Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Arnold and Dominique: The Arificial Distinction between Sins and Crimes

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2011 at 9:25 am

In today’s WAPO Juliet Williams makes what she feels is a much warranted distinction between a sex scandal and a crime.  Strauss-Kahn is accused of a sex crime, while the former Governor of California has admitted to scandalous behavior, but the two types of sexual impropriety should not be conflated.  She complains that the mass media has encouraged one to see the similarities of these activities without emphasizing the qualitative difference between an assault and a betrayal of trust. Defenders of Clinton did the same thing. Sins are a private matter, while crimes are public.  Certain crimes are forgivable, like lying about your sins, because they should have been left to be private in the first place.

Within a crime there is usually a sin, but in intimate matters sins abound whereas crimes are scarcer.  In matters between him and her crimes emanate in most cases from lack of consent. Sins, however, are derived from the rules dictated by the Higher Authority.  Arnold sinned, and so, allegedly, did Strauss-Kahn, but only Strauss-Kahn may, if convicted, go to jail.

This dichotomy between sins and crimes only exists in a bifurcated system of values.    The Talmud sees rape as a more serious version of other forbidden sexual relationships, but the severity is in degree, but not in kind.

Can you imagine being the so very visible yet innocent child of a scandal and how that might effect your sense of self, through no fault of your own? By clarifying that what Strauss-Kahn allegedly did is much worse, there is a wink and a nod to those men who cheat, those women who are complicit. And to those unwitting spouses who were the last to know, there is precious little sympathy.

Juliet Wilson declares that clearly what Strauss-Kahn may have done is worse than what Ahhhrnold has admitted to doing.  Tell that to Maria Shriver and their children. For once I’m on the side of blurring categories to say a plague on both behaviors and the resultant suffering that will certainly live long after the headlines. Both of their actions, alleged and admitted, have one thing in common. These men live in a reality that entitles them to not play by the rules. What they don’t realize is that their example matters. They give permission for others to do the same.

It would behoove us to not make light of one behavior in order to highlight the severity of another.  Each one is awful in its own right.

The unsung heroes in the sordid Strauss-Kahn episode are the NYPD. Maybe Strauss-Kahn thought that nobody would prosecute the head of the IMF at the word of a chambermaid, a “nobody”.  I imagine what he didn’t realize is that the NYPD viewed this as an attack on a fellow New Yorker, and no Frenchman is going to come in and have his way with one of ours–we don’t care who you think you are.

Good for them.

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  1. Hey, Avi! (Greetings from Saint Anthony – I mean San Antonio – Teeeexas. I found your piece on sin and crime (against women) thoughtful and thought-provoking. My full comment is on your Facebook page.

    BTW, you inspired me to create my own blog page on WordPress.com! We shall see what comes of it!

    [BTW BTW, it’s (likely) no reflection on *you* (notice the wiggle room I left myself) I found two typos in your otherwise flawless post: they became grammatical errors: there/their and effect/affect. That’s the down side of auto-complete and spell check! The cure? Proofread and proofread again! *Down with spell check* (when used alone)! Ugh!

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