Why do we care about the Ramsey murder?

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Aug. 23 2006 2:36 AM

Stranger Dangers

Why do we care about the Ramsey murder?

(Continued from Page 1)

MsZilla ventures an explanation for why that is so:

Because stranger danger can be helped. Whereas the other sort of thing really can't be. Because they don't have a simple pat answer to the actual problem, they'll give you a wrong but simple and pat answer to a tiny speck of it and hope that convinces you they have a good reason they have their head that far up their you-guessed-it. That's why they like to focus on it.

The training that is given in school, by child protection advocates and is recommended for parents can be effective when it comes to dealing with strangers. But it's very different when the person has the authority and influence on the child and the time with them to slowly get around that training. And a very small percentage of these crimes are committed by strangers. [...]

No amount of the training or practicing saying "No!" or any of the rest of it is terribly effective against an intelligent predator that is known to the child. And that is an absurdly large percentage of the cases. [...]

I was taught the same things when I was growing up. I practiced saying "No!" and did the little games with the teachers and my Mom. We read the coloring books and went through them and we "talked about it". I agonized to myself every time the subject came up, but I never told. I said the right things so my mother wouldn't worry. I didn't hate him. He was my stepfather. He was the father of my brothers and sisters. He was family. I loved him and I didn't want him to get in trouble. [...]

Do you honestly think your daughters would use those self-defense tactics on you? Say your four-year-old doesn't want to take off the pants she just tromped through a mud-puddle in because they're here favorites and she wants to wear them anyways. You're not gonna let her do that because she'll get mud everywhere and you don't have time to deal with the fuss because you have to go pick your wife up at the airport. So you deal with the situation by taking them off her. She gets scared. Do you in your heart of hearts think she'd fight you dirty enough to stop you? Do you think it's physically possible?

If the training you're talking about is to be at all effective, she would have to. It's all supposed to go off what makes them feel uncomfortable. So her fear because you look all angry and scary is supposed to trigger it. And changing her pants does involve getting your hands somewhere near a danger zone, and that's also supposed to do it. But you're her father. Do you think a few platitudes spouted at her once a year at school and a few pious affirmations by you that you mean she should do this even to you have a chance against that? Use your head.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

George W. Bush's reading of Albert Camus' L'Étranger (The Stranger), combined with Sen. George Allen's public utterance of an apparently French-derived racial slur, represents the rare infusion of francophilia into American politics (by two members of the conservative establishment, no less). A far cry from the days of Freedom Fries, indeed.

TJA speculates that mention of this novel in Talladega Nights, the Will Ferrell NASCAR comedy, might have inspired W.'s choice.

As a matter of diplomacy, Utek1 declares it was "probably unwise for the president to be seen reading a book about a soulless murderer of Arabs":

With Iraq in chaos, the ceasefire in Lebanon hanging by a thread, and the US making noises about invading Iran, the last thing Bush should be doing is throwing gasoline on the fire. But once an oil man, always an oil man.

Fortunately, the easiest way for Bush to make amends is to continue onto Camus' next novel, The Plague. Here, the hero isn't a murderer, but a doctor battling an epidemic of bubonic plague in the Algerian town of Oran. Despite the pestilence afflicting all those around him, the doctor continues to do his small part to relieve their suffering. The image of Bush reading about a Western caregiver providing comfort to Muslims during a bleak moment in their history would be a lot better PR for Bush than to be seen getting tips on how to murder Arabs without remorse.

Contrary to Dickerson, bhardin offers an alternative theory about the quintessential symbolism shared between Meursault (the protagonist in The Stranger) and G.W.:

The most interesting aspect of the novel is why Mersault is put to death. It isn't because he killed Arabs, which was rarely met with the death penalty. Rather it was his lack of compassion and explanation of his motives to the demanding public. Ultimately he was killed because he showed no sadness for the death of his mother. The public viewed him as inhuman. Bush is persecuted like Mersault not because he is a "remorseless killer of Arabs", but because he doesn't engage the public to explain himself. Bill Clinton also killed Arabs (e.g. bombing a "chemical weapons" plant/hospital in the Sudan) during his last year in office. However, he was an excellent communicator of emotions- he felt my pain. Of course, Bill would find more literary parallels with Willy Loman than Mersault.

Mersault is perhaps one of the most complex characters in modern literature, but to the mob that shouted for his death he would have been viewed as a Bush-like moron. Maybe, behind Bush's façade is a deeper, stoic intellectual who connects with a character publicly persecuted for his taciturn nature.

Soltasto, for one, applauds W.'s expansion of his intellectual horizons:

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