I just ran across this post I wrote for my original blog on November 14, 2018. I am reposting it today, as/is, as I think about what today’s fresh content will be about.
Many years ago, for the very first time, I watched a comedy film starring Mr. T. The film, which was made in 1983, was called D.C. Cab, and it was about a group of misfit cab drivers in Washington, D.C. It was a mostly forgettable movie, but it did have a few funny lines in it. For that reason alone, I bought it on DVD and still watch it when I need a cheap laugh. One of my favorite lines in D.C. Cab comes at the very beginning. The late actor Whitman Mayo, who plays a character called “Mr. Rhythm”, says to the camera, “Don’t let your dick run your life.”
This topic comes up after I spent about an hour yesterday watching videos on YouTube starring Chris Hansen of “To Catch a Predator” fame. I remember back in 2007, when Bill was in Iraq, sitting at home on weekday evenings watching Hansen busting would be perverts who were caught trying to meet teenaged girls they met on the Internet. These guys were chatting and sending dick pics to people they thought were young girls, but were actually young looking police officers posing as teens.
A few months later, Bill and I moved to Germany the first time, and I lost track of Hansen’s show, which I think was eventually canceled. But then yesterday, I discovered that Hansen was back with a newer show called Hansen vs. Predator, which aired in 2016. Someone uploaded a bunch of videos from that show on YouTube. Below is the first one I encountered.
Before he visits the “girl”, Manzi admits that he shouldn’t be talking to her. He has suspicions that he could be walking into a trap. And yet, he takes the risk anyway… obviously not having seen D.C. Cab and heard Mr. Rhythm’s excellent advice. Hansen asks Manzi what he’s doing at the girl’s house, and Manzi claims he came over just to make sure “everything was okay.” Yeah… I don’t think so. Don’t let your dick run your life, buddy.
Contrary to his big plans for the day, Mr. Manzi doesn’t spend the afternoon smoking weed with a young girl. He begs Hansen to let him go. Hansen says “no” and Manzi goes to jail. But he’s not the only one who gets caught in Hansen’s web.
I sat there yesterday and thought to myself that the sex drive in some men must be extremely irresistible if they’re taking these kinds of chances. Obviously, these dudes have seen Chris Hansen on TV. They know what’s going to happen if they run into Chris Hansen. And yet, when they are trapped in Hansen’s clutches, they try to wriggle out of them in a most pathetic way. If only they’d listened to Mr. Rhythm. His advice is so good.
Adults, male or female, have no business “chatting up” teenagers on the Internet, particularly when it comes to anything sexual. And they have no business going to a child’s house in search of companionship or to make sure they’re “okay”, especially after they’ve been caught having explicit chats with them online.
I’m glad all three of these guys were busted and didn’t actually harm anyone. I don’t envy today’s parents. I’m sure it must be a challenge to constantly monitor their children’s Internet activity, as well as the adults with whom they come into contact. On the other hand, there was no Internet during my childhood and I still managed to run into a pervert.
I guess it just goes to show that it pays to be vigilant, and make sure you’re thinking with the right head. If you let your dick run your life, you may find it impossible to talk your way out of the mess. So remember Mr. Rhythm whenever you get the urge to make rhythm with someone inappropriate. Remember, that what makes you can also break you.
Fresh for 2021: I might have to watch DC Cab today… It’s a good one.
That tweet led to a lot of backlash. Rashad, who was appointed the dean of Howard University’s College of Fine Arts in May 2021, is now being pressured to resign from her job. Her response, so far, was to delete the offending tweet, then issue this apology “This week, I tweeted a statement that caused so much hurt in so many people — both broadly and inside the Howard community… I offer my most sincere apology.” As far as I know, she’s still got a job at Howard University. Regarding Rashad’s comments, Howard University has stated that “Personal positions of University leadership do not reflect Howard University’s policies.”
