Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bob or the Buzzards?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," occasionally -- very, very occasionally -- tackling a serious topic! Today's is a whopper.

When I was a teen I had a very good friend, male, who was 10 years my senior. He was the leader of the church youth group, and, unlike so many youth leaders, he never hit on any of the girls. Or the boys. He was a straight arrow.

He went on to be a regional leader in Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America. He adopted the boy he fostered as a Big Brother. He also raised that boy's daughter. In the mid-1990s he ran for the state legislature and won in his little rural district. After his first election he was re-elected several times. He ran unopposed because no one wanted to waste their time trying to unseat such a popular delegate.

Last year it was discovered that this man's computer was chock-a-block with child pornography, the most graphic kind, the most heinous offenses. No one came forward to accuse the man of any actual abuse, and the videos were not of him, but needless to say the law moved in.

My onetime friend and mentor has drawn a 37-month sentence at a low security prison 30 miles from my house. This prison is quite some distance from his hometown, in another state entirely. It's safe to say the guy isn't going to get many visitors.

I feel like I ought to go and see Bob, but doggone if I can think of what I would say. The details of what he did are atrocious, even though he himself never touched a child (that we know of).

Honestly, readers, I need your feedback on this. Do I go see Bob? Or not? If so, what do I talk about? I cannot and will not condone what he's done or absolve him in any way, even if he says he is insane. On the other hand, it pains me to think of him sitting down there, so far from home, with no prospects of gainful employment or comfort when his sentence expires.

Perhaps I should just abandon him to the Pine Barrens and go watch the buzzards in Wenonah. I'm really stuck on how to handle this one. Bob, or the buzzards?


Michelle said...

Whatever you do, you must realize you aren't doing this for him at all...but for you.

So what will make you feel better, bob or the buzzards?

Pom said...

It's a tough one. If you went to visit you would be going to lend comfort to a friend from the past based on your memories of him from that time - obviously not to comfort him in light of these revelations. If you can separate the two I admire you greatly and support you completely in that endeavor. I couldn't do it but that doesn't make me right.

I wish you peace in whichever choice you make. /|\

Pom said...

Here's a quote I just saw in an email today:

I have learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.
~Maya Angelou

It seemed fitting...

Starcherub said...

If I were you I'd go see Bob and wish him well. I've been around sex criminals in the past; they are still people. They won't give you cooties if you talu to them or hug them.

THE Michael said...

You might consider him in the same light as a 18 year old boy being caught with his 16 year old girl friend. They are calling them sex offenders..........and what percentage of this population simply never got caught? Bob probably needed counseling before his addiction got any worse, IF he never touched an underage person, and maybe he could have found redemption instead of us supporting his incarceration.

I'm so sorry he "betrayed" your opinion of him as a human being, but yes, he IS still a human being, and we pagans need to prove we are as much for foregiveness as the Christians claim to be. Justice, yes, but forgiveness as well.

myrope said...

I'd like to think i'd go visit him, if it were me. But it's so hard to know.

If you do, and you're worried about what to talk about, have a look at this:

I saw a documentary about the venerable robina last month, and it looked wonderful.

miakoda said...

There's a huge difference, IMO, between an 18-year-old and a consenting 16-year-old being caught together, and an adult man both accepting and enjoying the victimization of children.

That said, the man you knew before is likely still in there, Anne. He's probably been struggling with this addiction for years. (Would you, as a former youth leader and a popular public leader, go to a counselor and admit an addiction like this? I'd be terrified that it would somehow leak.)

I'm not suggesting that you go to act as his confessor or condone what he's done. In fact, if you do go, and his crimes come up, be honest about both your feelings and why you've come. Otherwise, you could talk about life in general: the old days, mutual acquaintances, his family, the buzzards at Wenonah, the crappy weather and what you're planting this spring, etc. The same things you might talk about at the bedside of a sick friend -- small things, but also the things that make us human.

He's going to spend a lot of the next 37 months staring into his own darkness. It would probably do you well to shine a bit of Brigid's light down that pit.

suecae_disco said...

I came to this as a sort of chance. I read the post and expected to see hateful comments in response. But I am glad to see that there are not.

Phedeophilia, whether it is a sexual condition or a psychological illness can never be accepted if it expresses itself as an act. Either in a direct rape of a minor or as a collection of child pornography.

What bothers me though is that there is so much hatred towards people who are aligned in this way that I think that they are getting an even harder time freeing themselves from it, even if they never had harmed another person. Simply because many societies would rather punish thoughts then rehabilitate them into a state of well-being. In a way - society "needs" it's monsters and in effect creates it's monsters because it chooses to not remedy their conditions. Remember, most probably would never even collect pornography but choose to not seek out professional counseling.

I wish that we would attempt to rehabilitate people with this form of sexual dysfunction into making them accept the notion that they choose their own destiny. That they be given the tools to learn how to understand themselves so that they could project sexual desires into consenting and mutual settings. Be it straight or gay, or maybe asexual using his/her libido into other creative ventures.

Anyway. I have strayed to far from the topic. I hope that you do whatever makes you feel better. This man is not "only" a sexually dysfunctional individual with crime on his conscience but also someone you know.

yellowdog granny said...

every one made a good case..even if he didn't 'touch' anyone..he got enjoyment out of watching other people doing henious things to small helpless children. Plus I don't think they can be's a wire gone wrong and nothing can fix that.
i'd take the buzzard any day.

