aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Monday, October 15, 2007
Political failure & unenforced laws
This series explores the black spots in American law: areas in which our laws are routinely and regularly broken and where the law enforcement response is ... nothing. These are the areas where, for one reason or another, we’ve decided to tolerate lawbreaking and let a law--duly enacted and still on the books--lay fallow or near dead.
Why are there dead zones in U.S. law? The answer goes beyond the simple expense of enforcement but betrays a deeper, underlying logic. Tolerated lawbreaking is almost always a response to a political failure--the inability of our political institutions to adapt to social change or reach a rational compromise that reflects the interests of the nation and all concerned parties. That’s why the American statutes are full of laws that no one wants to see fully enforced--or even enforced at all.
This political failure can happen for many reasons. Sometimes a law was passed by another generation with different ideas of right and wrong, but the political will necessary to repeal the law does not exist. Sometimes, as we’ll see with polygamy or obscenity, the issue is too sensitive to discuss in rational terms. And sometimes the law as written is a symbol of some behavior to which we may aspire, which nevertheless remains wholly out of touch with reality. Whatever the reason, when politics fails, institutional tolerance of lawbreaking takes over.
Via Cory Doctorow, “Tim Wu’s a smart and funny law prof.”
The panel had four women and three men and was moderated by Ashleigh Banfield, the Court TV anchor. Ms. White promised a “very scintillating discussion.”
Laura Sessions Stepp, a Washington Post journalist, wrote the September article on “gray rape.” It has stirred considerable discussion on blogs and discussion boards. (Ms. Stepp’s latest book, “Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both,” about how smart, ambitious young women do emotional damage to themselves by getting physical with men they are not dating or may have met for the first time, also raised some controversy.)
In this morning’s discussion, Ms. Stepp said she did not embark on the story believing that there was such a thing as “gray rape.” She said, “For me, rape is rape. I really didn’t know what that term meant.”
But in the course of her reporting, Ms. Stepp said, she came across descriptions of “sexual encounters where usually both parties were very drunk and really didn’t know what they had said to each other the next morning.” In such cases, consent is uncertain. Such cases are more likely to emerge today, Ms. Stepp argued in the article, in an era when sexual boundaries and rules for women have loosened and when it has become socially acceptable for women to pursue casual sex.
The lack of public, comprehensive, and complex sex education in this country contributes to this toxic sexual culture on most college campuses. The abstinence-only sex education that most young men and women receive does not teach them how to articulate their own sexual needs and respect those articulated by their partners. Teens who are merely told "Just don’t do it" are lacking more than an anatomy lesson or information on contraceptive choices. They are also missing out on essential communication skills and life-saving knowledge about sex and power. Which is bad news for teenagers in our paradoxically hyper-sexual and hyper-conservative contemporary America who are in desperate need of wise mentorship.
Re-write the Georgia Juvenile Justice Code
JUST Georgia is an organization promoting fairness for children in justice and social services. I recently heard about a group of town hall meetings they are having regarding a re-write of the Juvenile Justice Code. Some dates have passed, but there are still meetings in Albany, Columbus, Atlanta, Gainesville, Augusta, Griffin and Milledgeville. The meeting times and places are here.
Compared to youth across the nation, Georgia’s children have some of the poorest outcomes in school achievement, graduation rates, obesity, pregnancy, employment, and violent deaths. Those who suffer from abuse, crime, or deprivation - as a victim or offender - are likely to perform in the bottom of these statistics. At the same time, they can face a difficult journey through an outdated and - at times - inadequate legal system.
Lincoln slept here. With David Derickson?
The NYTimes tells us that the old Soldiers’ Home is about to become the new President Lincoln’s Cottage after an eight-year, $15 million renovation:
The house, a 34-room Gothic revival mansion on the grounds of the sprawling Armed Forces Retirement Home, is also known as the Soldiers’ Home but will be called President Lincoln’s Cottage. It was here, with his wife and son Tad, that Lincoln spent nearly a quarter of his presidency.
“This will not be a traditional house museum, but rather it will tell the story of Lincoln,Ã¢â‚¬Â� said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We are not just preserving Lincoln’s place, but we are also going to preserve Lincoln’s ideas.” [...]
