Click here to view an unedited copy of the Sharon Warner lawsuit against the University of New Mexico. I provide this to the dankprofessor readership without comment. All of you know where I stand, it is just more of the same old same old in different garb.
Bernard-Henri Levy had a powerful and emotive essay on the Huffington Post. In the dankprofessor’s opinion he gets to the core of the matter re those who are condemning Polanski when he concludes his essay on the following note,
Because it is shameful, finally, that we can’t, when we talk about his life, evoke his childhood in the ghetto, the death of his mother in Auschwitz, the murder of his young spouse, eviscerated along with the young child she was carrying, without the prayers of the new popular justice crying, “Blackmail!’: even for the most abominable serial killer, the prevailing “culture of excuse” jumps to scrutinize the difficult childhood , the broken family, the traumas — but Roman Polanski would be the only person in the world under judicial jurisdiction not to have the right to any kind of attenuating circumstance…
It is the entirety of the affair, in truth, that is shameful.
It is the debate that is nauseating and from which we must abstain.
I hardly know Roman Polanski. But I know that all those who, from close and from afar, join in this lynching will soon wake up, horrified by what they have done, ashamed.
Bravo to Bernard-Henri Levy whose call is really to view the life of Polanski in holistic terms. Almost all avoid or deny that the murder of his mother, the the murder of his wife and about to be baby have any relevance to Polanski’s life after these terrible tragedies. It is so much easier not to look at the horrors that Polanski went thru. To deny that one’s past has anything to do with one’s present is surreal.
As for Levy’s final line that those who “join in this lynching will soon wake up, horrified by what they have done, ashamed.” Such is unlikely. To experience the horror they must become open to Polanski’s horrors; the risk of doing so is that they would then have to deal with their feeling of guilt. Such would end up making them more similar to Polanski who has felt survivor guilt throughout much of his life.
Albuquerque TV station KOB has reported on the lawsuit of Sharon Warner against the administration of the University of New Mexico. To see segment and text of the report click here.
The KOB report has nothing really new to say. The dankprofesor says that Warner’s lawsuit is simply about getting her own way. UNM would not discipline Lisa Chavez and now Warner will attempt to discipline UNM. Warner is a stern disciplinarian; she won’t take no for an answer. I know the type; all too many of these people in the university world. They won’t be satisfied until they obtain an academic position from which they can work their will.
As for Professor Chavez, she was thoroughly investigated by the UNM administration. The investigation revealed that she had not violated UNM rules. Now all she wants is to do her professorial work and to be left alone.
To read all my posts on Warner, Chavez and the University of New Mexico, click here.
Debra Tate, the younger sister of Sharon Tates has called for the release of Polanski from a Swiss jail. Watch her on MSNBC by clicking here. The interview with Debra comes at the end of the segment, and it is definitely worth waiting for. You will also find the text of the interview.
The Boston Globe published an op ed piece on Roman Polanski. Following is my response which was published as a comment-
Graff concludes her essay with a “bring him home”. The ‘him’ of course being Roman Polanski.https://dankprofessor.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/on-roman-polanski/
But if she knew anything about Polanski she would know that Polanski did not and does not have a home except for one period of time. That time being when he was married to Sharon Tate. Whatever home he had then was terminated
when the so-called Manson family killed Sharon Tate, killed Sharon and Roman’s baby to be and killed two dear friends of Roman who he had asked to stay with Sharon while he was in London. So his respite with a domestic life ended. Before that he lived in France and before that in Poland where he witnessed the mass murders of the Holocaust and lost his mother to the Nazi murderers.
