Column on UMass rapist off base regarding parents

A few weeks back, I wrote a column about Emmanuel Bile, Jr., who was convicted of rape. I wondered aloud how such a rape could have happened.

In case you missed it, Bile and three other young men were accused of raping a young woman. He was convicted by a jury of his peers and sentenced by a judge.

In the column I asked, “Who in the world would rape a college student?” Then I asked, “Who taught values to these kids?” I said, “I’m not talking about anything but the difference between right and wrong.”

So far so good — still on solid ground. “The guy was found guilty but the victim will still be scarred for life.” I ended, “The accused will be spending a large part of his life in prison. Good. She (the victim) could have been your daughter.” I asked a question in the column that, in retrospect, I am not so sure about. I asked, “Who were the perpetrator’s parents?”

This all came up when I got a critical letter from an employee of the Pittsfield Schools who says that she knows the Bile family. She was very angry with me but I was confused by her letter. She criticized me for passing judgment and heaping humiliation on the family. On the other hand, she conceded, “Starting in the home, educational institutions need to provide guidelines for good manners, courtesy and positive competition for boys and girls, women and men.”

I have always believed that we have to be responsible for our actions, as difficult as that may sometimes be. Our writer said “Emmanuel Bile, Jr. is a metaphor for a systemic problem in our society, notably in public and private colleges and universities across the country.”

I’m assuming that meant the problem of rape on campuses. If what she meant was that the problem of campus rape is so widespread that Bile should not have been held responsible either in print or by the courts, I think she is wrong. She is correct that college rape is reportedly at epic proportions and that something must be done about it. One thing we can do is hold the perpetrators accountable.

Our letter writer wrote, “Just like Bile is responsible for his actions, I Publius needs to be responsible for his words. It is important to look at how the media and freedom of expression glamorizes substance abuse and lust and smudges the boundaries of human behavior.”

I have real trouble understanding how I was glorifying this terrible crime. This was a front page case and it’s obviously something that our community wants to read about. We are not going to censor coverage of this kind of crime.

On the other hand, I have to admit that I do think she had a point about parenthood. While I did not mean to imply that Bile’s parents as individuals had failed, I can see how it sounded that way. I began to think about whether parents should be held responsible for the way their kids turned out.

We all know good people who have had kids who went down the wrong path. That certainly isn’t always the parents’ fault. Sometimes it is. If a parent is a drug addict or an alcoholic, for example, those conditions can be passed on to the kids.

But I have no such feelings about Bile’s parents who, I am sure, are decent good people who only want what’s best for their child.

Finally, this week I heard from Karen Christensen who is running for the Selectboard in Great Barrington. She corrects the record by saying that she was not defeated for re-election on the Great Barrington School Board where she previously served. She won a four-year term in November 2000. I apologize for the error.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 5/4/15

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