Three miles from the White House on the third-highest point in Washington, the house provided a respite from the swampy heat of the city, then also prone to malaria. After the death of their son Willie, the Lincolns sought frequent getaways from the White House, which was open to the public at the time.
Set to open in February, one idea it won’t likely preserve is the suggestion that Lincoln was gay (or, at least, had sexual intimacies with men) as most recently recounted in C.A. Tripp’s The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln:
The case for Lincoln’s same-sex love, those “invisible companionships,” rests mainly on his relations with two men: Joshua Speed, his housemate for four years in Illinois, and David V. Derickson, a middle-aged captain in the president’s bodyguard. Tripp leads with the Derickson “affair”: its curiosities are less easily explained away and it has received short shrift from previous writers—omitted, passed over, or, if Tripp is right, hidden away. The muckraking journalist Ida Tarbell, who followed Herndon’s book a few years later with one of her own, dug up Derickson’s reminiscences from his obscure hometown Pennsylvania newspaper in 1888. Derickson’s story was in most ways a familiar tale of Lincoln’s kindly intimacies, democratic manners, love of talk and company. But there is an added intensity to his portrait of the president.
Lincoln apparently took to Derickson from the moment they met. He became a fixture in the president’s daily routine, breakfasting with him, gallivanting around Washington in the official carriage, and at the end of the day accompanying him back to the summer White House, the family’s cottage on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home five miles out of town. Lincoln introduced him to the top brass, surprising some of the mighty, he noted coyly, when the president presented the humble captain to generals on well-nigh equal terms. Lincoln explained the military situation to him, read aloud telegrams from field commanders, and confided his perplexities about affairs of state. When Lincoln went out to walk with little Tad, it was Derickson, and Derickson alone, who accompanied them.
One could minimize this Forrest Gump-ish yarn of a simple man’s importance to the great if it were not for a gratuitous—and thus more reliable—recollection buried in an obscure history of his Pennsylvania regiment, written by one Thomas Chamberlin, who served during the war as Derickson’s commanding officer. In chronicling the regiment’s duties in Washington, Chamberlin, too, tapped the broad vein of recollections of Lincoln’s homey felicities. Lincoln was easy and genial with the men, he recounted, so much so that one of them, Derickson, became a constant companion, even spending the night with the president in the same bed when Mrs. Lincoln was gone: “it is said,” Chamberlin remarked jauntily, “—making use of his Excellency’s night-shirt!”
BTW, the Times article above does note that “Lincoln would sometimes see the poet Walt Whitman on his commute.”
What is an MRA?
He’s a Men’s Rights Activist, part of the broader Men’s Rights Movement. He--
Wait, wait. “Men’s Rights Movement?”
Is that like the “National Association for the Advancement of White People” or the folks who think the Christian Right is oppressed?
Yes, the Men’s Rights Movement is the same kind of animal. All of these groups share a common worldview, that the traditionally oppressed groups, be they women, minorities, or non-Christians, have somehow seized control of the country and are systematically denying the straight, white, Christian men their rights.
Well, yes, but don’t ignore the reason for the pushback: men’s traditional privileges really are under attack. It’s just that these rights, like the right to beat and rape your wife with impunity, are anathema to a truly free and equitable society.
So they agitate for the right to rape and assault?
Not in so many words. But the MRAs do certainly seem preoccupied by the loss of that privilege. Look at the Glenn Sacks/Helen Smith interview we talked about early this week. It was all about how the Violence Against Women Act is a debacle for men, because, they say, men get sent to jail unfairly in domestic disputes. VAWA is a traditional hobby-horse for the MRA set.
Amanda picks up on a commenter’s question and runs with it:
What about how men tend to die on the job more than women? Isn’t that unfair?
More hand-waving, especially from MRAs, who tend to be the first to decry efforts to fix the pay gap between men and women. Men die on the job more because men are more likely to have the blue collar jobs that put workers in danger—and therefore take home the larger paycheck than women of that socioeconomic class, who tend to have pink collar jobs that pay much less. Plumber vs. secretary, construction worker vs. hair dresser. Which means that bringing up this issue in order to demand that women share the risk means that you should be on board with opening these higher-paying fields up to women, a feminist goal. So how are feminists the enemy again?