Monday, December 11, 2006

"House ethics committee"--oxymoron supreme

Every state in the union requires mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse by health care providers, mental health care providers, teachers, day care providers, and law enforcement personnel. Many states also require mandatory reporting from film developers and members of the clergy. Mandatory reporters cannot be held liable in a court of law (unlike reporters--even veterinarians--of most animal abuse, which is sick, but that is another topic). The abuse does not have to be proven, but "suspected," and can include physical abuse, neglect or sexual abuse. "Psychological" or "emotional" abuse may be reportable, but mandatory reporters know that it is useless to report it (the courtrooms would be clogged forever).

Sexual abuse can include rape, sexual touching; production, viewing and distribution of child pornography, involvement in child prostitution, inappropriate conversations or sexual name-calling, sexual harrassment in school or some comparable situation--such as the Congressional page program. But members of Congress, we learn, do not have to be held to any kind of reporting standard at all.

We know that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, page board chairman Rep. John Shimkus, and Congressman Thomas Reynolds and his former chief of staff Kirk Fordham all covered up for former Congressman Mark Foley's sexual predation of male Congressional pages. Shimkus's behavior was especially shameful. He failed to say anything to the Democrats on the page board because, he has admitted, he was afraid one of them would "use" the information.

Now, the House ethics committe has concluded that Hastert, Shimkus, Reynolds, Fordham, and who knows how many others did not violate House rules. This is what the report says:

"...the requirement that House members and staff act at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House does not mean that every error in judgment or failure to exercise greater oversight or diligenceā€ is a violation.

All that is lacking here is an appearance by the Red Queen. "Divide a loaf by a knife" indeed. The stunning accumulation of acts of neglect, cover-up, evasion, and endangerment does not count. All that counts is each individual "slip." There is a word for this reasoning, and the word is "amorality." You know how desperate the Republicans were when they intentionally gave up a chance to do some gay-bashing in order to preserve their ranks. To hell with the adolescents. Protecting minors from sexual abuse is apparently not a "family value," but we already knew that.

Also to be considered--and indeed, it has been mentioned by quite a few Republican apologists, including Bill Maher--is our culture's belief that adolescents do not need to be protected; rather, adults need to be protected from them. If Foley had sexually stalked female pages, plenty of people would have rushed to blame the "seductive" girls (Monica Lewinsky obviously does not count). And just imagine, if a Congresswoman had sexually stalked male pages: Wink, nudge--we sure wish we had been abused like that! Because adolescents are generally blamed for their perpetrators' actions, it probably seemed a safe bet to the so-called ethics committee to let the guilty go free. Especially since we all know that boys can "take care of themselves," and any boy who was caught up in Foley's campaign obviously "wanted" to be.

Then there are those who suggest we do away with the page program. Apparently, it is so difficult for members of Congress to control themselves when it comes to pages, that the only way to keep these adolescents safe is to not have a page program in the first place.


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