specific manner, and it seems to be equally undesirable to seek to hide one’s gender through clothing as it is to overemphasize one’s gender through a lack of clothing. 

We want our daughter to
grow up to be strong and confident in who she is as a child of God.  Which means that regardless of how beautiful she is or isn’t by cultural standards, she is every bit as beautiful and lovable as any of God’s other creations.  We want her to learn to express herself in a manner that demonstrates a self-image predicated not on what society says she has to offer in terms of her body or hair-do, but in terms of what God has said about her as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.  We want her to know that a boy or a man who seems primarily motivated to meet her or get to know her because of her beauty is someone that should be watched carefully, and his words and actions evaluated carefully. 

Likewise, we want our sons to learn to grow up learning to appraise another person not on the expense or style of their clothing, but on how they conduct themselves.  We want them to understand that women are not simply a means to a man’s own end, but truly partners created by God, and to be respected and protected and cherished for all of their gifts and abilities, not simply for the low cut of a blouse or the high cut of a pair of shorts. 

And I wish that this was a topic that was discussed more in Christian circles.  Not in terms of judgment and law (this is what you must or must not wear or do), but rather in terms of empowerment and self-esteem.  It’s what makes me angry that many Christians feel that Carrie Prejean is a hero for her stance on homosexuality, yet refuse to talk about whether or not her former ambitions as a model of skimpy clothing is appropriate for a beautiful Christian woman.  We set an ugly double-standard all too often, attempting to call out those who disagree with us in terms of our faith for their decisions and choices, while turning a blind eye to the misguided or misdirected decisions and choices of those who happen to share our faith, but apparently don’t understand the implications of that faith in our world. 

The uproar here near Los Angeles is interesting regarding the recent arrest and request for extradition from Switzerland of Roman Polanski, the celebrated director who confessed to unlawful sex with a minor in 1978, and then fled the country prior to sentencing because of fear that he was going to be sent to prison.  Many in the Hollywood community have come out in support of Mr. Polanski, requesting that the prosecution drop the extradition request.  Their request for this have been founded on very ill-defined arguments, with Whoopi Goldberg’s assertion that what happened 31 years ago was not actually “rape-rape” being probably the most over the top (or at least the most publicized). 

The New York Times ran an opinion piece that deals with the issue in more intelligent terms.  And it relates to other posts I’ve made regarding the nature and purpose of a penal system.  The author of the NYT piece, Ronald Sokol, offers four traditional reasons for the existence of criminal law “revenge, deterrence, punishment, and rehabilitation”.  Mr. Sokol quickly dismisses revenge as a legitimate reason for seeking to pursue someone as a criminal, and rightly so.  He then quickly dismisses the other three reasons as inapplicable in this particular case.  Mr. Polanski is not known to have broken any other laws during the last three decades, so, the argument goes, there is nothing to deter or rehabilitate, and therefore punishment itself is pointless. 

It should be noted that Mr. Sokol is currently practicing law in France.  Mr. Polanski is a French citizen and therefore France has not been obligated to extradite Mr. Polanski to the United States. 

Mr. Sokol’s second major argument is that since there has not been an extradition request since 1978, the current request is arbitrary, and citing a case from the European Court of Human Rights, Sokol argues that an element of arbitrariness to law is something that ought to be avoided.  An arbitrary application of a law would, according to the ECHR, nullify the effect of the law, and would be tantamount to an abuse of the law.  He argues that the Fifth and 14th Amendments of the US Constitution also have this basic idea of avoiding arbitrary prosecution in mind.

The Fifth Amendment relates to due process in the law.  It has to do with the proper steps being taken prior to prosecution.  But those proper steps *were* taken, Mr. Polanski simply left before they could be fully carried out.  Justice has not been short cut in this situation – it has been avoided.  Not by the prosecution, it would appear, but by Mr. Polanski.  The 14th Amendment has to do again with due process, and with equal protection under the law.  It would be a real stretch to interpret this to mean “since not everyone can be prosecuted for a crime they actually committed, it’s wrong to prosecute anyone who actually committed such a crime“.  The law is not being spuriously applied to Mr. Polanski.  But it is being applied.  Late, agreed.  But are we arguing that the lateness of application invalidates the application?

Mr. Sokol acknowledged earlier in his piece that it is impossible to prosecute every crime, strictly from a matter of resources.  By this definition, it could be argued that any prosecution is arbitrary, since other opportunities to prosecute other criminals are not pursued for one reason or another.  Does this mean that any prosecution of a criminal action is illegitimate? 

Mr. Sokol’s summary dismissal of any grounds for pursuing charges against Mr. Polanski (revenge, deterrence, punishment, rehabilitation) neglects one small detail.  Mr. Polanski is guilty by admission of his behavior with the young woman 31 years ago.  But he is also guilty of flaunting the legal process of our country.  He is guilty of using his wealth as a means to avoid the consequences of his actions.  Mr. Sokol states:

Of course there is social value in discouraging criminals from fleeing the jurisdiction.  There is value as well in seeing that justice is done and in showing that no one is above the law.  But those values can erode over time if the circumstances which gave rise to the need for justice have vanished.” 

