Believe it or not (and those who know me IRL will believe it) I used to have a pretty bad problem with anger management. I know it usually does not show here. Outside the odd impatience with the willfully cruel or ignorant I advocate for a world in which honest dialogue helps us solve our problems. I try not to let my anger rule me anymore, but I also understand that some issues strike a nerve with us, so intensely, that it is difficult not to feel rage. Yes, I feel that rage too.
Which is why I understand the knee jerk reaction of many people to law professor Margo Kaplan’s assertion that pedophilia is not a crime. The wounds run deep with this subject. I have seen the cost and watched young people grow through life with scars on their hearts. I have felt that rage when that trust has been betrayed. It is understandably easy to take that anger and run with it. Sex offenders destroy innocence and that is a treasure almost every culture that has ever been has placed at least some value on. In the Western Cultures it is cherished beyond all states, even as we know it cannot last forever. It should never be destroyed by the selfish urges of damaged adults.
These people, however, are damaged, and some of them want to be fixed, or at least treated, before they damage others, and the reflexive rage often keeps us from doing what we can to protect the innocent. How much better would it be to help a pedophile never be a sex offender than to lash out with our justified fury after a life has been irrevocably altered? No one, including Dr. Kaplan, is suggesting we treat those who have harmed, or contributed to the harm, of children with kid gloves. If you cannot control your urges, and that lack of control harms others, you need to face justice.
What is suggested is that we let cooler heads prevail with those who have not harmed. We should be giving them a safe space, with professional help, for them to be honest about what they are so they can get help. Again, I get it, I have let my anger get the better of me in this debate, but if we want a just and safe world, we cannot keep doing that, and not just in this issue.
I will not dismiss the benefit of our rage. It can, and though it may not be a popular notion, should, be a powerful motivator to action. It should not, however, guide our actions. It should be our fuel, occasionally, but never our rudder. Once it has moved us, we should let compassion, reason and humility steer our course. To do otherwise would be a disservice to ourselves, and to the innocents we seek to protect.