From Tracie

Friday, October 17, 2014

John Grisham Accidentally Let Us Know Exactly What He Thinks About Child Pornography And Those Who Download It

John Grisham had something to say about pedophiles and child pornography earlier this week in an interview with The Telegraph.
"We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who've never harmed anybody, would never touch a child," he said in an exclusive interview to promote his latest novel Gray Mountain.
"But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn."
Oh my. These poor sixty-year-old white men who pushed the wrong buttons. What a tragedy. How could we possibly convict them of a crime?

This narrative of "accidentally" ending up viewing child pornography is an interesting one. Is it possible to click, click, click your way to accidentally ending up on a site with pornographic pictures of children? Maybe. But as Grisham continued talking, he offered up the story of "a good buddy from law school" that paints a very different picture.
"His drinking was out of control, and he went to a website. It was labelled 'sixteen year old wannabee hookers or something like that'. And it said '16-year-old girls'. So he went there. Downloaded some stuff - it was 16 year old girls who looked 30." 
"He shouldn't ’a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn't 10-year-old boys. He didn't touch anything. And God, a week later there was a knock on the door: ‘FBI!’ and it was sting set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch people - sex offenders - and he went to prison for three years." 
"There's so many of them now. There's so many 'sex offenders' - that's what they're called - that they put them in the same prison. Like they're a bunch of perverts, or something; thousands of ’em. We've gone nuts with this incarceration," 
"I have no sympathy for real paedophiles,” he said, "God, please lock those people up. But so many of these guys do not deserve harsh prison sentences, and that's what they're getting,"
Let's take this story step by step.

This law school buddy had a drinking problem. He was out of control.

Then he went to a website labelled "sixteen year old wannabee hookers or something like that." Does this sound accidental to you? What about the next sentence, "And it said 16-year-old girls. So he went there."
It said 16-year-old girls. So he went there.
That is not the description of an accident. This is the description of a man who went to a website looking for underage girls. And then he found them.

But what did he do next? Did he click away as fast as he could, and wash his eyes out with soap? Did he call a friend, and say I need to get my drinking under control? Did he immediately leave that site and search for "fully grown naked women in their 20's"? No. He did something else entirely.

He downloaded some stuff.
"So he went there. Downloaded some stuff - it was 16 year old girls who looked 30."
One might (and I still believe this is a very far stretch), might end up on a site with child porn accidentally. But one does not download pictures of sixteen year old girls, clearly labeled as sixteen year old girls, accidentally. It just does not happen. You have to click more than one button to do it. You have to choose which file will store these pictures. There are several small steps on the path of downloading a pornographic picture of a sixteen year old girl, and this law school buddy took each one of them. So when the FBI showed up at his door, and he got a three year prison sentence, he should not have been surprised.

Now that we have set aside any thoughts of this being an accident, let's talk further about what Grisham was actually saying about child pornography in these statements.

john-grisham

What Did John Grisham REALLY Say About Child Pornography?

If John Grisham was trying to prove his law school buddy was unjustly persecuted, why did he say so distinctly the age of the children? I believe it was because of this line, "It was labelled 'sixteen year old wannabee hookers or something like that'."

Sixteen year old wannabee hookers. They wanted it, these sixteen year old girls. They wanted to be hookers. They wanted to display their naked bodies online so men could masturbate and fantasize about sex with an underage girl. They wanted his law school buddy to look at them. They wanted it. Just like every victim of rape who is questioned about how she was dressed, or if she had led the guy on, or a myriad of other questions designed to put the blame squarely on her shoulders, John Grisham pointed to these girls and said, they wanted it.

Grisham goes on to make a clarifying remark about the looks of these girls. "It was 16 year old girls who looked 30."

16 year old girls who looked 30. What am I supposed to infer from this? Maybe the girls were actually 30? His law school buddy was able to tell the age of the girls just by looking at them, and that is why he downloaded those pictures - pictured clearly labeled "16-year-old girls"? Or am I supposed to take away the idea that these girls confused his friend with their 30-year old looks? If only they had looked like proper 16-year olds, he wouldn't have looked at them or downloaded their pictures? And what was it about these girls that made them look 30? It doesn't matter how old the girls looked. What matters is the fact his law school buddy viewed and downloaded pictures of sixteen-year-old girls. As a lawyer, Grisham should be aware that sixteen-year-olds are minors.

Then, Grisham makes a distinction between these girls and other victims with, "He shouldn't ’a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn't 10-year-old boys."