Many people, obviously upset that Phylicia Rashad would dare to publicly support her old friend, Bill Cosby, feel like her support of Cosby should equate to losing her job. It’s as if all of the great things Phylicia Rashad has done over her long career as an entertainer should be erased, simply because of a tweet supporting the man who was her co-star on a groundbreaking 80s era sitcom, as well as a 90s era show. This is obviously a complicated issue for Rashad, although I am surprised that she didn’t realize people would be up in arms over any public support for Bill Cosby.
Phylicia Rashad shared the experience of making The Cosby Show and, later, Cosby, with Bill Cosby. They’re obviously still dear friends. I don’t like the idea of punishing people who exercise their right to speak freely. Phylicia Rashad, to my knowledge, hasn’t sexually assaulted anyone. Moreover, she’s known Bill Cosby for many years. They have a long history together and she’s always supported him, no matter what. I don’t know what’s in Ms. Rashad’s head… and I think her first tweet was very ill advised and considered. I don’t know how a person can be a celebrity in this day and age and not realize that publicly supporting a sex offender is going to lead to being canceled by the public. Still, while I would have expected her to be savvier about voicing unpopular public opinions and backlash, I think her comments about Cosby are disappointing, but not particularly surprising.
On the other hand, Phylicia Rashad is human, and sometimes humans get carried away and do things that are ill-considered. In terms of her career, Rashad shouldn’t have tweeted. But as a friend to Cosby, obviously she felt moved to do so. Whether or not she should be friends with a convicted sex offender should be up to her. As much as some people think Bill Cosby should lose everything, the reality is, he won’t. There will always be people who will support him– family members and friends– and they aren’t going to be swayed by what the Internet thinks. There are few people in the world who are truly alone, especially people like Bill Cosby.
I kind of get the confusion, though. At one time, Bill Cosby could do no wrong. People my age grew up on his brand of family friendly television. I watched Bill Cosby on TV every week when I was growing up, having been introduced to him on 70s era shows like Fat Albert and his classic comedy film, Bill Cosby: Himself. But it wasn’t just his work on television sitcoms that made him so powerful and influential. Cosby had books, films, albums, and commercials. He had dozens of honorary doctorates and other awards. He made speeches and championed causes. He sermonized about being an involved father. He was called “America’s Dad”, and that persona transcended race. People of all colors and creeds looked up to him as “America’s Dad”. That’s probably why it took so long for him to fall out of favor with the public. Maybe if he hadn’t been “America’s Dad”, he would have been prosecuted when he was much younger and would have done a lot less harm. We probably shouldn’t be so quick to make the charismatic among us into heroes because almost all of us have clay feet.
In those heady days of the 1980s, Cosby seemed charming, intelligent, and funny. I noticed that he incorporated a lot of the routines from his film into plots on The Cosby Show; but they were still humorous, especially when performed by talented actors. The Cosby Show was very well written, family oriented, and high quality entertainment. Phylicia Rashad was a huge part of the reason why that show was so relevant in my youth– from the time I was 12 until I was 20. The Cosby Show opened doors and broke down barriers. It’s heartbreaking to realize that the character, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, is not the same man as Bill Cosby is, even though Cosby’s real life comedy routines inspired the show. So many of us who grew up with him on TV have had a hard time separating Cosby from his kind and wise alter ego, Heathcliff Huxtable. Of course, now that we know more about Cosby as a man, it makes sense that Cliff Huxtable was an OB/GYN.
I never saw a single episode of Cosby’s next show with Rashad, entitled Cosby, as it aired at a time in my life when I was too busy for network TV. From 1996-2000, I was in the Peace Corps, working nights, or in graduate school. But Cosby lasted four years, and The Cosby Show was on for eight years, so that means Rashad worked with Cosby for twelve years. Incidentally, Bill Cosby also had another 90s era show called The Cosby Mysteries, and a 60s and 70s era show called The Bill Cosby Show… I think the fact that he’s had four series named after him is pretty telling about the massive size of his ego. And while he put a lot of Black actors on the map by giving them jobs, he also destroyed a lot of people– particularly the scores of women who were his victims. Meanwhile, he was hypocritically berating and chastising people like Eddie Murphy for using the f word, or Black people as a whole.
