09 June 2007

On Rape (and Prison Reform)

I am posting the following (which is a reprint of an opinion piece I wrote for the Rapid River Literary Magazine several years ago) not as another in my series "Hey, to introduce myself...", but as a response (in part) to this post at Shakesville. I realize that a good deal of it is not relevant to that discussion, but since it does express my opinion on the various subjects I didn't want to edit it.

June 2000
I just received word that (yet another) friend of mine has been raped. Quite unfortunately, this is not an uncommon experience. I just have one question. What the fuck is wrong with this civilization?!?!?! Why have we allowed the situation to become so intricately screwed up? Why has the quest to be the one with the most money been allowed to dominate this supposedly enlightened world we live in?

I know exactly what's going to happen with regards to the attack on my friend. Essentially the same thing that has happened in the cases of the other women that I know that have been raped. In the extremely small likelihood that anyone is ever brought to trial, even a conviction will probably not cause the rapist to spend any appreciable time behind bars. It can't, you see, because this violent, slime-encrusted, less worthy of respect than Hitler... entity... will be paroled to make more room in prison for non-violent drug offenders.

I want all of you pro-Drug War people reading this to listen closely. An increasingly larger majority of prison inmates are serving time for non-violent offenses. Due to the high cost of housing prisoners, not to mention the even higher cost of building new prisons to hold these perpetrators of crimes that have no victims, more and more violent offenders are being paroled.

Here's a shock; these violent offenders know this. What kind of detriment is this for them? They get to spend a couple of years on the public dole, and then they're released to attack someone else.

So we have two classes of people that we're talking about here. One group shoots, stabs, beats, rapes, robs, and generally makes their victim feel either unworthy of life or dead. The other group smokes up and either listens to Grateful Dead music, watches old Monty Python or similar humorous programs, or goes for a hike in the woods. And our society, our great experiment in democracy, our nation that was founded on individual rights and personal freedoms - has deemed it appropriate to release group one and hold group two - to protect society. Yeah right.

I don't really want to sound totally cynical, and I'm not a big believer in conspiracy theories, but let me just throw this out. How many millions of dollars a year in profits do pharmaceutical companies reap from prescriptions written by MD's and psychologists to treat the victims of violent crimes? How many contributions to society are delayed or lost forever by these same victims? Maybe you'll understand this one - How much are job productivity, profits, and health care costs affected by the employers of these victims? How much longer are we going to allow the people, as in "We the people", to be propagandized, prodded and frightened into not asserting their constitutionally guaranteed rights?

Now, I don't want you to think that I believe there should be no regulations regarding drugs. I think that cocaine and heroin should be more difficult to procure than winning lottery tickets, and I personally believe that whoever invented crack should be extradited to Saudi Arabia and punished according to the harshest possible interpretation of Sharia law. And I think that anyone who "turns on" children, other than their parents, should be treated just as harshly. But don't you see that placing a stigma on something just makes it more attractive to children and adolescents? Do you not remember being a teenager and rebelling (or at least wanting to) just because you could? Not to mention the fact that it would also piss off your parents.

Marijuana is called weed because it is one. Weeds grow anywhere and are impossible to eradicate. The effect of smoking it is very calming, so naturally smokers tend to be more pacifist than average. People with violent tendencies don't like the effect of pot on their systems, it takes away their rage. Maybe we should prescribe it for the violent offenders. They would be much less likely to commit the crimes in the first place, and if we arrested them for possession, at least we could keep them off the streets longer, thereby further reducing the risk to society at large.

One last thing, as you think about this article, think how you would feel if the next victim of my friend's attacker is your friend or sister or wife or mother.

I welcome any reasoned responses to, whether what I wrote agrees with you or pisses you off.

(To give you a bit of background on the above, not only had a friend been raped only days before I wrote it, but the attacker of another had just been paroled - after serving less than ten percent of his sentence. Hence my veering into a screed about the state of prisons. I also admit that my words did nothing to address the underlying problem. That is a failing on my part.)

Let me expand on the part of the above that is pertinent to this discussion. In the seven years since I wrote that editorial, many more of my friends have experienced rape - and it doesn't appear that any gains have been made towards stopping this offense against women (and indeed, all of humanity). In fact, it seems at times like the problem is getting worse. I don't know whether it is because civilization is becoming more polarized and violent or that we (or at least, I) are simply more aware of what has always been.

I have to believe, however, that strides (however small and insignificant they may seem) are being made to eradicate the underlying problems that promote acts such as rape - because to believe otherwise would be to believe that there is no hope for the future of our race. And if that is true, then all of us might just as well unplug our computers, lie down and drift off into that endless sleep that inevitably awaits.

I have tried, and shall continue to try, to have a positive effect by my actions and words. I suggest that we all do the same.

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