Monday, June 11, 2007

A Mother's Quandry - Genarlow Wilson & The Motherhood Challenge

Genarlow Wilson is a young man, who at age 17 admitted to having sex at a New Year's party with 2 teen girls. The amount of alcohol and marijuana cloud the distinction of what was consensual - both acts were caught on tape. My heart goes out to all the families, including the girls who freely entered those rooms with little thought about the consequences.

As a result of the video tape, Genarlow was found not guilty of the rape charges. However, that tape also showed oral sex with a minor girl, later resulting in his conviction for aggravated child molestation. He is now serving a 10 year sentence, and the Georgia state laws that mandated his sentence have been changed to make what he did a misdemeanor. The reality remains that even the newly changed laws are not designed to be retroactive, and thus his future remains unclear.

Today there is a lot of discussion about the Judge's decision to end his 10 year sentence with time served. You should go to Wilson Appeal web site to learn more about the details - but there is additional information surfacing that his release is being fought. The Attorney General of Georgia has filed an appeal and is challenging the judges decision - keeping the 21 year old in jail for the time being.

Many of the sites and blogs that I read have narrowed this discussion to one about an African-American 17 year old male (at the time of the incident), having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl. He refused to take a plea based on his belief that this was all consensual - and the plea would require him to be registered as a sex offender, eliminating any possibility for living with his younger sister in the future. I decided to weigh in on the issue for much different reasons.

Prior to this young man going out that night, his single mother told him not to do anything that would jeapordize his future. She told him, like many moma's do, to use his head while he was out and to be back by curfew. He was a honors student, award winning athlete and homecoming king. I wonder what else a mother is called to do? As parents we try to teach our children right from wrong - and this applies not only to young males, but to the young girls who were drinking in a hotel room with a dozen guys, with overnight bags. In the end, however, our children make choices.

We are called to teach, guide and direct our children. Many of us pray for our children and nurture them in an upbringing that we believe will be the best for them. We endeavor to do all that we can to protect them, keep them safe and secure - but we are not all knowing. We are not with our children 24 hours of every day. We do all that we can, just like our parents and grandparents before us. The challenge here for me is to distinguish criminal behavior from the mistakes of youth.

Having a decent GPA and athletic prowess does not in and of itself make a child a "good kid." What does? Many who have commented on this case have drawn distinctions on ethnic, economic and moral lines - but I believe they are all interconnected. The break down of what we define as acceptable behavior is evidenced in every day society. Recent Indiana coverage about girls being raped at bus stops before and after school has become sadly common place. We are slowly losing our sensitivity to reality of our society.

These children were drinking, staying out all night in some cases at a motel, smoking marijuana, engaging in group/public sexual activity, and being downright foolish. The presence of a video camera accents the lack of intelligence in the room - there was no moral filter for just how wrong this was. Yet, they were children, making the mistakes that many children make. I'm not blogging about presidential behavior - although clearly there should be a link between what we glorify on television, in music, throughout politics and in the world - vs. what we want children to do. We popularize bad behavior and then we are surprised when it becomes the way of the world. I, however, don't believe that this young man should spend 10 years in jail for his bad choices. I believe we have a clear miscarriage of justice.

The facts of the case are pretty clear - he broke the law that was on the books, oral sex with a minor. When does good sense combine with justice to ensure that laws not only exist - but serve our society well?

I can't help but believe we would all be better served taking more time, care and attention raising our children - and building a society that teaches them lessons that are appropriate to their mistakes, without forever altering any potential they have of serving our world in the best possible way. Our government leaders engage in the same activities and barely get a slap on the hand. I can't help but know in my spirit something is painfully wrong with the Attorney General in Georgia - but the thought that this could happen to you, your son, your cousin, your neighbor - ought make us all more engaged, active and responsive to the decision and systems that impact our lives.

A good place to start - more knee mail for us all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is one of those cases that just makes you shake your head. Its the application of the letter of the law untempered by any wisdom whatsoever. That the attorney general of GA Thurbert Baker believes that this young man should be branded a sex offender for life under these circumstances is absurd. The issue is further distressing because the AG is african american and is actively trying to keep this boy in jail, seemingly because he wants to win the issue. But he is only standing on the letter of the law, and certainly not the spirit. Its not based on legislative intent. The lawmakers who passed the law said it was not intended for such a situation. This guy bills himself in his campaign materials as "tough as nails". Sure, I want a tough AG, but I want one with some good judgment. To most everyone else on the planet, this is justice gone off the tracks. Maybe he doesn't want to have to back down on the pleas the others gave. Maybe he is just that lacking in judgment. But it angers me that a black man who has achieved the position that this one has is so intent on continuing an injustice, when you come from a community that has seen more than its share of miscarriage of justice. This is bad judgment on the same scale as the Duke prosecutor. I'm sure this man has done a lot of good in his career, but if the guy persists in trying to brand this boy a sex offender on this set of facts, I would hope that the people of GA would send him packing for lacking good common sense.