1.4.17

Page 15

OTHER VIEWS

01.04.2017 • WEDNESDAY • M 1

100 YEARS AGO TODAY ON THE EDITORIAL PAGE

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH • A15

A GOOD PARK INVESTMENT • The bill pending in the Board of Aldermen for the purchase of the Christian Brothers’ College grounds for a city park is to come up today. Aside from the fact that the property is ofered to the city at a fair price, the proposition should be approved because the land is desirable in every way for park purposes. Access the full item at stltoday.com/news/opinion

Have fake news purveyors no shame? No, child sexual exploitation is not legal in California. TOD ROBBERSON St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Twitter followers of a certain local critic of this newspaper might have seen a number of apoplectic posts last week linking to a story about a California law that allows victims of child sex trafficking to receive help rather than prosecution. Only that’s not how the headline in the Twitter post portrayed this new law. The less-than-credible Washington Examiner headline screamed,“California Democrats legalize child prostitution.” The even bigger headline on Twitter, posted by our local conservative critic, screamed,“Dear SEN @ claircmc R U going 2 contact CAL Senators & do anything about this?” Another Twitter post, with the same link, said,“WOW — sadly, this is NOT FAKE NEWS — Calif to legalize child prostitution. Talk about ‘DEPLORABLE’.” Yet another by the same conservative tweeter stated,“Here is a story that U will never see reported by @ AP or @stltoday PostDispatch.” She’s right about that last part. You won’t see it reported in any credible news outlet because the story is so badly distorted as to qualify as fake news. It’s sad that some news consumers are gullible enough to believe it. Sadder that some are gullible enough to recirculate it via Twitter alongside criticism of this newspaper for keeping this explosive news item

under wraps. The Washington Examiner’s website said that,“beginning on Jan. 1, prostitution by minors will be legal in California. Yes, you read that right. SB 1322 bars law enforcement from arresting sex workers who are under the age of 18 for soliciting or engaging in prostitution, or loitering with the intent to do so. So teenage girls (and boys) in California will soon be free to have sex in exchange for money without fear of arrest or prosecution.” Wow. Let’s get outraged! Oh, wait a moment. In California, as in Missouri, an adult having sex with a minor constitutes statutory rape. Rape is rape, regardless of whether the rapist tosses money on the bed afterward. The minor is not the perpetrator of a crime. The minor is a victim. And the last time I checked, even conservatives don’t believe that it’s right to prosecute crime victims. The criminals are the adults, not the kids. But the implication from this fake-news headline is that we need to be putting kids in jail for being sex-trafficked. And it’s those nanny-state Democrats in California who want to legalize child prostitution. This story makes a political issue out of a crime that destroys lives. Kids don’t get involved with sex traffickers because they think it’s a fun alternative to flipping burgers or bagging groceries.Some are kidnapped and forced into the business. Others are runaways from abusive parents. Others are seeking refuge from having already been sexually abused. Predators are everywhere

AP Comet Ping Pong pizza shop, in Washington, D.C. For conspiracy theorists, “pizzagate” didn’t end when a man brought a gun to a Washington restaurant in a misguided attempt to rescue child sex slaves, instead, the shooting fired up further belief in the baseless claims.

on the lookout for exactly this kind of child. They lure victims with promises of a good meal, warm shelter and a willingness to listen to the child’s problems. Not long afterward, the child’s photo appears on websites such as Backpage with promises of extraspecial massages and “real VIP treatment.” Children don’t post these web advertisements. Criminal adult sex traffickers do, and they create conditions of enslavement that make it virtually impossible for children to escape once they’re trapped in it. If you have a child in your home, just stop and look at her or him for a moment. Would any kids this

Trump and Conway’s transition of contradictions In 10 days, she goes from praising Obama’s handling of the transition to questioning his patriotism. DANA MILBANK Washington Post

