So I've been following the saga of Jack McClellan. The guy's a self-proclaimed -- and also non-practicing -- pedophile.
He's pretty much a grade-A creep. He claims to abbhor any kind of non-consensual relationship, then identifies his favored age-range as being between three and eleven years old. Now, on some basic, primal level of the reptile brain, I can grasp the appeal of a nubile teenager -- those are, after all, the years in which the body is transitioning to adulthood, and begins sending out all kinds of sexual signals. It's literally in our DNA. Not that I by any means condone someone who chooses to pursue a sixteen-year-old -- just saying that I recognize how it could happen. But, ugh. A three-year-old? What kind of consent could possibly take place?
There's some legal gray area here -- although he claims to have never touched a child, he's posted sites that are essentially "how-to" guides for meeting young girls, and he's been seen hanging around places like playgrounds. If I burst into a bar, wielding a gun and screaming profanities, I'm behaving in a threatening manner and should probably be stopped, regardless of whether or not I actually pump a bullet into someone. So legally articulating exactly where that line is is difficult.
That's a discussion worth having. But it's not a discussion that's taking place anywhere near the hysterical news coverage, in which every interview I've seen displays an undisguised disgust with a legal system that leaves a guy like this on the streets. And, y'know? I hate to be the one to say it, but the fact that this guy is on the streets is probably an indication that our legal system is *working*. If he hasn't committed a crime, then he isn't a criminal. Not that I'd allow this guy anywhere near, say, my niece -- but I don't see any way to bring down the hammer of the law without going in a direction that strikes me as fundamentally *worse*.
That's something like thought crime, something a lot like a pre-emptive strike -- the same kind of mentality that leads us to bomb nations under the mere suspicion that they have the means to harm us, the same kind of mentality that leads us to disarm law-abiding citizens. Jesus may have said "...if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out..." but this seems to me to be somewhat impractical as state policy.
We can't prosecute someone who hasn't committed a crime. That's the painful trade-off of living in a free society, the very thing that makes freedom so terrifying -- because it means sacrificing a degree of safety, a degree of security. The rule of law, and the presumption of innocence, both leave us occasionally exposed to criminals. But the alternative? The alternative is unthinkable.