Nothing to do with his 1977 illegal sex with a child of 13 you say. Please, welcome to never never land. Terror hurts and is long lasting, nine years is nothing. But all too many want to know nothing about Polanski; they don’t want to know about him so they can engage in a guilt free stoning. Maybe after the stoning if they say oh my God what have I done, maybe then they might feel guilt. But now before the stoning, before justice occurs maybe they might learn a little bit about survival guilt. Yes, this is the sort of guilt that Polanski suffered from-
tortuous guilt, if only I had not gone to London, I should have been able to do something,
I should have been with them. I should have died. To find out about Polanski rent the last film he made prior to the 1977 rape; the film is THE TENANT, made in 76, directed by Polanski,
and starring Polanski, starring him because the film was about surivior guilt and madness; it was about him. See my post on this if you care to understand-
And no I am not a celebrity and not a part of any elite and I am not an apologist for Polanski. All I ask is that people do not embrace revenge under the guise of justice, and that they open their eyes- wide open. Maybe once they hav e done this, they will understand how truly devastating the consequences were of the Manson murders.
Home, Polanski’s only home or escape if you will has been thru his movies which, of course, have been horror movies most of the time and that is what we are dealing with people- horror.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Sharon Warner former director of the UNM Creative Writing program has filed a lawsuit against the University of New Mexico. “Warner said she has suffered lost wages, lost promotional opportunity and emotional distress” caused in part by the decision of the UNM administration not to discipline her colleague Lisa Chavez for taking part in an off campus S-M phone venue. Professor Warner had previously resigned as Director of the Creative Writing program as a protest against the UNM administration for not disciplining Chavez.
Professor Warner had argued previously that students had been harmed by Chavez’s actions, but she was unable to cite any student suffering from said harm. Now Warner is arguing that she has been harmed by the administration doing nothing in reference to Professor Chavez, she finds such to be emotionally distressing.
The dankprofessor sees her bottom line as being that professors have a right not to be upset or offended by administrative actions. If professors had such a right, professors throughout the country would be filing lawsuits on a daily basis against university administrations. During my thirty plus years as a professor I was upset many times, too numerous to count, by actions of the university administration. Some times I was very disturbed by these actions, some times I had trouble sleeping, but I viewed this as being all part of the game, as being a grownup, as being a professional. My turning around and then suing the university for causing me to be distressed would have represented for me a giant copout, a comedy of the absurd.
Last year in a letter to the faculty of the English Department, UNM President David Schmidley wrote in regards to the Lisa Chavez controversy that “The university is, first and foremost, a place where students, faculty and administrators alike constantly engage in learning. It’s now time for all of us to learn anew the lessons of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.”
President Schmidley’s advice is still good advice. But rather than getting any attempt at reconciliation from Sharon Warner instead at some time in the future he will probably get a summons to appear in court.
The New York Times reported the following in regards to the September 1977 Polanski probation report-
The report, submitted by acting probation officer Kenneth F. Fare, and signed by a deputy, Irwin Gold, recommended that Mr. Polanski receive probation without jail time for his conviction on one count of having unlawful sex with a minor. In a summary paragraph, the report said: “Jail is not being recommended at the present time. The present offense appears to have been spontaneous and an exercise of poor judgement by the defendant.” It went on to note that the victim and her parent, as well as an examining psychiatrist, recommended against jail, while a second psychiatrist described the offense as neither “aggressive nor forceful.”
Despite Ms. Geimer’s age and her testimony that she had objected to having sex with Mr. Polanski and asked to leave Jack Nicholson’s house, where the incident occurred, the probation report concluded, “There was some indication that circumstances were provocative, that there was some permissiveness by the mother,” and “that the victim was not only physically mature, but willing.”…
The report paints a sympathetic picture of Mr. Polanski’s background. Compiled when Mr. Polanski was 44, the report began with an account of his fractured childhood. It described his birth to a Polish national father, Riszard Polanski, and a Russian national mother, Bula Katz, and told how his Jewish family was confined behind barbed wire in a Krakow ghetto during the German occupation.
In 1941, the report noted, Mr. Polanski’s mother was taken to Auschwitz, not to return. Later it said, “the defendant’s father cut the wires permitting the defendant to escape” the ghetto, to spend the war with Polish families.
Recapping the defendant’s background, the report said Mr. Polanski was blocked from attending advanced art school after the war “because of his Jewish origins,” lost his religious faith, and twice suffered a fractured skull, once as the result of an assault in Poland, once after a car accident. It noted a first marriage in Poland, and a second to the actress Sharon Tate, who, it said, “was killed by members of the Manson gang in Los Angeles in the well-documented case in 1968.”