What the heck does this mean?!!?!  It might be a different matter all together if this was all a matter that was just now coming to light, if allegations were just now being made.  It might indeed seem very arbitrary to apply the full force of the law after so much time.  But in a situation where the law was applied, but the guilty party simply avoided it, I think there are some grave problem with just pretending that the whole thing is old news.  I think it would be pretty disturbing if Mr. Polanski were able to come and go freely from our country – even take up residence here – after demonstrating that he was unwilling to abide by our laws. 

7 Responses to “7 Quick Takes Friday #7”

  1. Marie Says:

    I remember Letterman when he was a morning show host! I’m thinking this is camel meets needle here, a man who seems likely to have a good soul in him has allowed himself to be put into a world so full of the opportunity to sin very few could resist. Doesn’t absolve him, but it’s a nice reminder that sometimes not making 11 million dollars a year is the greater blessing.The marketing creeps me out, too. I think it does until you pass the point of no return and simply live with it like an intestinal parasite. I had a very, very dear friend who dressed with high skirts and low cleavage. I never entirely understood it, but she was an artist and I think in many ways it just came down to her finding it pretty, probably because of marketing conditioning, frankly. But I also suspect she had some sense of the symmetry and the composition of the human body. Her daughter also dressed in revealing clothes. I think her belief was that the clothing did not make the difference where behavior was concerned, relationships is what did that. At the same time, I’m of the modesty school with my kids — which is very hard to do, since they are tall and all shirts today are belly-revealing shirts and all pants today are hip hugging pants. It’s a frustration to me that folks have become so entirely blinded to the idea of modesty that they’ve even removed options from those who would choose it. Saw a girl in the grocery the other day with her cheerleading outfit on — very short skirt, with a slit in it (!) and cut out shoulders. I probably would not have been surprised if she’d paid for her groceries in all singles. But she also had absolutely perfect hair and then I saw mom, also with perfectly done hair and looking really sexy in her shirt that just barely showed her tight midriff and her sweats with the writing across the booty. New, tastefully slutty clothes is kind of what the classy people wear these days.Polanski — I’d only add that his confession and his charges may have been legal-speak, but the accusation of his victim made it clear that it was, in addition to all that, certainly also “rape rape”. She was apparently pleading for him to stop the entire time. I find it absolutely through the looking glass that the fact that she was 13 seems to make this less of a crime, instead of much more of one, in some peoples’ eyes.

  2. Paul Nelson Says:

    What I’m curious about in the Letterman incident is how he classifies his behavior as terrible.  I mean, as a Christian, I can say that sleeping around is not what men and women are supposed to be doing.  Our culture says quite another thing.  I’m sure that some of these incidents will come to light now that Letterman has admitted to them.  Yet, barring any sort of inappropriate pressuring or manipulation on his part, there seems little that our culture would have to say in terms of castigating his behavior.  After all, we’re told that we live in an equal society where women are now empowered with their sexuality.  So long as Letterman wasn’t abusing his position of authority to coerce women into relationships with him, there would seem little room for anyone to wag a finger.Yet Letterman himself admits that these things could be considered “terrible”.  Is that because of the circumstances of the relationships, or because he knows that some of them were coerced, were something less than mutually agreed upon actions by adults?  Or is it perhaps that he knows in his heart that such behavior isn’t appropriate or proper, regardless of what our culture says?  I also agree that “tastefully slutty” is a fashion demographic that is finding broader appeal.  While there has always been an element that pushes the boundaries of fashion acceptance and sexuality (the flappers of the 1920’s, the mini-skirts of the 1960’s), this attitude appears to be going more mainstream.  Part of me wonders if this has anything to do with an apparently more concerted effort for older folks (parents, people in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, etc) to keep acting as though they were 23, and dressing that way to boot?  It is a matter of greater financial wealth that enables these people to pay for the customized meals and the personal trainers and the liposuction and implants that allow them to remain looking like they have the body they did when they were 23, even though they’re considerably older? 
    I’ve been flabbergasted by the marketing of teen and older stars to kids still in their single-digits, age-wise.  When your hero is a Hannah Montana in form fitting outfits (even if not comparatively revealing), or a Britney Spears gone-off-the-deep-end, can we be surprised that parents are caving in their common sense to dress their lil’ darlin’s like these much older, much more sexualized idols? 
    The Polanski thing…that just baffles me.  That people could think that he deserves to not have any repercussions to actions that *he* chose is just bizarre.  Then again, Hollywood isn’t exactly an environment where personal responsibility is addressed a lot. 

  3. JP Says:

    Did you see Letterman apologized to his wife and thanked his staff? Watch it. It was well done and hilarious at the same time. I only wish he had gone all the way and apologized to his wife (it was implied but not explicit), but perhaps that is best left said to her personally. Like you, I grew up watching Letterman (although I have been watching nearly as long–you old fart), and I have been very impressed with how he has handled it. But as you intimated in your comment, many commentators have said that his behavior is no big deal. He was no married. He did not coerce the women. These points cause the public to downplay the seriousness of his mistakes, contrasting him with other celebrities whose behavior is “much worse.” It is a sad indicator on our society’s tolerance of sin.

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