I do believe the many women who have accused Bill Cosby of drugging and raping them. Yes, Cosby got out of prison, but that does not make him innocent of the crimes that put him there. He got out of prison on a technicality. He’s even admitted to drugging women he was pursuing for sex. That is criminal behavior, and it was right for him to be punished. I agree that Cosby didn’t spend enough time behind bars, even though I doubt he will re-offend, given his age and fall from grace. I wish that he had been prosecuted years ago, much like I wish Donald Trump could be held accountable for his disgusting sexual attacks on women. I don’t know what it is about men who are destined to be powerful. So many of them turn out to be incredibly predatory when it comes to sex, money, and political power. And that hunger for sex, money, and power is often married to a charismatic exterior that fools many people. For years, I thought Cosby was one of the good guys. I can see that a lot of people still believe Trump is a good guy, despite so much evidence and actual proof to the contrary.
That being said, personally, I don’t like the “cancel” aspect of our culture, which has come about thanks to social media. In fact, I think it’s chilling that a person can make a statement on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube that leads to Internet mobbing and financial ruin, particularly when the vast majority of people don’t have a personal stake in whatever has them in a tizzy. Phylicia Rashad actually knows Bill Cosby as a person, not as someone she’s seen on TV. Most of the people who are maligning Rashad’s character don’t know her or Cosby, nor are they even among his victims. Unless, of course, they feel victimized because they fell for Cosby’s charm in the 1970s and 80s. I wonder how many people have sent Phylicia Rashad death threats over her tweet. I would not be surprised if she’s gotten a few threats… and perhaps her family members have gotten them as well. For some reason, many people think it’s okay to get so angry over what someone dares to communicate that they literally call for the offender’s head on a platter. I think that’s taking things a bit too far.
Today is July 4th. It’s a day when Americans celebrate liberty from British rule. I grew up very close to where the Revolutionary War was won, so all my life, I’ve heard about how special and wonderful the United States is, particularly because we have so much freedom. But clearly we don’t have that much freedom. While a person can say whatever they want to say and, generally speaking, don’t have to worry about the government jailing them, there’s a very good chance that if it’s not what people want to hear, and they are “big” enough, they will experience cancel culture. And so many people get riled up over these things. They think a person should suffer for the rest of their lives over their thoughts, deeds, and comments. No matter what, there’s always going to be someone who thinks that lives should be ruined, or even ended, over a tweet. Then, after the next news story breaks, they forget all about that person they felt should have their head on a platter. Meanwhile, that person is still living with the aftereffects of being canceled.
I honestly don’t know if Phylicia Rashad is qualified to be a dean at Howard University. It seems to me that she might have been hired because of her fame, accomplishments, connections, and ability to influence donors. She doesn’t appear to have the usual educational background that university deans typically have. It may turn out that by publicly supporting a sex offender, she’s permanently disgraced herself and Howard University. It could be that because of the tweet, she won’t be able to do her job. If that’s the situation, then yes, maybe she should be fired or resign. But I don’t think she should be fired simply for an ill advised tweet. She has personal feelings about Bill Cosby based on actual in person experiences with him that the vast majority of other people don’t have. Her personal feelings about Cosby are not so cut and dried.
Look at Governor Ralph Northam. In the 1980s, he posed in blackface for a medical school yearbook photo. When that photo was unearthed a couple of years ago, many people called for his resignation. He resisted, and has gone on to do marvelous things in Virginia. Or, at least I think he’s done marvelous things to make Virginia more liberal, which suits me fine. I know a lot of my Republican friends can’t stand him. The point is, I’m glad he didn’t resign over social media backlash and cancel culture. And I don’t think Phylicia Rashad should be forced to resign, unless it becomes clear that she can’t do her job. Ultimately, that will be for Howard University to decide, not the general public. It should be up to the students Rashad serves and her co-workers and bosses, not random people on Facebook. No matter what, people should not be sending her hate mail or death threats. People who send hate mail and death threats must think that would be alright for others to do to them, if at some point, they do something that society deems unacceptable.