Mr. Polanski’s income in 1976 was recorded as being $60,000. His local residence was the Chateau Marmont. He admitted to smoking an occasional marijuana cigarette and to having used cocaine once, but was self-described as only a “social drinker.”
According to the report, Mr. Polanski had no past criminal record, though the district attorney’s office on Aug. 10, 1977, had rejected a complaint alleging grand theft property and misdemeanor assault and battery. The complaint resulted from a visit to the grave of his wife, Sharon Tate, in Culver City, Calif.: Mr. Polanski took the camera from a German photographer who tried to photograph him from some bushes, but the district attorney decided he was simply trying to “protect his right of privacy.”
The report noted all of the assertions Ms. Geimer made in her grand jury testimony, along with the list of original charges, which included rape by drugs and sodomy. It also noted that a test “strongly indicates semen” on the girl’s underclothes, but that vaginal and anal slides were negative, and there was no evidence of physical trauma…
Mr. Polanski, interviewed by the probation officer, said he had not realized that his request to photograph Ms. Geimer without a top was problematic. “Topless photograph is acceptable in Europe. I didn’t realize it was objectionable here,” he said.
According to Mr. Polanski, “the whole thing was very spontaneous. It was not planned,” he told the probation officer. And, said the report, he “expressed great remorse regarding any possible effect the present offense might have upon the victim.”
According to the report, a number of Hollywood luminaries submitted letters endorsing Mr. Polanski’s good character. They included the set designer Richard Sylbert; the producers Howard W. Koch, Dino De Laurentiis and Robert Evans; and the actress Mia Farrow.
One psychiatrist who examined Mr. Polanski, Alvin E. Davis, found he was not mentally ill or disordered, and not “a sexual deviate.” “He is of superior intelligence, has good judgement and strong moral and ethical values,” the report said of Dr. Davis’s conclusions.
“He is not a pedophile,” Dr. Davis is quoted as saying. “The offense occurred as an isolated instance of transient poor judgement and loss of normal inhibitions in circumstances of intimacy and collaboration in creative work, and with some coincidental alcohol and drug intoxication.”
Dr. Davis was also quoted as saying that “incarceration would serve no necessary or useful purpose.” Another psychiatrist, Dr. Ronald Markman, was quoted as saying that Mr. Polanski was “not a mentally disordered sex offender, and therefore, not in need of hospitalization.”
With that information in hand, the probation officer went on to describe a culture clash that occasionally occurred when creators from Europe fled the Nazis and Communism to reside in Los Angeles. “Possibly not since Renaissance Italy has there been such a gathering of creative minds in one locale as there has been in Los Angeles County during the past half century,” said the report. “While enriching the community with their presence, they have brought with them the manners and mores of their native lands which in rare instances have been at variance with those of their adoptive land.”
So, the report concluded, remorse, cultural differences, a certain permissiveness and provocation, and the unlikelihood of a repeat offense conspired to make probation without jail (beyond the 42 days Mr. Polanski served while being evaluated) an appropriate punishment for Mr. Polanski’s actions toward a 13-year-old girl. But Mr. Polanski fled when Judge Laurence J. Rittenband indicated that more jail time and possible deportation were in order.
And, having been apprehended in Switzerland, Mr. Polanski is now up against the manners and mores of an era that often takes a harsher view of sex crimes.
What LA County Probation did is what probation authorities are supposed to do and that is to look at the individual offender and to reach a recommendation based on the specifics of the individual. Of course, what we find at the present time is a position advocated by many that Polanski’s background, and prior traumas are simply irrelevant in terms of how he should be punished. These advocates have what apears to be a robotic view of justice. One looks at the specifics of the criminal behavior, and reaches a verdict based on those specifics; one does not look at background specifics of the offender.
Such represents a dehumanized form of justice. Even the victim is not deemed to play a role in determining the sentence. In the present case, the victim, who is now an adult, her feelings about Mr. Polanski are deemed to be irrelevant.