Three weeks ago, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway sat on stage in a hotel ballroom in Washington and praised President Obama’s handling of the transition. “I was always raised to respect the office of the presidency and its current occupant, and I think that I have done that over the course of my adult life,” she said. She added that Obama “has been incredibly supportive and gracious ... in wanting this peaceful transfer of power in our great democracy.” Ten days later, Conway took exactly the opposite position. She suggested that the current occupant of the presidency does not sufficiently love America — and was not supporting a peaceful transition. Her reason: Obama hadn’t silenced talk, based on findings of the CIA and FBI, that Russia meddled in the election to aid Trump. “If you want to shut this down and you actually love the country enough to have this peaceful transition in our great democracy between the Obama administration and the Trump administration, there are a couple people in pretty prominent positions, ones named Obama, ones named Hillary Clinton, since it’s people trying to fight over her election still, they can shut this down,” Conway asserted on Fox News. How did she go, in the space of 10 days, from praising Obama’s handling of the transition to questioning his patriotism? It would appear Conway shares her boss’s epistemological views: The definition of truth is the last thing to come out of one’s mouth. Conway ended her speech three weeks ago with a plea for others to follow Obama’s example of national unity. She invoked Trump’s victory speech pledging to be “president for all

Americans,” not just those who voted for him. That was admirable, but here’s what Trump tweeted Dec. 31: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!” To have some hope of unity there needs to be some measure of honesty. You can’t praise Obama’s handling of the transition and then accuse him of not loving America. You can’t promise to be the president for all Americans and then taunt the 54 percent of Americans who didn’t vote for you.

AP Kellyanne Conway

In that same appearance three weeks ago, Conway made a powerful case against taking a job in the White House. Asked about a recent tweet in which she said “West Wing welcome mat is out” but “mom of four is not in most job descriptions,” Conway elaborated: “My children are 12, 12, 8 and 7, which is bad idea, bad idea, bad idea, bad idea for Mom going inside,” she said. Though she said she would do whatever Trump wanted, she said she told male colleagues “there are limits” to a mother’s role.“They say I ‘may have four

kids, but.’ I said there’s nothing that comes after the ‘but’ that makes any sense to me. So don’t even try.” She said the choice was different for fathers, noting that she told male colleagues “the question isn’t would you take the job” but “would you want your wife to? Would you want the mother of your children to?” Though she liked the notion of helping women feel “less guilty about balancing life and career,” she mocked the idea that she could work in the White House and still slip out to help the kids with homework. Two weeks later, the announcement came that Conway would be working in the White House after all, as counselor to the president. Lately there are reports that her husband, George Conway, is on the shortlist to be solicitor general, the top Justice Department litigator. Now that Conway is Washington-bound, she’s picking a fight with local private schools with a familiar campaign of contradictions. She spoke to the New York Post last week for an item reporting her fear that “establishment elites in Washington, D.C., are so prejudiced against President-elect Donald Trump that she won’t be able to get her kids into private school.” The item went on: “While in D.C. on Wednesday with her kids looking at schools,” Conway said friends’ inquiries were met with “silence and sighs.” But my Post colleague Valerie Strauss followed up with Conway and discovered that Conway was in Florida with Trump on the Wednesday she was supposedly with her kids looking at D.C. schools, which were closed for winter recess. And the “silence and sighs”? The allegedly negative reaction was experienced by precisely one colleague on exactly one call, unsolicited by the Conways. Dana Milbank dana.milbank@washpost.com Copyright The Washington Post

young, this innocent, ever willingly submit their bodies for some disgusting stranger to ravage? Of course not. The Washington Examiner, along with misguided Twitter followers, are seeking some kind of political gain out of children’s sexual victimization. Why? This law also is not news. It was passed last year and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September, when he accurately declared,“There is no such thing as a child prostitute.” The Examiner is trying to hype it as an explosive new development only because the law took effect on Jan. 1. As the law’s sponsor, state Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, a Democrat from

Los Angeles, stated,“The law is supposed to protect vulnerable children from adult abuse, yet we brand kids enmeshed in sex-forpay with a scarlet ‘P’ and leave them subject to shame and prosecution. This is our opportunity to do what we say is right in cases of sex trafficking: Stop the exploiters and help the exploited.” The law cracks down on adults. It eliminates criminal penalties for minors who are exploited. It requires law enforcers to report the commercial sexual exploitation of juveniles so that the victims can receive counseling and protection. It helps get the kids back home or places them in court-supervised foster care. If someone wanted to play the Examiner’s low-life game, a nice screamer Twitter posting could say,“Pro-exploitation conservatives denounce efforts to save children from predators.” (Perhaps post it alongside fake news about child sex trafficking at Comet Ping Pong in Washington?) But let’s not go there. You won’t see this kind of nonsense in the Post-Dispatch or any other reputable newspaper because we don’t play games with the facts. People have every right to read outraged tweets or seek information from bogus sources like the Washington Examiner. But, please, don’t ever let those uninformed alarmists confuse you into believing their online musings constitute real news.

