Moral outrage: Craigslist erotic ads and teen violence

14 05 2009

The big “moment” this morning (at least according to the morning news) is that Craigslist has dropped its erotic ads. Well, let’s hear it for the Dudley Do-right AGs of America…and let’s welcome back the “Just Say No” mentality of simplistic solutions to complex problems (that’s of course, if you think “prostitution” in and of itself is a problem, which I don’t).

Because we all know prostitution wouldn’t exist without Craigs List. And we know that those who want to harm prostitutes only do so through that site. And, of course, what we really know in America is that the real crime in this instance is prostitution, not murder. Certainly, that’s true from the media’s perspective (sex sells) and it’s true from our moralistic judicial system, too. Sex is dirty. Wrong. And most definitely private.

So, why in the world would we use this tragedy to address America’s puritanical hang-ups about sex or about how those puritanical notions have a body count? Better to sweep the whole thing under the rug and declare an”out of sight, off of conscience” victory. After all, we all know there were no abortions in America before Roe v Wade put the whole thing out there in the open.

And, let’s not focus on the fact that Craigslist still has an erotic section. They’re just calling it “adult services”, but not to worry. Craigslist and local law enforcement officials will monitor each individual who places an ad. Because, again, it’s the prostitutes who are the problems, not the murderers.

Speaking of moral outrage, sex and murder, I’ve wondered why the Craigslist SEX murder is getting all the attention on the news while virtually no one is talking about the escalation of teen murders across our country. So far this school year, at least one student has been killed EACH WEEK in the Chicago school system. Each week. In 48 hours last week in Boston, two teens were killed. The number of teen shooting victims here in the “Hub of the Universe” has tripled in the past five years. When some do-gooder tried to paint a bright spot on this cloudy canvas by pointing to the 0%–yes ZERO%–suicide rate among Boston school kids, one cop replied, “Our kids commit suicide by becoming a suicide.”

Where’s the frothing at the mouth, relentless moral outrage on THIS topic? Yes, Anderson Cooper just did some great work on this. And there was one subsequent news cycle where other media outlets picked it up. But, nothing compared to the over-the-top, “if it blows, it goes” relentless coverage of Craigslist.

Makes me wonder about two questions:
First, what does it say about America when kids killing kids is no longer “news”, but prostitution still is?

Second, what would happen if we looked at this whole issue through a compassionate lens rather than a moralistic one? If we asked what part of ourselves we were reflecting onto the outrage against prostitution? Do we hope that–by stamping our outraged feet the loudest no one will notice that we share some of the very same urges that keep prostitutes in business? And what of teen violence? What would happen if we saw the victims not as “minority children”, but as “our children”. Because they are. Our moralistic minds can tell us that isn’t so. Our hearts know better.

P.S. If you ARE outraged about teen violence, try to get a copy of “A Dream Deferred“, a short film by Topper Carew.




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