Brilliant auteur or no, Polanski has been a fugitive from U.S. justice since 1978. And there was certainly no artistic merit in the crime he acknowledged committing: During a photo shoot at the Los Angeles home of his friend and “Chinatown” star Jack Nicholson, Polanski plied a 13-year-old girl with champagne and drugs and had sex with her.
That is grotesque. In general, I agree with the European view that Americans tend to be prudish and hypocritical about sex. But a grown man drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl? That’s not remotely a close call. It’s wrong in any moral universe — and deserves harsher punishment than three decades of gilded exile. . . .
As far as I’m concerned, it’s a huge deal. Even in France, it should be a big deal. This isn’t about a genius who is being hounded for flouting society’s hidebound conventions. It’s about a rich and powerful man who used his fame and position to assault — in every sense, to violate — an innocent child.
Robinson is immune, it seems, to the new thinking. We are obligated, according to some segment of supposedly sophisticated thinkers, to consider things from the point of the perpetrator, no matter what the crime. The Lockerbie terrorist is sick and dying (well, he says he is), so he gets to die on home soil after a hero’s welcome. (Is this the new rule for all murders?) The overriding concern is neither any “abstract” notion of justice nor the victims’ families. We must prove our “civilized” credentials by extending accommodations to the convicted butcher. That the butcher forfeited his claim on our sensibilities when he killed 270 people seems lost on those, at least in Scotland, who decided there were “humanitarian” grounds for releasing him. (This supposes, perhaps unwisely, that all this was not subterfuge for a real “blood-for-oil” deal.)
Polanski’s no murderer, but he is a child rapist. Now we are now supposed to feel terribly bad that his life on the lamb might end. How horrid that after so many years this has “come back to haunt him,” his defenders coo. (Well yes, the intervening years were caused solely by Polanski’s flight from the country, but they don’t dwell on that detail.) Once again, the entire moral universe is skewed to the concern about sparing the criminal too much stress.
I suspect that the vast majority of Americans don’t buy into the twisted logic of those who defend Polanski’s desire to escape justice. Indeed, because most ordinary Americans (the Bible clutchers Obama disparaged in the campaign) retain an appreciation of the moral distinction between victim and criminal, they are probably baffled by those who believe we prove our humanity by catering to the whims of criminals. That, of course, is a constant source of irritation and exasperation for many of our cultural elites, who once again may be shocked to learn that their views are anathema to most of their countrymen.