trobberson@post-dispatch.com Twitter: @trobberson 314-340-8382

To live as if we are loved It is not an easy thing to quiet the voices of self-condemnation. return to his family as a servant, but his father, seeing him from afar, MICHAEL GERSON “ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed Washington Post him.” Taken seriously (which does not mean literally), that parable represented a spiritual revolution. God as parent. A distant abstraction as Many of us have a traumatic child“Our father,” and our mother as hood memory of losing our mother’s hand in a grocery or department well. No one can damage themselves beyond hope. store and feeling, for a panicky Even if we reach the shores of our moment, that we may never be own Australia — a place of relative found again. For Saroo Brierley, the comfort, success and respect — a separation was real and lasting — a sense of rootlessness can grow. story so extraordinary and harrowComfort can suddenly feel like ing that it carries an excellent movie complacency. Succalled “Lion.” cess can seem empty No big cats were or horribly fragile. employed in making Respect can become a the film. Rather, at treadmill of expectathe age of 5, Saroo tions. If we take an gets separated from hour for introspechis brother, boards tion, fully examining an empty train, falls our flaws and failures, asleep and eventually we generally decide ends up a thousand never to do it again. It miles away in an unfais uncomfortable to miliar part of India. be naked and helpless, He becomes a street with our humanness child — there are showing. plenty of them in this If we must prove sometimes merciless our worth, it is posworld — vulnerable Saroo Brierley sible to be worthless. to sexual trafficking. If we earn love, it is conditional Instead, he is placed in a Dickensian and fickle. That is the substance, in orphanage, plucked up by an intermany cases, of depression. A relentnational adoption, and finally lands less voice of self-judgment.“My in a loving Australian home. thoughts,” said the poet and priest Not really finally. As an accomGeorge Herbert,“are all a case of plished young man, Saroo begins to knives/ Wounding my heart.” feel restless, rootless and homeless It is possible, even as accomand starts an obsessive search (on plished, sophisticated adults, to slip Google Earth) for the small village a parent’s hand and wonder if we he only recalls in flashing images. will ever be found again. “Every day,” explains Saroo,“my Some will scoff, because they mother screams my name.” I won’t have not yet reached this point in ruin the ending, but suffice it to say their lives. Others conclude that this there is Kleenex involved. Nicole sense of homelessness is rooted in Kidman, the real-life mother of two human nature but corresponds to adopted children, plays the role of nothing real in the world. But many Saroo’s Australian mum with parhave found comfort in that ancient ticular charm and fierce affection. story of a missing child, promising Full disclosure: One reason the a parent’s unconditional love: “You story spoke to me is that my wife are my beloved, on you my favor was plucked from a South Korean rests.” orphanage at the age of 6, placed on It is not an easy thing — maybe a jumbo jet and delivered to a lovthe work of a lifetime — to live as if ing American, Midwestern home. we are loved. To quiet the voices of But “Lion” raises broader issues of self-condemnation. To live outside identity — ethnic and otherwise — the tiny cosmos of our own desires. that are implicated in most human To extend the grace we have been stories. shown. To act on a vision of humanIf we feel homeless, not just in ity in which all are equally loved by the world but in the universe, the God. search for home becomes a spiritual A path determined by these quest.“Spiritual” does not always resolutions may lead to unexpected mean religious. On the evidence of the movie, Saroo’s remarkable quest places, maybe not to a sty, but perhaps to a stable and a star.“To was not. But the questions raised by the end of the way of the wandering the film — “Who am I?”“Where do star,” wrote G.K.Chesterton.“To the I belong?” — have nearly universal things that cannot be and that are/ resonance. The most powerful summation of To the place where God was homeless/ And all men are at home.” the Christian faith is the story of a lost child, this one choosing to leave Michael Gerson home, squandering his inheritance michaelgerson@washpost.com and eventually wallowing in a sty Copyright The Washington Post with pigs. He suspects he can only