Anyway… experience has taught me that these things can and do blow over eventually. Five years ago, Josh Duggar was outed for being a sex pest. One would think the Duggars would have been finished in 2015 over that revelation. But no, it’s taken six years and accusations that Josh Duggar was viewing child pornography to finally get the Duggar family canceled. Like it or not, some people will still like Bill Cosby. They’ll ignore what he’s done. I figure, Phylicia Rashad has as much right as anyone to support her friend, Bill Cosby, even though it may turn out that her public support of Cosby will make it impossible for her to do her job as a university dean. But not being able to do her job should be why she gets fired… not what she tweets on social media. At this point, it’s not yet clear if she’s now incapable of doing her job. I, for one, think Rashad should have the chance to redeem herself.
You know, I’ve been eagerly awaiting new leadership in the United States. For the past four years, we’ve had a bonafide sex offender in the White House, embarrassing and humiliating Americans around the globe. Donald Trump is, without a doubt, someone who truly ought to be canceled. This is a man who bragged about grabbing women by the pussy. In his first divorce trial, his first wife Ivana described a disturbing incident in which he forced himself on her sexually. And there are COUNTLESS accusations from women over decades accusing Trump of molesting them. One disclosure famously came from a woman named Katie who claims that she was raped by Trump as a teenager at Jeffrey Epstein’s house of horrors. Just today, in my Facebook memories, there was an article from 2017 about some of the horrible “rapey” things Donald Trump has said.
Thank God Trump didn’t win a second term in the White House. I know a lot of people are upset about it. I’m sure many of those people don’t believe the dozens of women who have accused Trump of assault. Even though Trump has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t give a shit about anyone but himself, these folks are doggedly still supporting him. And he’s still in the news as he does what he can to run decent Republicans out of office so he can hijack the party and turn it into Trumpism.
We should probably be focusing on getting rid of Trump. We should be focusing on getting rid of COVID-19. But what are a surprising number of people upset about right now? Pepe Le Pew. They say he needs to be canceled because he’s “rapey”.
When I was growing up, I used to watch the French skunk on Saturday morning cartoons. The running gag was that the amorous skunk wanted to make sweet love to a cat (a pussy)? He’d grab her and snuggle with her, kissing her without consent, not taking “no” for an answer, and being relentless in his pursuit of her.
I’m not saying this is behavior anyone should be modeling. As a kid, Pepe’s cartoons weren’t my favorites. I didn’t like the Road Runner either, or Speedy Gonzales. I was more of a fan of The Flintstones, Tom & Jerry, and Bugs Bunny. But I never thought of Pepe Le Pew as “rapey”. I always figured the pussy cat didn’t want to get with him because he stank. As I got older, I forgot all about him. But now Pepe’s in the news, mainly because The New York Timesran an op-ed by columnist Charles M. Blow entitled “Six Seuss Books Bore a Bias”.
Blow’s column was in response to the recent decision by the company that publishes Dr. Seuss’s books that six titles would no longer be made available because they include “racist and insensitive imagery”. In a statement, a spokesperson said that the six offending books “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” Blow was cheering on the decision, and in his piece, had referenced cartoons that a lot of us had grown up with, saying they had promoted ideas that were wrong. From Blow’s op-ed:
Some of the first cartoons I can remember included Pepé Le Pew, who normalized rape culture; Speedy Gonzales, whose friends helped popularize the corrosive stereotype of the drunk and lethargic Mexicans; and Mammy Two Shoes, a heavyset Black maid who spoke in a heavy accent.
A lot of people are upset that six of Dr. Seuss’s books are going to go out of print. Many people bemoaned “cancel culture”. To be honest, I am personally not a fan of cancel culture myself. I am uncomfortable with whitewashing history, burying language, and political correctness run amok. However, I think it’s absolutely fine to recognize that some relics of the past are hurtful and stop highlighting them in popular culture, and I don’t think the decision made by the publishers of Dr. Seuss’s books is necessarily “cancellation”, per se. I think it was more likely a business decision.