It wasn't 10-year-old boys. It isn't just an age distinction he is making, some lame plea to recognize the difference between a 10-year-old body and a 16-year-old body as if having a developed body somehow changes the rights and protections of being a child. No. He makes a distinction between boys and girls. It is a subtle rehashing of the age-old misogynistic narrative that boys are more valuable than girls. It wasn't as if he victimized a boy; that would be a real crime. Girls are there for our pleasure, especially girls whose bodies have developed like a 30-year-old, and who want to be hookers. It isn't as much of a crime when you victimize a girl. This is the real message he is sending with these words.

Grisham goes on to say that his law school buddy didn't touch anything. Revisiting his early words that they,"never harmed anybody" and "would never touch a child." Maybe it is true some of these men have never touched a child inappropriately. But it doesn't change the fact that viewing and downloading pornographic pictures of children is a crime and it is a victimization. By doing this, they have harmed someone.

If you have never thought about what that looks like for the girls (and boys) on the other end of those pictures, or if you think pictures are not really that big of a deal, I would encourage you to read The Price Of A Stolen Childhood, and note this quote from Judge Emilio Garza,
“It seems to me that we’re in this brave new world, where not only was there an actual rape, but I’m going to suggest to you there is a continuing digitized rape,” the judge said. “Possession of the digitized recording of the rape contributes to the system, contributes to the economic benefit of those who produced this thing.
These pictures do matter. In the original Telegraph article, the author notes that there is debate in America over sentencing for sex offenders and those who view and download child pornography, and points out there there have been instances of people who viewed child pornography being sentenced more heavily than people who committed physical acts against children. I won't deny that this does feel wrong. It does not mean we need to lessen the sentences of those who viewed child pornography, but rather, that we should heighten the sentences of those who committed physical acts against children.

Grisham wants us to believe that his friend is neither a pervert nor a pedophile, but his actions prove him to be exactly that. His friend wasn't viewing and downloading sexually explicit pictures of children because they grossed him out.

John Grisham's Apology

In a statement on his personal website the next day, Grisham said,
"Anyone who harms a child for profit or pleasure, or who in any way participates in child pornography—online or otherwise—should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. 
My comments made two days ago during an interview with the British newspaper The Telegraph were in no way intended to show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes, especially the sexual molestation of children. I can think of nothing more despicable. 
I regret having made these comments, and apologize to all."
I understand that he regrets having made these statements. But his apology rings hollow for me. It does not convince me that he does not believe the things he said, only that he is sorry to have said them in a public forum. And saying he thinks people who view child pornography "should be punished to the fullest extent of the law" does not mean he agrees with the law as it is written now, only that he believes the law should be enforced. That is a slippery lawyer apology right there.

An Important Update.

After the original statements from Grisham were made public, Salon did some further digging into this case of John Grisham's law school buddy. What they found was interesting, and I believe it enforces my interpretation of Grisham's story. Salon and The Telegraph both point to the case of Michael B. Holleman who attended the law school of the University of Mississippi and, like Grisham, earned his degree in 1981. In the 90's, Holleman was arrested, tried, and sentenced to 18 months for "sending and receiving" child pornography.

This is hardly the three years Grisham would have had us believe his law school buddy was in prison.

The story is not quite as "accidental" as Grisham tried to paint it, either. The Telegraph obtained unseen newspaper reports from Holleman's 1997 trial from the Sun Herald newspaper. In these papers we are told,
"An undercover agent who asked for some of Holleman's pictures over the Internet earlier this year received 13 images, all of children under 18, some under 12. They depicted children during sexually explicit conduct, including intercourse," said the report from November 1997, quoting a US justice department lawyer, Kathy McLure.
It seems that his 18 months sentence would have been higher, with additional charges of transmitting pornographic images to Maine added on, if he had not pled guilty.

Grisham's friend clearly did not just stumble upon child pornography. He was viewing it. He was downloading it. He was sending it to other people. This was no accident.

And as to that, "it wasn't 10-year-old boys" statement Grisham made, it was clearly under-12-year-old children of some type. So how does that (invalid) qualifier help now? Did these children under the age of 12 look 30? Did they "want it"? Were they boys? It doesn't matter. We are still talking about the same crime. Holleman was engaged in viewing, downloading, and disseminating child pornography. Period.

Are you wondering what happened to John Girsham's old law school buddy Michael B. Holleman? He is now working as a personal injury lawyer in Gulfport, Mississippi. His law license was reinstated in 2002. During that hearing, Holleman's petition for reinstatement was supported by approximately 60 letters of recommendation, one of which was penned by John Grisham.

