The law and the legal system behind it have been meditated on by thinkers from Franz Kafka to Terry Gilliam and this week in Colorado we find another instance of its all-too-real surrealism. The Colorado Springs Gazette reports on seven middle schoolers who were suspended after texting a photo of a naked girl to each other. At almost every turn in the story, where technological capabilities have obviously outpaced legal and moral sensibilities, officials have put the cart before the horse.
Perhaps mild praise is in order that the kids are still alive. But for the grace of God they have neither been imprisoned nor put to death for their offense; they have merely been removed from the public education system for expressing their natural curiosity about sex. That an assistant to the El Paso District Attorney says the State aims to reeducate the children rather than charge them with a criminal offense demonstrates the depth, or shallowness, of reason in the case.
The school district that has suspended the middle schoolers has posted the “Realities and Dangers of ‘Sexting’” on their website specifying two felony laws that are applicable in sexting cases: sexual exploitation of children and promotion of obscenity to a minor.
The supreme irony, according to the Gazette, is that the cell phones purchased by parents to keep their kids safe have now become a portal for danger. I must ask: what danger?
Child pornography is a perverse and real problem, but pubescent teens taking naked pictures of each other is not. Rather, applying strict legal code to benign, and probably even healthy, expressions of sexual curiosity is perverse; that kind of demonization of sexuality is more akin in cause to true sexual crimes than the matter at hand.
Our obsessions with safeguarding privacy and security through legal precedent lead to us to see ghosts were there are no ghosts. We grimace when we should laugh and we laugh when we should grimace. That is the culture of irony and the irony of our culture.