the people versus woody allen and dylan farrow

I’ve been struggling with my own feelings and opinions on the subject of Woody Allen’s alleged abuse of his daughter Dylan. Like everyone else, I wondered what Cate Blanchett would (or wouldn’t) say about him when she won her inevitable Oscar. I’ve read others weighing in with their opinions, their theories, their advice. None of it has shed a single ray of light.

I’m a big fan of Woody Allen’s movies. I think I’ve seen every single one. His are the only movies I always see in the cinema on the first or second weekend. I even enjoy the not-so-great ones.

Some find it easy to separate the artist from his art. They can love Annie Hall while hating its creator. I can’t do this. I can’t enjoy a man’s work if I know that he is, or was, an abuser of children. That’s a line I can’t cross. In this blog I have written at length about child abuse–condemning both the Catholic Church for its enabling and cover-ups as well as Roman Polanski and his apologists for their glib acceptance of his brutality. But these were easy condemnations. In both cases the perpetrators admitted to the acts–even if they believed themselves above the law.

With Woody Allen it’s different. And this is what makes it so troubling. There is a desire to politicize the issue–to make it about patriarchy, or about privilege, or about the vulnerability of celebrities to false accusations. We might get angry at Cate Blanchett or Diane Keaton for implicitly taking Woody’s side by saying kind things about him in public–and thereby furthering Dylan’s victimization. Or we might get angry at Mia Farrow or Ronan Farrow for continuing to attack Woody on Dylan’s behalf, despite the fact that he has been cleared of all charges the charges were ultimately never pressed.* We want to take sides. But how can we? The alleged incident–a grown man sexually abusing his seven-year-old daughter–is something we all agree is wrong. The problem is we don’t know if it happened. And we probably never will. Either Woody Allen victimized Dylan and continues to get away with it. Or Dylan lied and continues to malign him unjustly. To take either side is to pretend at a knowledge we can never have. Even to engage in a debate about the matter is a kind of offense. Imagine you were wrongly accused of a sexually assaulting your daughter and the whole world was talking about it. Now imagine you were sexually abused by your father and the whole world was skeptical. One of these scenarios is the truth, and we, the observer-debaters, are implicated in it.

I’d rather have justice. But justice requires evidence. And this being the type of crime for which there is rarely a corroborating witness, there is little evidence to work with.

I find myself falling back on the fact that Woody was investigated by the police and cleared of all charges ultimately wasn’t charged*. And, while I know this may have less to do with his innocence than with the difficulty of proving the unprovable, at the very least an attempt at justice was made. This does give me some comfort. Just not enough.

In her open letter published in the New York Times on February 1st, Dylan Farrow asks: “What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?” She then goes on to describe how he sexually assaulted her. The implication is clear. You might be able to separate the artist from his art. But you shouldn’t.

I agree. I just don’t know what to do about it.

*Thanks to Justine Larbalestier (@JustineLavaworm) for reminding me that Allen was not, in fact, cleared of the charges, but rather a decision was made not to press charges. There’s a difference. It doesn’t change my angst over the whole thing, but still it’s legally different. And whenever possible in a case like this, it’s important to get the agreed-upon-facts-on-the-ground straight.

extraordinary immunity

In light of the Pope’s recent decision to step down, I have been revisiting my all-consuming rage over the Church’s conspiracy of enabling and protecting child rapists within its midst. I’ve re-read a number of articles that came out in early 2010 when a new rash of particularly disgusting threads of this hellacious quilt came to light. What strikes me today, nearly three years later, is that so little justice has been dispensed.

Let’s be clear about something first and foremost. The scandal to which I refer is not the actual rape of children by individual priests (though that is scandal enough), but rather the decision by members of the Church hierarchy to cover up these crimes, transfer known rapists to new parishes they knew would be awash in fresh victims, and openly and unabashedly prioritize the reputation of the Church above the welfare of children.

Here’s a portion of a document that then Cardinal Ratzinger sent to the Oakland Diocese regarding child rapist Father Stephen Kiesle:

This court, although it regards the arguments presented in favour of removal in this case to be of grave significance, nevertheless deems it necessary to consider the good of the universal church together with that of the petitioner, and it is also unable to make light of the detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke with the community of Christ’s faithful, particularly regarding the young age of the petitioner.

Keep in mind that the “petitioner” whose young age Ratzinger was so anxious about, was not one of the victims Kiesle tied up and raped (who in this particular case were eleven and thirteen) but rather Father Kiesle himself who was the tender age of 38.

Kiesle went on to rape again and again and again.

It strains the boundaries of my humanity to comprehend how such a moral calculus was made, how Cardinal Ratzinger could have so brazenly disregarded the welfare of children whom he had to know would fall victim to this serial sadist.

But what depresses me anew is the fact that Ratzinger is now resigning voluntarily from his position as Pope, rather than being dragged from that office in disgrace to face prosecution in any number of jurisdictions. I, like some of the journalists who actually exposed these crimes, was naively under the impression that bringing them to light would motivate people and their legal representatives to take action.

I was wrong.