Hecate said...

The details of what he did are atrocious, even though he himself never touched a child (that we know of).

How? Why? He looked at pictures. Maybe he mastrubated to them. How's that atrocious?

What are you supposed to do if you are wired, whether due to nature or nurture, to be turned on by kids? I'd much rather have those folks look at pictures on the internet.

Maybe I'm naive, but I'd say, go see the guy

Rick Loftus, M.D. said...

Anne, I think acting out of compassion is never wrong. No matter what this guy did, it is *his* karma to reckon with it, not yours. His ability to spiritually evolve is *his* work. (Even if most people would consider him to be starting from a pretty low point, you have already noted that he has good qualities.) By visiting him, and reminding him that he is a person, that he can atone and grow beyond his negative actions, you are assisting him in taking on his work, rather than to just give himself over to despair. That is a spiritually gigantic act (and not an easy one for you to take.) It is said that the Tibetan Buddhist saint Milarepa was able to attain a state of mystical enlightenment through tremendous effort, despite a past that included multiple murders and black magic. You could simply show up, say, "I'm sorry you are here. I remember the good things you have done with your life that inspired me." That does not condone his acts, but it may increase the chance of some good things some day coming out of what sounds like a terrible story. Anyone can get daisies to grow on a fertile field; it takes a giant to grow them on concrete.

Pax said...


For myself I would go... She would want me to.

"For mine is the Spirit of Ecstasy, and mine as well is joy on Earth, and Love Unto All Beings in My Law."

Love unto all beings... even when we detest what they have done or what they have said or what they have thought.

That's what I'd like to think I would do.


Mama Kelly said...

Thats a touch one Anne.

I would like to think that I would go and visit and old friend in a similar situation. Odds are everyone has turned their back on Bob and it could be benefit him to know that he will be remembered for more than just his crimes.

democommie said...


Having been sexually abused by a paedophile, I can tell you that compassion is not my first response. However, as has been pointed out by numerous other posters here, the condition is not his only quality and it may not be something he has any genuine control over (the feelings I mean, not the actions). To say that one's mistakes strips them of their humanity is a popular myth in our largely puritanical system of justice. Do as YOU feel is right.

Anne Johnson said...

Thank you all for the compassionate comments. You're a swell bunch of people.

Just to expand on why I think looking at internet child porn is wrong -- some of the images the FBI took from Bob's computer included milk carton children who had been kidnapped. I think that looking at child pornography on the web encourages people to do it in order to put it on the web. And this, alas, is the downside of a communication tool that, the vast majority of the time, brings together wonderful, caring people like all of you.

Also, Bob has cooperated with the FBI in stings to try to nab the predators on the web.

Lisa said...

I would do both. See your mentor, be as present in the moment as you can . . . and then go watch the buzzards and see what comes to you.

veraciousdragonfly said...

So many will automaticallydislike and turn from him.
Perhaps right now, a friendly face is what he needs.
It's, of course, totally up to you; but I think I'd see him. He's a human being in need. And he's got so many who'll shun him already.


Jennifer said...

*waves to the gods and goddesses before answer*

Damned if I know. I think you'd be being extremely nice/generous/above it all to do that for Bob. I don't think I could pull off doing it myself. I'd be pretty well freaked. It depends on how together you are, I guess.

As far as we know, he was born with those urges and didn't go do any of it himself...he just satisfied it via pictures. I don't know if that's good or bad or not. Might have been his way of trying NOT to go there- as was pointed out, (a) he probably couldn't have gone to therapy about it anyway, and (b) as far as we know, urges to molest children are so far unfixable even with psychiatric help. Poor bastard got born broken, as it were, and we can't help him. In a way, it's awful that we have to jail him for being broken,, yeah.

But on the other hand, I'd still be freaked/creeped out. Especially given the stories I have heard from my mom's friend about what it's like to go to a jail and visit someone. And I don't know how well I could avoid the elephant in the room in a conversation.

I suspect you are a better person than I am, though.

Maeve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Servitor Lucem said...

Are the buzzards visiting for a short time? If so, go see them. bob's going to be where he is for a while. You can still see him.
Of course, this comment prbably comes a bit late for you to use it... Things have been busy. Haven't been keeping up.

Maebius said...

Having known someone slightly less "sexually-deviant", I understand a little of the conflicting feelings. I avoided my person for years, out of fear and mild derision. Eventually, we reconnected, ignored that part of our history for a time, then eventually discussed it honestly and were able to move past it.
In that regard, I say if your travels take you near Bob, I would say hello.
As many people pointed out, the acts and shame are his to overcome for quite a while sitting in the jail cell. However, the flip-side is your own spiritual reflection on the topic. Don't discount the lesson you may gain in facing your own derision towards one who was once a friend. If it feels best to avoid him right now, I do realize your sacred Thunderbirds align themselves with Death and the transformation. Perhaps seeing Bob is healing for you both, perhaps it is a sign of Change to move on in your relationship with him.
Either way, the buzzards or the Bob, it's a tough choice. Only you know the answers. :)