Monday, March 7, 2011

Did sex class delay death penalty action?

It amazes me the way some people are determined to take irrelevant, and often trivial, actions and turn them into a controversy that taints everything by association.

The most recent example of this is the fact that Gov. Pat Quinn may have gone so far as to delay taking action on the bill that would do away with the death penalty in Illinois, cutting off any act last week and making us wait even longer for his decision (which could wind up being the most significant act he takes as governor).

THE SPECULATION HAS always been that Quinn is leaning toward signing the bill into law, and would somehow use Northwestern University and its Center on Wrongful Convictions as the setting for such a bill-signing ceremony.

That center is the organization that did much work toward promoting the reality that Illinois’ capital crimes statute is flawed in its execution – perhaps meaning that the statute itself is what needs to be executed.

The university also was the scene when Gov. George Ryan back in January 2003 went so far as to impose the moratorium that still prevents executions from taking place, while also commuting all the existing death sentences to prison terms of life without parole.

But in the past week, Northwestern University has received its share of ugly publicity. Not that the Center on Wrongful Convictions was involved in this. But a psychology professor on campus used a live sex act demonstration as part of an impromptu part of his class lecture on deviant sexual practices.

THE IMAGE BEING created by the critics, particularly those of the conservative ideological persuasion, is of innocent, young students being subjected to real-live porn. Seedy sex shows at the wish-it-was-an-Ivy League campus on the North Shore.

Of course, the fact that this course was entitled “Human Sexuality” and was an advanced level course means that none of the 100 or so students whose tuition payments entitle them to sit in on the course should have been shocked or offended by the material. If they were, my only reaction is to ask them, “What did you think you’d be studying?”
QUINN: What would he know about sex?

But after listening to speculation that the bill-signing ceremonies and rituals by which Quinn tries to make the death penalty bill a significant moment in Illinois history were going to take place on the Evanston-based college campus, we made it through last week without any action taking place.

Did Pat Quinn refuse to sign the bill into law at Northwestern because he was afraid he would get ambushed with questions about sexual practices? Would our state’s governor have a clue how to answer those questions? Are there people who are shallow enough to really think that such questions would, in any way, be relevant to an act related to the death penalty?

I’D LIKE TO think that people have enough intelligence to realize that one issue has nothing to do with the other, and that the people who do insist on trying to bring sex up in conjunction with capital punishment would be seen as the ideological nit-wits that they are. Or are we going to start asking Northwestern Wildcats athletics coaches sex questions every time a ballplayer blows a play?

Then again, maybe I’m giving the people credit for more intelligence than they deserve. For I have seen many political campaigns throughout the years end with certain individuals tainted with trash rhetoric that borders on the ridiculous.

And before you try to claim I’m saying that candidates of a more liberal ideological persuasion are being picked on, what I’m saying is that I don’t think state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, is anywhere near as much of an ideologue as his opposition claimed. It’s just that his downstate orientation put him out of touch with the way that the two-thirds of Illinoisans who live in the Chicago area perceive things.

Which may well include the death penalty, since Brady was the candidate in last year’s gubernatorial election cycle who campaigned on the idea that he would do away with the execution moratorium and restore the process of actually executing people – something that hasn’t happened in 12 years.

SO NOW, WE have to figure out what Quinn WILL do with the state’s capital crimes statute.

Is he going to search for an alternate site to stage an event (as though joining our Midwestern brethren in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin in doing away with death as a criminal punishment wouldn’t be major without staging)?

Or are we literally going to get just a brief statement released in the name of the governor informing us that the bill in question has been signed into law? Or vetoed? Who’s to say?

Either way, we’re running out of time. State law puts a time limit on when the governor must act – and that deadline is coming up next week Friday.

SO SOME TIME soon, Quinn is either going to seriously please or grossly offend the bulk of the people who picked him over Brady last year to be Illinois governor. As for those who didn’t vote for him, they’re going to remain miffed EVEN if he does what they’d like on this issue.

Then after the debate is complete on that issue, we can shift gears and argue about whether a man using a machine-powered phallic device to penetrate a nude woman is an appropriate part of a classroom discussion.


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