Readers — A 73-year-old Michigan man registered as a sex offender for standing buck naked on his porch as children ride by on the school bus has been ordered to move for doing it yet again. But as Sandy Rozek, aka Shelly Stow, points out at her blog With Justice For All:
If reports are true and accurate, most would call him him a dirty old man, including myself. My question is, is it necessary to bring to bear the weight of the state of Michigan’s sex offender registry and the forceful removal of an old man from his home to deal with a dirty old man?
Most of [us] remember our own youthful encounters with the dirty old man in the neighborhood. Those of us over the age of forty remember how we dealt with it. We shrieked, we screamed, and we ran for home or school, depending on our destination of the moment. We babbled out to mom or dad or Mrs. Smith what we saw, and we got, quite possibly, minimal reaction.
If it was a small town, we might have heard, “Oh, Mr. Turner’s daughter let him get outside again,” or “Someone needs to tell Sheriff Tate to have a come-to-Jesus talk with Mr. Parker again.” Then we were given a brief explanation that sometimes some people do things when they are old or when they are sick or when they have mental illnesses that people not so afflicted do not do. Then we were told to always run home or to school and tell an adult about it but not to worry about it. My friend told me her mother told her that if it happened again, to point at him and laugh before running away.
In an era when we are convinced no child can safely encounter anything more traumatic than squished jellybean, the idea of trusting our kids to resiliently shrug off an addled old man is considered cavalier — even negligent.
We decided that we needed to protect our children in every situation rather than teach them how to protect themselves. We decided that such people were perverts, and that perverts needed to be registered and shamed, and their families shamed, and the strong arm of the law and of the courts was not only the appropriate way to deal with the situation but the only way.
And we added yet another category of offender to the registry in order to “protect the children.”
And we continue to teach our children that they are not safe in the world and that they don’t have enough sense to know what to do when something unexpected occurs and that they can’t take care of themselves.
It’s not that I relish the idea of dirty old men mooning school kids. (Or, worse, NOT mooning them.) It’s that I harken back to the chat I had with my friend’s 80-year-old mom who grew up in New York City playing in the parks, unsupervised, with her sister. One day back then a man motioned them over to his car and rolled down the window. Then he pointed at what he wanted them to see. Says the the 80-year-old: “To this day, my sister and I still giggle about it.”
Kids can roll with a lot more punches than we think. Dotty 73-year-olds thrown out of their homes?
I’m not so sure. – L