Prison Death: A Sign of the Times

My friend is dead. His ordeal began several years ago when his teenage daughter accused him of sexual molestation -- the legal terms for his supposed crime were “sexual interference and sexual exploitation,” which allow for a wide latitude of interpretation or misinterpretation. Indeed, we have reached the point where displaying physical affection for one’s children can now lead to prosecution. In any event, the daughter soon had her father arraigned before the court. The judge, apparently, took none of the countervailing evidence and exonerating depositions into consideration before delivering the guilty verdict.

My friend -- I’ll call him John to protect his family’s privacy -- was a fervent evangelical Christian who would have been scandalized by the likes of Jeffrey Epstein, now arrested for underage sex abuse and trafficking. John commanded an extensive knowledge of the New Testament, about which he wrote an original monograph. His faith doubtlessly counted against him. According to the reports I received, the accusing daughter, who resented her father for objecting to her living with her boyfriend and for trying to instill his Christian values, appears to have embroidered a story that ultimately trapped her in its web. His other children living in the same house insisted that he was a loving and caring father. His wife, a gifted composer of hymnal music, testified movingly on his behalf. Friends and neighbors came to his defense.

Notwithstanding, John was sentenced to seven years in prison, where he alienated his overseers who considered his refusal to accept responsibility for his indictment to be a sign of incorrigibility. Much was held against him, including his doctrinal skepticism of Islam, his self-confident demeanour, his overt piety, his studious habits and his forbearing conduct -- his chaplain confided that he helped many of the inmates, who are sending sympathy cards to his wife. No matter. According to a parole officer’s report brought to my attention, he “talked over” his fellow inmates -- in other words, he was literate and uncommonly erudite, an autodidact arguably more lucid and knowledgeable than the prison psychologist and his supervisors. His appeal for parole was summarily rejected.

John recently suffered a heart attack, which went undiagnosed for several days, too late for effective treatment. News has just arrived that he died in prison, after an all-too-brief hospital visit.

And there we have it. A claim, however problematic, of incestuous molestation before a “woke” judge in a climate of feminist activism will lead in almost all instances to an inescapable conclusion. The Epstein case is not to the issue here; justice sometimes works, though at the time of writing this still remains to be seen. In the vast majority of such cases, a man is guilty of sexual abuse regardless of reams of exculpatory testimony, the circumstances surrounding the indictment and the emotional volatility of the complainant.

John didn’t stand a chance. Prison officials are concerned not with justice or clemency but with institutional power and promotion. Membership in a Christian communion serves as a sign of mental aberration and cultural vandalism. Disapproval of excessive Muslim immigration into the country is tantamount to the de facto crime of Islamophobia. Intellectual capacity and biblical erudition augur contempt for ordinary citizens and unappeasable atheists, respectively. The sequel was virtually pre-ordained.

Such travesties of justice have been going on for years. Case after case of men, young and not so young, have fallen victim to the #MeToo movement and a compliant judiciary. In many of these episodes the female claimants were shown to have confected the charges, often in collusion with other women purporting to have been sexually abused or assaulted. The example of celebrity Canadian radio host Jian Ghomeshi is revelatory. Though proven innocent -- email and other evidence showed that his accusers were complicit in fraud -- his career is over. Best-selling novelist and university professor Steven Galloway also fell victim to a similar scam. He may continue to write but he will never teach again.

Among the most sensational current instances are the politically inspired charade of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process and Hollywood Mogul Harvey Weinstein’s ongoing trial, in which he has been publicly accused by more than eighty women of sexual assault and harassment. Many of these women stoked their careers by consorting with Weinstein. As it turns out, the number prepared to face him in court has now dwindled to two, both of whom, according to the defense counsel’s motion to dismiss, are demonstrably less than credible.

My friend’s nightmare will not make the news cycle, but it is equally symptomatic of a cultural malaise that is spreading its nematocysts into every dimension of civil life. His undeserved torment is attestation of the social and cultural world we now inhabit, a feral world that owes more to the ideology and practice of the presumably defunct Soviet Union than it does to the Western tradition of habeas corpus, due process and fair jurisprudence.

This is where we are now. The Magna Carta is a parchment irrelevance. The Christian covenant is anathema. Common decency is frowned upon. Masculinity is toxic. Genuine scholarship is a threat to the all-controlling state. A questionable accusation is taken at face value. Show trials, especially in cases that involve mere allegations of sexual misconduct, are becoming routine performances. These are the earthquake lights of the seismic future that awaits us. A rigid Puritanism has become orthodox and self-justifying, manifesting as political and juridical despotism. We are living in a soft totalitarianism growing harder by the day. The culture is sick. No one is safe.

And my friend is dead.

Photo credit: Alison Groves