So, have you heard the one about the guy who sold foot-long sandwiches going to prison? Of course you have. Everyone has. At least 3,000 times. Since the news broke about Jared Fogle’s arrest for child pornography and sex with minors I have yet to see a story that didn’t have, “He’s gonna get his foot-long…” (or some variation thereof) in the comments section (and sometimes in the story itself).
Stop it. Just stop. It’s not funny. You’re not funny. And what’s worse – you’re hurting the very person you claim to be standing up for – the victim of rape or abuse. Jokes and “I hope he gets what he deserves” kinds of comments don’t make you witty, insightful, outraged or even righteous in that Old Testament “eye for an eye” kind of way. It just makes you someone who is either fixated in the adolescent world of fart jokes and Dick’s Last Resort or who doesn’t think about what you say for more than 3 seconds. Either way – grow up, and wise up.
Rape is Never Okay
Let’s just be clear:
- It is not okay for a child to be raped.
- It is not okay for a college student to be raped.
- It is not okay for a spouse to be raped.
- It is not okay for strangers to be raped.
- It is not okay for police officers, prison guards, or judges to be raped.
- It is not okay for the homeless, the helpless, or prisoners to be raped.
When you suggest otherwise – when you rationalize your bad humor or horrible human rights thinking with, “well, that person should get what he/she gave others– it’s justice. Let the perp see how it feels.” What you are really saying is rape is okay.
- Rape is okay if it teaches you something. The message is that violating someone’s body in the most foul way can actually do them some good because they will now have empathy with their victims or at least feel what the victim felt. That’s idiotic. You aren’t creating solidarity with victims. You are just creating another victim. Many people are in prison because they were child victims who were already “taught by rape.”
- Rape is an acceptable form of punishment. Rape hurts – the body, the mind and the soul.To suggest rape is some kind acceptable way to punish anyone – even a rapist – is to not only advocate cruel and unusual punishment, but to reinforce the idea that authority (either by badge or by mob or by strength) has the right to inflict this on another human being. No one has that right. Ever.
- There are people who deserved to be raped. For the victims of sexual assault this is the worst message you could possibly be sending. Victims already question themselves and blame themselves for what happened to them. Unfair and untrue, their wounded minds bombard them with statements like:
- “I shouldn’t have been wearing that.”
- “I shouldn’t have gone to that party.”
- “I shouldn’t have argued with him about the credit card.”
- “I shouldn’t have stayed home from school sick.”
- “I shouldn’t have let him give me that ice cream.”
- “I shouldn’t have sent that Snapchat.”
- “I shouldn’t have said, ‘no.’”
At the deep bottom of those questions is this one sick statement over and over – “I deserved to be raped.”
So – along comes Internet Iggy with his dumb joke about prisoners “deserving” to be raped and all it does is give more fuel to the victim’s already raging internal fire. Guess what? You got 30 likes on your funny comment and re-victimized a person struggling with recovery. Bravo.
Learn before you burn
Before you jump on the jokester express and send a survivor of rape back into the flames for a reminder of their brutal experience, take a moment to learn to something.
- “Eye for an Eye” – even in its biblical glory – did not mean people got to poke out each other’s eyes. Jewish laws stated that you must “compensate” someone if you take something. So – if you poked out someone’s eye – you have to, in some way, repay that debt. A perpetrator being raped doesn’t give anything back to the victim but more regret.
- Your frustration is showing – A big part of the comment has to do with America’s continuing dysfunctional relationship with the justice/prison system. We want people who rape others to be punished and we are never satisfied that sitting in a jail cell for five years, or five hundred years, is enough.
- It isn’t. There isn’t enough time in the world to make up for rape. Prison time is a case of “we do the best we can with time – one of the only tools we have.”
- Prisons are not lush. Much of public frustration is the TV/Movie fed notion prisons are some kind of weird country club where inmates sleep all day, have cable TV and get free everything. That’s a huge myth. As a pastoral care provider and HIV/AIDS tester I have been many jails and prisons. They aren’t lush. They aren’t comfy. Everything costs. Some prices are higher than others.
- Real change happens in policy making, not pain. You don’t like the way the system we have works in terms of rape, prison, and punishment? Fix it – by voting (in those small local prison board and mid-term elections you have to leave your house for), by advocating for real justice, by learning about what the judges you elect believe, and by being active in state politics. That’s how things get changed.