Of course, what we are too often dealing with in the present case are those who are seeking vengeance. They are not interested in any dispassionate analysis of Mr. Polanski or even Ms. Geimer. They seek to inflame self and others by reviewing the details of Mr. Polanski’s crime not with the goal of understanding but rather with the goal of getting their pound of flesh. They demean and discard persons who believe that Mr. Polanski should not be in jail or go to jail as persons who support rape and rapists and child molesters or our simply uncaring members of a so-called Hollywood elite.
I am not a member of any Hollywood elite. I am not supportive of rape and child molestation. I am supportive of a humanistic criminal justice system. And in regards to Polanski, I am supportive of the LA Probation Department’s recommendations. Unfortunately for Roman Polanski, he would have had a much greater chance of justice in Los Angeles in 1977 than in 2009. Best for him and for us that he is not extradicted to the United States and be subjected to the wrath of the self-righteous.
On Roman Polanski
Barry M. Dank*
There is no question that what Roman Polanski did to a 13 year old girl in 1977 was wrong, and illegal. But it is also wrong to drag Polanski back to the US 31 years after the crime and have him spend an unspecified amount of time in prison. What possible good would come about by Polanski doing time for the crime? Obviously, it would not function to rehabilitate him or change him in some way. The fact that Polanski has had a stellar film career and apparently lived a law abiding life for 32 years after the crime is indicative that the case for changing Polanski is simply irrelevant.
Then there is a case for punishment. Polanski did something illegal and he should be punished. Of course, Polanski has been punished. He did 42 days at the Chino Men’s prison under the legal guise of being psychologically evaluated; his stay at Chino was for the purpose of punishment as viewed by the presiding judge. He has been socially stigmatized as a child rapist and has lived in a self-imposed exile. Just as in the cchild sex situation Polanski’s decision making was screwed up when he decided to flee from a possible 16 month sentence and ended up living for 31 years in a situation in which he could be arrested and extradited back to Los Angeles .
But the 42 days and a 31 year exile as punishment dwells into insignificance as compared to the trauma and punishment he experienced as a child surviving the mass murders of the Holocaust while losing his mother to the Nazi murderers in Poland and to the trauma and punishment he endured when his pregnant wife Sharon Tate and his baby to be and his two friends were barbarized and murdered by the Manson gang.
But many have argued that this insanity Polanski went thru simply had nothing to do with his illegal sex with a 13 year old girl. For example, Ellen Snortland in an open letter to Roman Polanski states: “I assert that the statutory rape in 1977 will plague you until you make some type of sincere public amends. Backing an ‘end violence against women and girls’ film would be an astonishing act of atonement. Consider it. Talk to the lawyers.” Somehow Snortland avoids dealing with the fact that Polanski was intimately familiar with violence against women, that both his mother and wife were murdered, such is simply of no relevance to her.
To argue that his past traumas have relevance to Polanski’s illicit sex with a 13 year old girl in 1977 does not mean that I am excusing Polanski or condoning child abuse of any sort.
What I do argue with is the notion that Polanski’s criminal act should be fragmented off from the rest of his prior life. To advocate that one should not look at Polanski past as it related to his actions in 1977 is a form of know nothingness. Being horrified by what Polanski did in 1977 should not close us off from the horrors experienced by Polanski.
I think it is a safe to assume that very few persons would not be adversely affected by the killings of their mother, their wife and their unborn child, as well as being at the scene of mass murder as a child. In fact, some who have been through such extreme situations become psychologically numbed and live a robotic life. Others may be plagued by depression, feelings of alienation and aloneness and anger.
As a person who has worked with Holocaust survivors and Parents of Murdered Children, I know that almost always survivors go thru periods of tortuous survivor guilt. No matter that they are morally and legally innocent, they all too often experience the burden of feeling- ‘I should have been able to do something’, or as Polanski stated in 1985- “Sharon’s death is the only watershed in my life that really matters. Before she died, I sailed a boundless, untroubled sea of expectations and optimism. Afterward, whenever conscious of enjoying myself, I felt guilty. A psychiatrist I met shortly after her death warned me that it would take me “four years of mourning” to overcome this feeling. It has taken far longer than that”.
