Crimes and Misdemeanors
I agree with Lionel Shriver’s assertion that the complete cultural banishment to which perceived sexual offenders are sometimes subjected is harsh, and mindlessly so [“Cruel and Unusual Punishment,” Easy Chair, February]. The idea that we must scour our libraries, museums, cable feeds, and movie houses for the output of anyone morally imperfect is absurd on its face. An artist’s work attains a life of its own, firmly apart from its creator: it moves beyond his or her private identity to touch something universal in us. This is precisely why it has value. To dismiss this output because of flawed behavior and human frailty is cultural suicide.
Shriver rightly points out that it is all the more vital to preserve what’s positive in the artist’s oeuvre, especially in the face of a negative revelation. Who among us, after all, would consent to be judged solely on the basis of the worst thing we have ever done? Perhaps a subsequent generation, inoculated against the wildfire of social media, will see fit to resist this trend.
Joanne G. Murphy
Times of major societal change can be difficult to live through—public values shift quickly and there can be a lag in more tempered responses. I appreciate that Shriver’s fears and concerns may be justified at this time, but I also live with the memory of the Fifties and Sixties, when a woman’s association with sexual behavior was likely to result in social, economic, and reputational damages. The promise of the #MeToo movement is a better world for all of us, even if the cost for now is fear and a period of chaotic reactions.
Lillooet, British Columbia
The conclusion to Shriver’s line of reasoning is that since a rape takes only a short matter of time, and ongoing abuse often just a few months or years, penalties for the perpetrators of these acts should be capped proportionally. Furthermore, consumers should forever have access to these artists’ works, and the artists access to the funds generated from that work.
As a clinical psychologist, I know from experience that the lives of those who have been sexually assaulted and abused are impacted forever. This is supported by years of published research. Shriver fails to make the case for why the consequences of these acts should have a shorter life span for the perpetrators.
Lynda A. Archer
Gabriola Island, British Columbia
Kishore Mahbubani’s supposition that the United States is young in comparison to China and therefore naïve or troublesome is a common fallacy [“What China Threat?,” Criticism, February]. Our concepts of government, justice, and economy were not new in 1776—they were imports of the European Enlightenment, the Magna Carta, Roman law, and fifth-century bc Greece—whereas the current model of Chinese politics and economics is a more recent hybrid of capitalism and Chinese characteristics. One should keep in mind that this model has done well over the past forty years mostly because China had much room for growth at the outset, enjoying the architecture of global capitalism established by Western nations whose own growth has necessarily leveled off.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Just because China has learned not to use the raw military methods of past empires—relying instead on sharklike development loans and infrastructure projects—does not mean it won’t use its military when the time is right. Mahbubani avoids mentioning that China’s military spending is second only to that of the United States and is increasing. He creates the impression that only the United States has issues with China, yet many developing nations with economies now closely entwined with China’s have begun to recoil. Unlike the United States, China does little to stop its companies from corrupting local officials—further obstructing the world’s movement to freer societies—and has adopted Russia’s approach of shaping foreign political bodies through more discreet and indirect means.
The author is right that the United States needs a long-term strategic approach to China. In my view, that should entail the democracies of the world uniting economically against China’s rise until China becomes a fair dealer and human rights defender; they must also be willing to use force if necessary to protect our ideals and way of life.
Power and the Passion
Far more elderly women than men are caregivers for spouses with dementia or other long-term illnesses, yet we don’t see a pattern of these women shooting, smothering, poisoning, or bludgeoning their husbands under the misnomer of “mercy killing,” the term preferred by Ann Neumann [“Going to Extremes,” Letter from Lancaster County, February]. Indeed, the physical and emotional burdens on female caregivers are often greater than on their male counterparts, and depression, stress, and overwhelming financial demands plague wives who must care for their husbands, too.
To say that cases in which men have violently ended their sick wives’ lives only “highlight the consequences of rigid gender roles that designated men as their wives’ protectors,” ignores the myriad ways our society consistently devalues women’s lives. Since when do the duties of a “protector” involve killing his charge?