- Jabbing at the perp doesn’t do shit for the victim. Remember those people? The ones who got hurt? They don’t need you out there laughing it up or saber rattling about the rapist (who seems to be getting all the attention). They need you:
To listen to them.
To hold their hands.
To encourage them to seek help.
To remind them you still see them as the vibrant wonderful people they are, not just “rape victim.”
To help them journey from victim to survivor.
To help them journey from survivor to thriver.
To advocate real justice.
To love them and be loved by them.
I realize this personal blog isn’t going to challenge the big wide world of the comment section any more than people discovering the Kardashians have no viable talent is going to keep them from being written about online every day forever. But, like all people of good mind and conscience, I hope. And I hope it can make you think about messaging, and at least stop saying or stop “liking” or “forever reblogging” this painful boomerang.
If you read this all the way through – you are probably already in the category of “I don’t say that.” or even “I don’t say that, anymore.” In that case – teach it to someone who still does.
If you read the first draft of anything I’ve written, it becomes painfully clear I write like I speak. Fortunately, I speak well (thanks, speech coaches). More fortunately, I can always re-write (thanks, Microsoft Word). Speaking out has been part of my life since I was in 9th grade and Mrs. Villalba got tired of listening to me argue that the poison used in Romeo and Juliet was actually a symbol of the poisonous lack of forgiveness which caused the family feud (a position I still believe). She took me (literally took my hand and walked me) to the debate coach and to whom she said, “Here’s the one for you.”
Years of debates, presentations, sermons, and stories later – I’m still talking. My adult life has been a fantastical journey in the jungle of other people’s communication using my sword/tongue to cut away the thorns of academic obfuscation, the dead leaves of prejudice, the bitter dry soil of self-righteous, pretentious leaders and the comment section weevils eating the truth with made-up facts. I have slayed dragons, lost battles and laid down my weapons at the feet of “agree to disagree.” In short, I was exhausted.
Then one day, I came to a magical oasis with crystal springs of refreshing clarity, hammocks rocked gently in the breeze between many viewpoints, and lush gardens of fragrant discourse. I had reached the Meadow of Shut Up. At first I was afraid. What would I do if I wasn’t talking? Wouldn’t I cease to exist if I didn’t immediately add my voice to the fray? In the 24 hour-always-on news cycle, if I waited to form an intelligent, considered opinion – the topic would be over by the time I was ready to speak! The Meadow of Shut Up was inviting and I was so tired, I decided to give it a try. There are some wonderful reasons to be quiet:
It makes you feel.
Listening to what others have to say without thinking of what you want to say in response is one of the bravest, most frightening things you can do. Because if you aren’t busy measuring their thoughts on the scale of right/wrong or looking for the weak link to break into their logic, you will experience actual feelings about what they are saying. The topic may make you sad. The way they say it may make you angry, or happy. The fact you are having the discussion at all may elate you, or hurt your feelings.
I know, I know…feelings? Sounds horrible. But once they start – even the unpleasant ones – you begin to change the way you see things and things begin to change the way you see. It’s worth it. I promise.
It makes you think.
Most people like to think they think a lot. But the truth is – thinking isn’t the act of pondering something in your head while constantly re-confirming your own opinion. Thinking is taking in NEW data and constructing ideas around it, leaving room for change when more, confirming or denying data comes into view. Listening to someone else’s experience or ideas gives you so many more building blocks for the castles of thought you live in.
I know, I know…that’s so much effort. But the way you can understand, re-imagine, create and infuse your life with the world around you is wondrous.
It connects you.
Buddhist believe that we have all the wisdom and knowledge already inside of us. Thus when we encounter or hear something outside of us, the inner knowledge connects to its outer counter-part. That’s how we have those “ah-ha!” moments where we hear something new but we know instantly it is the truth – or our truth – as the case may be. That is part of the basis of Namaste – the divine in me honors the divine in you. We are connected. When you listen to others you find more things you both know – even if you are approaching it from different angles.
I can’t say I spend loads of time in the Meadow of Shut Up. It is still somewhat new and a little odd-feeling to me. But my rest here – listening to others, reading news from international perspectives, touching my own heart – before rejoining the speaking world has benefited me a great deal.
Maybe, if I’m lucky, some of you will join me – and before we call out, speak truth, dialogue justice and cry havoc – we can all shut up, together.