John Grisham, who wrote a letter asking the Supreme Court of Mississippi to reinstate his buddy's law license, must have known the real facts of this case, even as he presented them very differently to The Telegraph to make his point that 60-year-old white men are being unjustly imprisoned. You don't wade into something this serious without looking into what actually happened.

So, yeah. Grisham doesn't show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes - he only tries to diminish the extent of their crimes when speaking about them publicly and writes letters to help them regain their law license.

Thanks for that clarification, John.

I will be sure to remember it the next time I'm deciding which book to purchase at the bookstore.

Monday, October 06, 2014

I Read Elenor & Park, And Then I Lied About What Time It Was

"I'm going to read just one chapter before I go to bed."

This is the biggest lie a reader can tell themselves.

Especially if it is a new book. Even more so if it is the kind of book that pulls you in emotionally by the second page, and doesn't want to let go.

Eleanor & Park By Rainbow Rowell Cover Art

I know this, but I didn't think about it when I decided to start Eleanor & Park around 1 o'clock in the morning.

"Just one chapter. Maybe two," I promised myself, "I just want to see if I'm going to love it, and then I'll go to sleep."

Hours later, I was still reading.

Thomas stirred beside me, and rolled over, one eye opening cautiously against the light. "What time is it?"

"It is around 2 o'clock-ish," I replied quietly, hoping he would roll back over and fall asleep.

But it wasn't to be. As he reached for the tv remote, I knew it was all over.

He was going to discover what time it was...and so was I.

I'm not saying I lied to him. I didn't know what time it was exactly, and I didn't really want to know (as I needed to be up at 5am), so I reached for a time that didn't sound too awful. 2 o'clock. And I added an "around" and an "-ish" to amp up the vagueness.

It wasn't my fault that Eleanor & Park had torn my heart into tiny pieces, and I couldn't put the book down until I knew for sure it was going to stitch them back together again.

"It is 4:15!" Thomas exclaimed, "Four fifteen. Why am I awake right now?"

"I don't know. You should really go back to sleep."

"Why are you awake right now?"

"Well, I, um..."

"You are reading a book."

"Yep. Eleanor & Park." and then I said, all in one breath, "The author's name is Rainbow Rowell, which is the best YA author name ever. It is all about this girl named Eleanor who has a really messed up family life, and she meets a boy named Park. But it's better than that. The narration is split between the two main characters, and it is set in the 80's. Every single teenage feeling happens. It has music and comic books, but not in a stupid way. Their relationship is so sweet, and real, and in the moment. And Park's mom is an issue, but then she isn't, and you have to love her. And Eleanor and Park work so hard to learn how to communicate. You just want to cheer for them. And then this thing happens that is horrible. But the response to it is so perfect. Then it is heartbreaking again. But I have five pages left, and I'm hoping for something amazing."

Thomas stared at me with half-opened eyes, "Okay. I didn't get most of that, but it all sounds really emotional and angsty. I'm going back to sleep now."

I needed to be up in less than an hour, so I finished the last five pages of Eleanor & Park, blew my nose (because, yes, there was something amazing, at the end, and then there were tears), and started my day. Some books are worth staying up all night to finish.

And just so you know, Rowell did stitch my heart back together at the end.
I loved this book.

Have you read Eleanor & Park, or any other Rainbow Rowell books?

Saturday, October 04, 2014

I Wouldn't Ask For Help

When I was a new mom, deep in the fog of postpartum depression, I remember one of the first Sundays of going to church with my daughter. Between breastfeeding and diaper changes, I missed most of the service, and felt stuck in a little basement room after church while everyone else was socializing.

There were tears, from the baby and me.

It was not a good time. But I was determined to be (what I now understand is an unattainable standard) a perfect mom, and that started with breastfeeding and not ever being the woman whose baby interrupted the church service with even the smallest squeak of noise.

I thought I was projecting an "I have it all together" air as I snuck out the back door of the sanctuary, but actually my imminent melt-down was visible to the people who knew me well.

I know this, because I overheard a friend talking to his wife and my husband after church that day, "She won't ask for help, but she definitely needs it."

She won't ask for help.

Was that me? You bet it was. Every single bit of it. I would do everything on my own, and it would be just fine - as long as you ignored those tears and the desperate look in my eyes.

In the months that followed, I remembered those words often. I was thankful for the offers of help that came my way, and I even managed to ask for help myself a couple of times. That might not seem like a lot of progress, but it really was for me.

Help Me! - It is okay to ask for help.