However… I do think it’s absolutely crazy that people are calling for Pepe Le Pew, a cartoon character from decades ago, to be canceled. I really do. Because we’re talking about a fucking cartoon character, not a real person. Less than three months ago, a legitimate sex offender was running the country and influencing the free world. Many people are still cheering him on. He almost won a second term in office. Why the fuck are we up in arms over a cartoon skunk from the 1940s?
It reminds me of a classic George Carlin rant from the late 1980s, in which he went off about all of the ludicrous inconsistencies in American culture. In the above clip, he reminds us that gun shop owners have a list of stolen credit cards, but not a list of criminals and maniacs. And he adds, “now they’re thinking of banning toy guns… but they’re gonna keep the fuckin’ real ones!”
That rant was from 1988, and I can remember watching 90s and 00s era shows like 7th Heaven, in which the characters Ruthie and Simon aren’t allowed to play a game called “Baboom” or play with toy guns, and yet look at all of the shootings we’ve had since the late 1990s! To be sure, having grown up in a relatively innocent time, never having had to confront a security guard at school and seeing my classmates bringing their hunting rifles on school grounds, we didn’t worry about random acts of violence like we do now. And yet in those days, people weren’t trying to cancel things because they were politically incorrect. Or, at least a lot fewer people were trying to do it.
Does cancel culture really work? I don’t know that it does. I think it makes some things “forbidden fruit”. I’ll bet the six Dr. Seuss books that are no longer going to available are in high demand on eBay and Amazon now. In fact, last night as I was looking for something to watch, I noticed one of the trending shows on iTunes was a show that highlighted Pepe LePew’s cartoons! I haven’t thought or cared about Pepe LePew in probably 40 years. But suddenly, he’s relevant again, because people are calling for him to be “canceled”.
I honestly think a lot of the reason why so many conservatives are resistant to liberal ideas is because a lot of liberals come across as heavy handed, all knowing, and insulting. Which is not to say that the conservatives aren’t guilty of the same thing. Read any article about abortion, women’s rights, or the rights of LGBTQ people and you’ll read a lot of insulting, heavy handed, and just plain offensive conservative opinions. But liberals do the same thing, shaming conservatives for liking things like Pepe Le Pew, or The Dukes of Hazzard, or certain books by Dr. Seuss. At the same time, they tout themselves as being better people and look down on those who don’t agree with them. They show no willingness to understand why some people agree with conservative views. Instead, they simply mock them, and the conservatives respond in kind, and we have an “us versus them” situation. No understanding is ever reached; therefore, we can’t be open-minded and come together to accomplish things that will make the country better for EVERYONE. To me, it makes no fucking sense.
I’ll be honest, too. I’m a lot less concerned about certain offensive words and symbols than I am the dangerous and influential people behind those words and symbols. I grew up watching racist cartoons on a Christian television station. I was once a dedicated fan of The Dukes of Hazzard. I grew up in a place where people proudly displayed the Confederate flag. I even went to graduate school in a place where that flag flew over the Statehouse and I could see it from my window… at least until it was finally removed from the dome in 2000 and removed from the Statehouse grounds fifteen years later. I’m not saying it wasn’t time for the flag to come down. I’m not even saying that it’s wrong for the Confederate statues to come down. But I think the outrage some people have over those symbols is way out of sync with the real causes of the problem– that is, dealing with the negative attitudes and stereotypes that promote them. It’s a lot easier to cancel inanimate objects, though, than it is to deal with real people who make those items relevant.
In my view, someone like Donald Trump should have NEVER been allowed to run for president, for the very fact that he bragged about molesting women, was sued for racial discrimination, and has a long history of being a fucking creep. Put it this way. If he were going for a regular government position, he wouldn’t pass muster. He wouldn’t be able to get a security clearance. And after the attacks on the Capitol in January, we can see why he wouldn’t. But instead of STOPPING Trump and his cronies, we’re spending precious time and energy talking about Pepe Le Pew and Dr. Seuss. It’s ridiculous!
