A few days ago I mentioned that my lefty mailing lists were consumed with parsing and re-parsing the Roman Polanski business.
It was, of course, inevitable, that sooner or later, someone would clear her throat emphatically and begin a contribution with the phrase, "As a woman...."
Was it Rosie O'Donnell who had a schtick about this? "As a lesbian, I'd just like to say ... pass the salt."
Ms As-A-Woman -- let's call her Laura Abbott -- went on rather predictably to suggest that the mostly male membership of the list was perhaps a bit "insensitive" to "women's issues."
Now the Polanski conversation, silly as it often was, actually covered a lot of ground. The question of moral panic was raised. The social construction of childhood -- innocent childhood! -- and adulthood, came in for some rather heavy-handed discussion. But at least somebody pointed out that these notions are in fact socially constructed. The grandstanding judge's political ambitions were mentioned. You got a sense that this story had some depth and complexity, and that more than one kind of "issue" was involved.
Of course, the Prosecutor's Friends were much in the majority. Call the cops! Extradite him! Throw the book at him! 'Nuff said!
It always surprises me when folks who think of themselves as Lefties show such a zeal for the bourgeois cops, and the bourgeois DA, and the bourgeois judge, and the bourgeois rules of engagement (a judge, one lawyerly contributor pointed out, is not obliged to abide by a plea bargain made by the DA. So there, you filthy pervert!)
But it happens all the time. In fact one of the most characteristic tics of the moralizing left is a display of indignation when some rich guy escapes the toils of the law, where a poor guy would have been immured deeper than Aida. One gets the impression that the escape is perhaps even more the casus irae than the inequality -- as if what we wanted was for the "justice system" to behave like it's "supposed to". As if we wanted a lie to become true.
All of which leads back to the depressing insight that many or most American lefties are just recovering liberals at best -- if they're even recovering at all.
Let's return to Ms Abbott, though. It wasn't enough to have most of the Trotskyite scribes and Pharisees on her side. She was furious, absolutely furious, that anybody might raise a doubt.
Does anybody care that this is pretty much a male only forum? Yes? No? This is a group of men discussing rape. Perhaps I was wrong to assume that because this list is called Marxist, a woman's perspective on women's issues would be welcome.Kinda strange line of reasoning there, about what you might expect of a "Marxist list". Would old Dr Marx himself have been interested in a "woman's perspective on women's issues"? It was my impression that he wasn't much interested in anybody's perspective but his own -- which as it turns out was a pretty insightful one, and one we keep going back to.
But of course the nub of the matter is the idea that the Polanski case falls under the rubric of "women's issues."
This is kind of a hard knot to untie. Who owns what "issue"? If Polanski had been interested in young boys rather than girls -- would it be a "gay issue"? Or a "men's issue"? Or a "children's issue"? Does the woman-ness or gay-ness or man-ness of the "issue" trump the interest some of us feel in the bloated condition of the enforcement state, the Pecksniffery of self-appointed advocates for supposedly innocent children, the sanctimonious hysteria of the media, and yes, the need that so many lefty Tartuffes feel to show themselves as righteous as the Right?
I guess this is one reason, among others, why I so dislike what we have come to call "identity politics" -- it's the turf-protection element, the idea that your discourse is privileged over mine because you're speaking "as a" woman, or "as a" lesbian, or "as a" whatever, and we own this topic -- it's a whatever's issue.
I think different. I think history and the social world and the res publica are the common property of us all. We all come to it with different histories and different perspectives, of course, and you'd be a fool not to listen attentively to what people with some immediate knowledge of a given matter have to say. But we all have to think for ourselves, and more to the point, no topic is ever just a whatever's issue.
We all have to deal with the cops. And they are not your friend -- even if you're a woman.
Or a child.