Polanski’s filmmaking demonstrates that he was intimately familiar with the nature of survivor guilt. Such was quite apparent in his 1976 film THE TENANT, a film which he both directed and starred. This was the last film he made prior to his involvement in the child rape. I believe that this film can provide a partial understanding of Polanski’s psychological state around the time of the crime.
For this film Polanski insisted that he play the role of the protagonist. The viewer saw Polanski playing the role of a French citizen of Polish background (Trelkovsky) living alone in Paris gradually descend into madness. The Polanski character was plagued with feelings of survival guilt, and a complete ungluing of a sense of self as he gave full vent to his feelings of paranoia. Ultimately he buys a gun, has fantasies of killing others but eventually he commits suicide by jumping out of his apartment window. He ends up killing himself in the same manner that the prior tenant of the apartment had killed herself.
Viewers who understood this film and were aware of Polanski’s history “knew” that Polanski chose not only to direct the film but to play the major role because to a significant degree he was playing himself. Polanski and Trelkovsky both had lived alone in Paris, both were French citizens of Polish background; and both felt alienated and alone in their immediate environments. Both had gone thru experiences that separated them off from others, from others who could not possibly understand them and the horrors they had gone thru.
One of the most jolting scenes in the film is when Trelkovsy is sitting in a park looking quite morose and viewing a child playing. He stands up, walks over to the child and slugs the child in the face and then walks way. This image of Trelkovsky sitting in the park came to visually represent Polanski; it was used as the cover photo for his 1985 autobiography and as the photo for the DVD jacket of the documentary, ROMAN POLANSKI; WANTED AND DESIRED. The usages of this photo by Polanski illustrates the blurring of Polanski’s identity with that of Trelkovsy’s.
On the other hand, some people believe that all we need to know about Polanski is that he is a pedophile, his sexual preference being children and adolescents. However, looking at Polanski’s life then and now one can immediately discern Polanski’s attraction. His present wife, Emmanuelle Seigner is 33 years younger than himself; Samantha Geimer at the time of her victimage was 31 years younger than Polanski. So Polanski’s ongoing sexual preference is for those who are significantly younger than himself. Maybe this preference is a defense mechanism used by some who have experienced catastrophic loss. Such a preference could function to diminish feelings of powerlessness and helplessness in “intimate” relationships; of course, such feelings are illusionary. But for Polanski whose specialty is illusions he could see this as simply being an extension of his role of Director.
Polanski in the 1970s was a man on the fringe; his art saved him for a time but not all the time as evidenced by the rape in 1977. But also during his entire adulthood, Polanski has engaged in extraordinarily creative filmmaking. And his filmmaking may be viewed in part as representing a survivor mission, as a way of his expiating his guilt and his creation of a “monument” to those he loved and to those whose deaths he could not prevent.
In his autobiography Polanski stated: “In moments of unbearable personal tragedy some people find solace in religion. In my case the opposite happened. Any religious faith I had was shattered by Sharon’s murder. It reinforced my faith in the absurd.”
To now drag Polanski back in, to put him into a prison is absurd. Over the last 31 years Roman Polanski has freed himself from his psychological prison as evidenced by his devotion to his wife and 2 children. I fear that Polanski may see his only way out as being the same way out he created in THE TENANT- suicide.
Barry M. Dank is an emeritus professor of sociology at Cal State Long Beach. He lives in Tubac, Arizona.
© Copyright 2009 by Barry M. Dank
The sexual puritans will now have a field day as a result of the revelations that there was an attempt to blackmail David Letterman for having sex with with staffers and his admission that he did have staffer sex.
From the right he will be blasted for being a philanderer and an adulterer. From the left he will be condemned as a sexual harasser who had sex with staffers who could not say no since differential power precludes consent. Of course, the worst is yet to come.
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