Look… at this point, I simply want things to get to a point at which we can have some semblance of peace and normalcy. I want to be able to go downtown and not worry about getting deathly ill. I want my husband to be home with me. I want my president to be a normal person who cares about the people he’s (or she’s) serving. I want to be able to go to a concert or a mall sans face mask, and without worry that someone will randomly shoot me. I want to be able to seek healthcare without worrying about going bankrupt. It would be nice if I could find a job with a living wage, if I needed to. I want all of those things for everybody else, as well.
ALL of those things are a hell of a lot more important to me, personally, than Pepe Le Pew’s rapey tendencies circa 1945. I don’t remember reading a lot of Dr. Seuss’s books when I was a child, although I do distinctly remember reading “And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street”, which was included in a book of stories I inherited from my older sisters. I was influenced by all kinds of questionable things in the media that many people worry will warp kids and ruin them. I’ll be honest. Having been around for going on 49 years, I don’t think this practice of canceling words, symbols, books, movies, tv shows, music, and cartoon characters has done anything to keep kids from being more fucked up than they were in my adolescence. If anything, I think things have gotten markedly worse than they were back then. Maybe we should rethink trying to change people’s beliefs and thoughts and do more to make life better and more fair for everyone… and keep narcissistic rapey assholes out of the White House, rather than banning fictional French cartoon skunks who sexually harass cartoon cats… Hey, at least Pepe wasn’t biased against different species, right? He has that going for him.
Here’s a repost of a book review I wrote of The Sins of Brother Curtis, the sordid story of a Mormon convert who molested a number of young boys. It was not a comfortable read for me, but it was a well-written and fascinating book. I gave it five stars.I originally wrote this piece for Epinions.com in 2011. I am reposting it as/is.
Because my husband is a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), I have done a lot of reading about Mormonism. I also have an interest in true crime. Some weeks ago, someone on the Recovery from Mormonism Web site posted about a book called The Sins of Brother Curtis: A Story of Betrayal, Conviction, and the Mormon Church (2011). The poster made the book sound compelling, so off I went to Amazon.com to download it for my Kindle.
Written by Lisa Davis, a veteran journalist who once wrote for Village Voice Media, The Sins of Brother Curtis is about a man named Franklyn Curtis and the many young boys he molested while a member of the LDS church. In 1991, Curtis molested a 12 year old boy named Jeremiah Scott. In 1997, Scott sued the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, alleging that the church knew of Curtis’s penchant for child molestation and did nothing to protect him or other boys in the church from Curtis. Moreover, Curtis had a long rap sheet acquired before he had become a Mormon and got involved with various church callings that allowed him to charm families and ingratiate his way into sexual relationships with boys.
Scott’s Seattle based lawyers, Tim Kosnoff and Joel Salmi, had a hell of a job on their hands. The church’s lawyers fought back vehemently against the allegations against the LDS church’s involvement in Curtis’s crimes. Scott’s lawyers tracked down over twenty different men who, as children, were victimized by Frank Curtis, who held church callings that put him into contact with boys, even though he had been excommunicated three times, twice for infractions that were related to his penchant for molesting children. Curtis’s crimes against children stretched back decades and across several state lines.
In her well-written expose, Davis unravels the complex story of a man whose perversions ruined lives and the church that apparently covered it up. She also explains in detail the convoluted and challenging process Scott’s lawyers navigated to try to get justice for their client. Franklyn Curtis was not involved in the civil suit or prosecuted for his crimes because he died in 1995 at the age of 92.
It took awhile to get through this book. That’s not because it wasn’t interesting; it’s more because the subject matter is very disturbing. Davis writes in an engaging style that is easy to read and follow, but she includes information that is frankly pretty nauseating. I don’t fault her for including the information, but will warn to squeamish types that the sins of Brother Curtis may make their skin crawl.