The truth doesn’t matter. It is merely raw material to be molded and shaped according to our emotional needs. Or ignored if that suits us. We are not, as I once naively believed, a truth-seeking species. We are a comfort-seeking species. And for reasons I can’t fully fathom we are more comfortable with continuing to endanger children than we are with bringing their institutional victimizers to justice. We don’t even bother to dispute the facts. (They are indisputable.) We simply turn away.

Shame on all of us.

cycler audiobook

What’s that you say? Nothing good to listen to? No worries, check out the new Cycler audiobook, narrated by the epically talented Melissa Strom (who plays Jill) and Maxwell Glick (who plays her alter ego, Jack). These two really bring the story to life. So head on over to audible.com and snag your download. You can listen to a sample for free!

Oh and check out the new cover too.

Happy listening!

And stay tuned for the sequel, (Re)Cycler.

we did this

The most disempowering belief in the world is the belief that we can not change things, that there will always be tragedies of the magnitude that occurred in Connecticut yesterday. But yesterday did not have to happen. We could have prevented it. We chose not to. All of us. We allowed assault weapons to be distributed freely to our citizenry knowing, as any sane, reasonably observant person must know, that some not insignificant percentage of our citizenry is mentally unstable. It’s no use throwing up our hands now and saying “Well, what could we have done? The young man was obviously sick. It wasn’t the gun that killed those beautiful children and their teachers. It was that man.” But we knew he existed. He exists in every town, every city, every state. And our response to this knowledge? To arm him. Not merely with handguns. Not merely with hunting rifles. But with military grade weapons that can kill dozens in seconds.

We did that.

All of us.

And we can change it too.

But only if we stop taking the coward’s way out. Yes, the NRA has money and members, but they do not cast your vote for you. If you vote for a politician who supports the easy availability of assault rifles, then you enabled this crime. Own up to it. And make a change. Let your elected leaders know that you will no longer tolerate the status quo. Our children are too precious. And we have lost too many of them. It’s time to step up.

misconceptions about obama supporters

I couldn’t help but notice the sheer volume of grace displayed in the face of political defeat by my pro-Romney friends. Maybe I just have awesome friends. Because, unfortunately, that grace is far from universal. In fact, there seems to be a whole lot of rage out there, much of it stemming from some pretty big misconceptions about Obama supporters.

Fear not, I’m here to dispel these misconceptions.

1. Makers Versus Takers
It is quite popular among Romney supporters (and Romney himself) to claim that those of us on the other side of the political fence are all on government assistance or, at the very least, not paying taxes. Let me put your mind at ease. Every Obama supporter I know (and I know a lot) works for a living, pays taxes, and does not receive any government assistance (unless you count social security, which everyone over a certain age receives regardless of his or her politics). Obama supporters love job creators. Many of us are job creators. The more jobs the better, we say. In fact, if you were to look at the directional flow of federal tax dollars you would see that it goes from blue states to red states, not vice versa, which means the whole makers versus takers argument is exactly backwards.

2. Moral Relativism
Obama supporters tend to support abortion rights, gay rights, and access to contraception. To many on the other side, this indicates our unequivocal surrender to the forces of immorality. Alas, you couldn’t be more wrong. It’s not immorality or even amorality that’s at the heart of these positions. It’s compassion, that most Christian of all values. We support abortion rights because allowing the government to harvest women’s bodies against their will is ghastly and cruel. We love women. Some of our best friends are women. We support gay rights because we believe that love is a beautiful thing, something to be celebrated not criminalized. We support access to contraception because nearly every woman in America uses it at some point in her life in order to manage her fertility responsibly. We like reproductive responsibility. Those on the other side of this issue seem to believe that there is something immoral about using birth control, which, to us, is a cruel, backwards, and deluded belief. In short, our support of these things stems from a very deep-seated morality, not the absence of morality.

3. Tax and spend
Obama supporters want their taxes to be as low as possible. We’re not masochists. We work hard for our money and we do not like to see it wasted. For example, many of us are stunned at the cost of the Iraq war, which many of us did not support. We would like a balanced budget and we would like to eliminate the national debt. Most of us, however, are unwilling to do so on the backs of the neediest Americans. Do you know why? Because the global financial collapse that led us to this sorry point was not caused by the neediest Americans. It was caused by the wealthiest–primarily bankers. To responsibly deal with our fiscal problems, we need to raise revenues. Yes, we can talk about cutting where necessary (how about the military?). And, yes, we need to consider raising the retirement age so that social security can be solvent. But we simply can not pull ourselves out of debt without raising taxes. Who can most easily afford to pay higher taxes? The rich. So step up, rich people. And maybe next time, think twice about causing a global financial melt down.

4. Hating capitalism
Obama supporters do not hate capitalism. We hate crony capitalism. We hate corrupt capitalism. We love entrepreneurs. We are entrepreneurs. We work within the free market system. And many of us do quite well. We do, however, acknowledge that the economy has shifted such that wealth is accumulating upward, creating a desperately unstable situation of haves and have-nots. A new Golden Age, if you will. We’re not happy about this. And in so far as the chumminess between the financial services sector and our elected leaders has brought about this new Golden Age, we want it changed. We want a fair market, so that capitalism can do what it does best–unleash human potential within a truly meritocratic system.

So there. That’s who we are. Perhaps we’re not as different from you as you thought we were. Perhaps there are things we can learn from each other. We’re all in it together, so the more we can find common ground, the better.