That brings us to the even more refreshing aspect of this controversy: It is not a left-right issue. I'm not normally one to celebrate bipartisan unity, but it's nice to know there are some things political or ideological opponents can agree on. Some of the most ardent and clear voices on the Polanski issue have been on the left.
Go into a bar or union hall and ask whether fat-cat directors should get special treatment when they rape 13-year-old girls and you'll discover that on this issue, the differences between "blue America" and "red America" are vanishingly small.
And yet, there is a controversy. Many of the international community's leading lights are rallying to the Free Polanski movement. A petition is circulating with such names as Harvey Weinstein, Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen on it. (No surprise that Woody's on board, given that he married his adopted daughter.) The arguments in Polanski's defense range from lawyerly red herrings to intellectual piffle to horrendous affronts to human decency. Whoopi Goldberg (no relation) dismissed the allegations because she was sure whatever Polanski did, it didn't amount to "rape rape."
It all boils down to the fact that Polanski is famous and talented and an Olympian artist, living above the world of mortals. Indeed, if he didn't rape that girl -- and he did -- Polanski would still be considered a pig in most normal communities. This is the man who, after all, started dating Nastassja Kinski when she was only 15 and he was in his 40s. His taste for teenage girls is an established fact.
His defenders don't care. They are above and beyond bourgeois notions of morality, even legality.
And that's the main reason I am grateful for this controversy. It is a dye marker, "lighting up" a whole archipelago of morally wretched people. With their time, their money and their craft, these very people routinely lecture America about what is right and wrong. It's good to know that at the most fundamental level, they have no idea what they're talking about.