Davis includes photos, pictures of legal documents, and even a picture of a blank disciplinary form used to document church members’ infractions of church rules and disciplinary actions taken. The LDS church was forced to reveal its records of disciplinary actions taken against Frank Curtis, though it fought hard to keep those records confidential.
Davis reveals that the lawyers involved in this landmark case were somewhat disappointed in the outcome, even though it led to a sizeable financial settlement for their client, Jeremiah Scott. The lawyers were eventually approached by other victims who had suffered in silence and they have gone on to bring suits against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Catholic church, Boy Scouts of America, and the Salvation Army. There have also been other attempts to sue the LDS church for covering up sexual abuse toward minors. I couldn’t help but feel a bit unnerved and skeeved out reading about how so many young people are abused by adults involved in religious organizations. The young people no doubt trusted these people because they were members of their church.
I suspect that this book will be very uncomfortable reading for devout members of the LDS church. Some might feel defensive as they read about this case. Indeed, Lisa Davis once worked with the late Deborah Laake, a former member of the LDS church and a vocal opponent of it. Laake wrote a book called SecretCeremonies, which was published in the 1990s. It was a scathing account of her time in the church and was widely criticized by outraged Mormons. However, I have read that book with my husband and he has verified that it’s not full of lies. In her acknowlegements in The Sins of Brother Curtis, Davis thanks Deborah Laake for her bravery and for leading her to write her own book. Lisa Davis is not now and has never been Mormon, so I imagine some readers will claim that her viewpoint is skewed. I found her reporting fair and thorough, though it definitely does not cast the church in a flattering light.
While The Sins of Brother Curtis is ultimately a book about unspeakable crimes commited by an elderly pervert that will be unpleasant reading for many people, I think it’s an important book. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading about true crime, especially those involving religious organizations. I would also recommend it to anyone researching legal cases involving religious organizations and sexual abuse.
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Here’s a repost of my December 2018 follow up article about Heath J. Sommer with more information I uncovered. Again, I am reposting this because I may write about another doctor who abused patients.
A couple of days ago, I wrote a rant about comments on a news article I read. The Air Force Times had printed a piece about former Air Force psychologist Heath J. Sommer (also known as Heath Jacob Lind), who was just found guilty of six felony sexual assault charges. Sommer had been working at Travis Air Force Base, treating women who had been sexually assaulted and were looking for help getting over their traumas. The psychologist’s prescribed treatment of the sexual assault victims was what he called “exposure therapy“, which is, in fact, a legitimate approach to healing people with trauma and helping them move past anxieties. However, Sommer’s brand of treatment also included having his female patients have sex with him. In one case, he even told a client that if she didn’t submit to his “therapeutic intervention”, she would likely commit suicide within a year.
I read some of the comments left by readers of the Army Times, which had also disseminated the Air Force Times article. Sommer’s actions were disgusting enough, but there were also people commenting on how “dumb” the victims were to fall for Sommer’s assertion that they needed to have sexual contact with him in order to get over their traumas related to sexual assault. Although I’ve been around military folks my whole life and am used to some of the callous attitudes some servicemembers have, I must admit that sometimes I get really tired of some of the ignorance perpetuated by certain people in the military population. The military culture is imbrued with macho bullshit, and sometimes people in the culture don’t think beyond the obvious.
Anyway, once I ranted about dumb comments from Army Times readers, I decided I wanted to know more about this Heath Sommer character. After a couple of Google sessions, I quickly learned that Sommer, who has a Ph.D. in psychology, also fancies himself an author of “mental health” thrillers. He’s written several books, which are all for sale on Amazon.com. In fact, I found a blog post about Sommer’s writing that is somewhat revelatory. He offers his thoughts on terror, along with the interesting opening line “Horror is worse when it has pigtails.” Interestingly enough, one person who commented on that post wrote that Sommer doesn’t include graphic sex scenes or gore in his books. And yet, as a psychologist, he was quite graphic when he victimized his female clients. One woman was asked to perform fellatio on Sommer twice. He even complimented her on her technique.
