Conundrum at Amazon

Originally posted at 11-11-2010

I was going to take a break from blogging today.  Actually, I was going to be at work, starting early, and wasn't going to have time for blogging today, but my poor sitter is in the ER after having a bad reaction to a new medication, and so I'm here with my kids, praying that she recovers quickly (and not just for selfish reasons).

Watching the sun turn the clouds pink in a deep blue early morning sky while I drink my coffee, I am chewing over yesterday's plethora of tweets and posts regarding Amazon's listing of a book written by a pedophile that apparently provides "advice" for other pedophiles on having (this really turns my stomach) "better" relationships with their victims and how to avoid being caught.  I say "apparently," because I am not going to read the book to see exactly what the author says, and I am not going to link to the page for the book because I don't wish to drive any more traffic to this guy, and I'm not even linking Amazon here, because I don't feel like sending them any more page hits today.  (They should be sending ME page hits in thanks for all the money I've thrown at them over the years, really.)


This is one of those times where my morals and my convictions have a little tug of war with one another, and right now I'm not certain who is winning.

Background and context, for starters.  I've written about my birthmother and family.  I've actually submitted a piece to Violence Unsilenced that I compiled interjecting my own narrative with chunks of a manuscript that my sister Vicki sent me several years ago.  It is her own story of growing up with a stepfather who is a pedophile. At some point in the future, I hope, that piece will be published.

I have five siblings.  Four living.  I was given up for adoption, the rest of them were raised (using the term very loosely) by my birthmother. My sister was raped by her stepfather for the first time when she was around five years old. 

Here is what happened when she told her mother, in her own words:

She slapped me so hard across the face that I was knocked several feet backwards and fell to the floor.  She screamed at me, that I was a liar and sent me to my room.  I sobbed, hurting from the pain in my bottom and the pain in my heart, knowing that I was going to die.  He was going to kill me.  There was no one to stop him.  So I did what all good Christian girls did:  I prayed to God that I would die in my sleep before morning.

That was the longest night of my life.  Somewhere in the night I fell asleep.  When I woke up, the Monster was smiling down at me once more.  My heart was racing and I knew I was about to die and he just kept smiling.  He puts one hand on either side of my head holding me down by my long brown hair, and smiling the whole time, he said, ‘She didn’t believe you, she never will and if you ever try to tell again I will kill you.’  Then, like nothing ever happened, he walks to the door, opens it, and calmly says, ‘Breakfast is ready when you are.'

I had a younger brother.  I never met him.  He called me once, a few years ago and asked if we could meet. He was just out of prison and was looking for someone to give him a hand in getting back up on his feet. It was the only conversation I ever had with my brother. 

"I wish I could meet you, wish I could offer you some help, but I can't.  I have children."

He went to prison for raping a little girl.  While in prison he contracted HIV.  Look, I'm not stupid.  Statistically, the recidivism rate for men who molest boys is twice as high as for men who molest girls, but those statistics are based on convictions and not the actual number of crimes being committed, and who in hell could know what those statistics are? Who's to say my brother hadn't also molested boys?  And honestly, did it really matter?  I wasn't exposing my children to a convicted pedophile.  Period. 

Two years later, he died of complications from AIDS.  As sad as I feel for never having met my sibling, I still stand by my decision to protect my family.

Remember the incident back in 1993, when Ellie Nesler shot David Driver in the courtroom as he was being tried for raping her son?  She was my hero, then and now.  If anyone and I do mean ANYONE hurt one of my children, it would take more than a legal system to keep me from hurting that person.  I have no doubt whatsoever that I would kill to protect my kids.  As much as I believe in second chances, in following the law, in respecting our legal system, none of that reason could override the animal instinct that raises its head in me when I consider what I would do to someone who hurt my child.  I think I would be capable of just about anything, including violent murder.

So that's where I stand on pedophiles. Reason and logic don't apply.  Look, I know most pedophiles offend because someone hurt them when they were children.  I know they are mentally ill.  AND I DON'T CARE.  My reaction is visceral.  I am being as honest as I can here. 

As a mother, as a human being who believes that the death penalty is a suitable punishment for people who rape children, I want that book GONE.  OFF THE SHELVES.  I don't want to give Amazon another dime of my money so long as they will carry that kind of filth on their website. 

And then there's the other thing.  The part where I believe in the constitution and the right of free speech.  If Amazon can carry a book that teaches people how to make bombs, if I believe that our constitution also protects that kind of speech, then I have to agree that so long as that vile piece of filth that passes for a book contains nothing that falls within the legally defined boundary of child pornography, so long as it contains no evidence of someone actually committing a crime in its pages, so long as it is theory and not practice, then it may be published and sold.  We can't call for it to be burned or banned or torn into little tiny shreds and stomped on with manure-covered jackboots.

Can we?

I don't know.

I'm torn.

I was so proud when Google said they were going to pull out of China because China's policy on free speech was in direct opposition to the company's values and to the principles of democracy and freedom.  So disappointed when they caved in to the almighty dollar.

Should I be proud of Amazon if they take the logical and legal position that free speech is a protected right and that as a seller of books, they take no position on whether a book ought to be listed so long as it doesn't violate the boundaries of the law?

Or should I be proud of Amazon if, after reviewing the situation, decides that they will concede to the majority opinion of their customers (and the weight of the consumer dollar) and pull the book?

You tell me.  What do you think is the right thing for Amazon to do?





Mary a/k/a BarnMaven blogs at about single parenting, living with ADHD, too many animals to count and dealing with ADHD/Bipolar kids.

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