Eleven years into the future, and I'm in a different place in my life. I'm parenting a tween now. I have different struggles and new lessons to learn. But I still think back to that hot summer day when I heard, "She won't ask for help."

Am I still that person? Not asking for help?

Some days I am. It is hard to know what to do in this life.

But I do know one thing for sure, even if I don't take my own advice when I should: I know there is nothing wrong with asking for help. It isn't weak. It isn't a sign of failure. It doesn't make you less than in any way. Because recognizing your need, and reaching out to have it met, is actually one of the strongest things you can do.

Today, I'm feeling very strong.

Which is why I can tell you honestly how much I need help every day.

Sometimes it is little things like realizing the sink is full of dishes and I won't be finished with work before it is time to make dinner. And sometimes it is issues that are much larger and more serious. But no matter the size of the problem, I am still learning to ask for help.

Help from the Lord. Help from my husband. Help from my daughter. Help from Google. Help from friends who walk similar paths. Help from believers who pray. Help from family and friends who love me unconditionally. Help from people who know more than me, and are willing to share that knowledge.

Help. I need it. Chances are, there are times you need it, too.

Don't be afraid to reach out and ask for that help. You are not alone.

*******************

  • If you are in immediate crisis or struggling and need help, or you want to help a loved one, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
  • If you are the victim of domestic violence and need help, or you want to help a loved one, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. 
  • If you have been the victim of sexual assault and need help, or you want to help a loved one, you can contact RAINN or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.
  • If you suspect that a child is being abused, or if you are a child or teen who is being abused, you can contact Child Help or call the National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
  • For more helpful resources, check out this Find Help resource list from To Write Love On Her Arms.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

$500 Fabulous Fall Cash Giveaway

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Someone is going to have a little extra green this fall. Good luck!


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Monday, September 29, 2014

Welcome To Honey Month (Or The Time I Cleared A Library Display)

It is honey month. I know this, because our library has round display tables and stands all throughout the building with collections arranged by topic. This month, there was a stand for honey bees.

Books and dvds abounded.

I wanted them all.

You see, I love honey. And I love honey bees.

I can't resist clicking on an article about Colony Collapse Disorder.
I'm concerned about living in a world that has less pollinators.
I sometimes think about how awesome it would be to keep bees.
(Not on a huge, professional scale, but just to have a few hives.)

So I started picking up books and dvds.

They all looked so good. The stack in my arms started growing.

"What are you doing?" Thomas whispered to me. It was a library after all.

"Look at all these great bee things. We are going to learn so much about bees! Here's a book Katarina can read for school, and the biography of a beekeeper, and more than one documentary we can all watch together." I responded, in a not-so-quiet whisper.

"You aren't supposed to take things off the displays. Or maybe just one thing. But not all the things."

"But. THE BEES, Thomas! Look at all the bee things."

Thomas wandered towards a librarian to ask a question about a book he had on hold (or possibly to get away from me and my bees).

As I stood near him, with a stack of bee things in my hands, I saw a women's history display. A book about female aviators for Katarina? Check. A book about Grace Hopper for me and another one about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony? Check.

I now had two armfuls of books and dvds. As Thomas watched me pick up books from the second display, he just shook his head.

My arms started to feel tired.

"Are you seriously getting all of these display things?" he asked.

"Yes," I responded, and then to the librarian, " We are allowed to check out things from the displays, right?"

"Of course. Take as many things off of the displays as you want." the library replied, "We want people to check them out."

I shot a smile at Thomas, and picked up another bee documentary.

That night, I was doing some work, and Thomas and Katarina were discussing entertainment options. I heard her say, "We could watch a movie. Mom borrowed a lot of them from the library..."

Some rustling sounds followed as she looked in the library bag, "I think, I think these movies are all about bees."

Honey month, y'all. Go check out a book or dvd, and learn about bees.

It will be fun. I promise.

***************

One of the bee books I checked out was (affiliate linkThe Beekeeper's Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America.

The Beekeepers Lament cover
It is the mix of the biography of beekeeper, John Miller, who transports his bees around the country for pollination, and the history of bees and beekeeping. I really enjoyed this book, and even though I have some difference in opinion with the author about the bee plight, I learned a lot of interesting things.

Including this honey-buying tidbit: If you turn a bottle of honey upside down, the rate the air bubbles rise to the top lets you know how pure your honey really is. It those bubbles go up fast, the honey has probably been cut with corn syrup, water, and other additives, even though the FDA allows it to still be labeled as "pure honey" and those other ingredients are not necessarily disclosed on the label. So, when you are buying honey, look for slow-moving bubbles.