Most of the rest of the information about Sommer, at least in the first results, was related to the crimes he has now been convicted of committing. I decided to hit Facebook to see what else I could learn. Sure enough, he has a page. At first blush, it’s innocuous enough. But then I noticed a picture of Sommer with a huge passel of children. I had read that he is a father and a husband… and, by the looks of his Facebook, it appears that he has at least nine kids. But the large family is not really what set off my “Modar”. It was his shorts.
I noticed that Sommer and his children were all wearing shorts that came at least to the knee. The only people I know of who regularly wear those kinds of shorts are people of the LDS persuasion. This is not to say that I necessarily believe Sommer’s religion has anything to do with his criminal actions. In fact, when I first saw pictures of him online, it didn’t occur to me that he was religious at all. In his mug shots, he appears kind of scruffy, with unkempt hair cut in an unattractive bowl style, a double chin, and facial hair. It’s not exactly the Mormon look. In other photos, he looks very different. He’s clean shaven and has a neat haircut, though remains a little creepy looking. I still wouldn’t have recognized him at first blush. In fact, after looking at his author page and comparing it to his mug shot, I even wondered if the two photos were of the same person.
I did some more digging. I found connections to the church via his Facebook friends, as well as his academic credentials. Two of his three degrees come from Idaho State University, and he also has ties to Pocatello, which is a very Mormon area. And then, I found Sommer listed on a Wiki page about LDS authors. Even with all of those ties, I still wondered if the psychologist and the author were the same people, since Sommer’s booking photo looks so different than other pictures I’ve seen. But the name “Heath Sommer” isn’t like “John Smith” or “Tom Brown”. It’s a somewhat unusual name. What are the odds that there are two Heath Sommers who are (or were) practicing clinical psychologists in California, both having lived in Idaho?
I write this knowing that some people might accuse me of bigotry for noting that this convicted sex offender is also a long shorts wearing member of the “one true church”. Just to be clear, once again– I don’t think that Sommer’s religion necessarily has any bearing on his criminal activity. He could have been just as creepy as a Catholic or a Jew… or as an atheist, for that matter. On the other hand, religion can play a part in damaging a person’s psyche. I have hung out on Recovery from Mormonism long enough to see the damage that the church can wreak on some people. There’s a big emphasis on looking and living the right way. In fact, the emphasis on appearance is pervasive enough that never Mormons like me can often spot them at ten paces.
The LDS church is very patriarchal and definitely shapes the attitudes of its members. There’s also a strong emphasis on sexuality and remaining “clean” and “chaste”. For example, while homosexuals can be church members, they are expected not to act on their same sex attraction. Members are expected to refrain from masturbation and are asked questions by church leaders about their sexual habits. From what I’ve read so far, it doesn’t appear that Sommer victimized any of his non Air Force affiliated patients. But it could be that none of them have stepped forward yet. According to news reports, Sommer’s victims were all female Air Force officers. In fact, one victim was a colonel, which is a pretty high rank. It makes me wonder if he had issues with powerful women in leadership positions. Now that I think about it, the church also has issues with women in powerful positions.
Also… I notice that when the news is good, some news outlets in heavily Mormon populated areas indicate whether or not a person in the story is LDS. Take, for instance, this article about two LDS men who were in a church meeting when they saved two girls’ lives after their car overturned in a canal and became submerged. The Facebook comments that followed the article are all about how the paper mentioned the Good Samaritans’ religion. Some people thought it was wrong, while others had no issue with it. A long argument ensued. Meanwhile, the newspaper is getting more readers as more folks weigh in on the controversy. When the news is bad, people would rather the news outlets not mention the religion. And yet, religion does shape attitudes, opinions, and lifestyle choices. So… I don’t know. Maybe Sommer would have been a molester regardless. Maybe not. But I did find it interesting, if only because I now pick up on the clues without even thinking about it much.
I feel very sorry for the victims, but I also feel sorry for Sommer’s family. Especially his children.
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