Friday, 20 May 2011

Blood and Orchids

It is going to become another beautiful morning here on the North East coast of England at South Shields on my hill overlooking the mouth of the river Tyne at 6.45 am Friday 20th May 2011, and I have reached the point, some 75 minutes after waking to the alarm, when I am ready for breakfast and engaging my brain in a prolonged period of applied thinking and writing.

I return to my desk for a couple of minutes while a Manx kipper cooks in the microwave. I prefer the prepare kipper in a microwaveable bag which avoids the necessity of the cleaning the microwave but today I cook eat and wash up, resisting my natural inclination to laziness and switching off the grey cells, and begin to write

The more expensive version of the kipper with head and bones included also avoids the excessive colouring of the prepared varieties but I suspect the quantity of preservatives and additives is the same. We all like things to be dressed up to please us and protect us from the uncomfortable. Take rape for example.

The Justice Minister, the affable Kenneth Clark, cricket lover and whisky drinker has been telling it as it is resulting the official opposition calling for his resignation together with sections of the mass media. He was then forced to make a public apology even though what he said in the first place was true and his purpose was to bring greater justice to women who have been raped and reported the matter to the police. Mr Clark was forced to apologise albeit for the reaction orchestrated by others because of understandable male guilt and female frustration.

Men force themselves on women, including girls and children and on other men, boys and children who they do not know, as part of blood conflicts, tribal warring, sexual frustration, male importance and impotence, mental disturbance and uncomplicated lust. For centuries these horrific acts of violence on the part of one human being against another went unpunished, considered the spoils of warfare and rights of passage, and frequently if reported to the authorities the victim was made to feel responsible because of their social position, the colour of their skin, what they wore or did not wear.

Knowing the reality of predatory sexuality, Muslims organise their lives by doing all they can to protect the females closest to them by insisting their bodies are fully covered when in the presence of other males. Such measures are frequently condemned by the mass media which turned on the Minister while displaying images of scantily dressed women on other pages. I have sympathy for those who argue that teenage girls wearing micro skirts which reveal the wearing of thongs because of their shortness or bare midriffs, and with bra showing tops with open cleavages, are taking avoidable risks in public, but I also sympathise with the young women who want to express their sense of growing independence, individuality and personal freedom without unsolicited attention. I remain a believer in freedom to as well as freedom from.

The problem, Kenneth Clark, and the government was seeking to, is that less that ten percent of reported rapes result in a conviction leading to imprisonment because of the legal difficulties of proving the offence in situations where there has been consent in the relationship short of vaginal or anal penetration. Mr Clark and the government were raising the possibility of a plea bargain for a reduced sentence upon admission in court saving the victim the ordeal of a court appearance and consequential publicity, the expenses of a contested trial and an overall improvement in conviction rates. He was not suggesting that rape in any form was not a serious offence or that the victim did not suffer for the rest of their lives. For most victims of most crimes the consequences are life long and often life changing for the worse.

I have been in the same position as Ken Clark. I once was asked about a matter and replied accurately but this was interpreted as an attack on the questioner and their ability to make a political point. In fact they were making a personal attack which I was able to contest and demonstrate the lack of validity in what was being said. However the matter was pressed and I provided a report which explained why what I had said was accurate but in introducing the matter apologised to the individual and others who a had joined in the attack by saying I was not questioning their right to raise and press the matter and apologised if I had given that impression which was sufficient to placate and lance the momentum that was building for my blood.

The minefield of the subject was also demonstrated in a recent two part made for television film very loosely based made on a true event in 1930’s Hawaii. I saw the first part of Blood and Orchids a couple of week’s back and could not immediately find the concluding part until this week when I recorded a late night showing of the film which had a good cast with Kris Kristofferson, Jane Alexander, Madeleine Stowe and Jose Ferrer.

The film is set in what is now the USA state of Hawaii but was then a fictional private fiefdom of one family holding absolute power over the government and institutions, treating the indigenous population with contempt as has always been the situation in the reality when entrepreneurs and their armies taker over a country with available space and other forms of natural wealth. The married daughter of the matriarch leaves a country club social event for an assignation with her lover, the best friend of her husband who serves together as naval officer. He is horrified when after they have had sex she tells him she is pregnant and that this means the matter can be brought into the open and they can be together. He beats up the woman and she is left for dead.

Unfortunately for them four local youths who haven out drinking come across the body and seeing that she is alive one insists they take her to hospital where they leave before being questioned. Under pressure from her mother the woman alleges that she was raped by the four Hawaiian youths who are arrested and charged with rape and attempted murder. The daughter also agrees to an abortion performed by a local doctor under the supervision of the white consultant covering up that in fact the child was three months alive and not the consequence of the rape. Worse is to follow because the husband kills the young man who persuaded his friends to take the woman to the hospital during an open court session and then several of his ship mates try to torture the remaining three young men into confessions when they are release during the period of mistrial and the decision to first hold the trial of the husband where the matriarch employs one the best mainland lawyers, played by Jose Ferrer, to defend the murderer of an innocent man.

The willingness of the system with public support in Hawaii and the United States from the white supremacy is underlined in two ways. There is an Island Princess who is now living in seclusion away from the main island who is persuaded by a young local lawyer appointed by the court as his first case to give help to free the men unjustly and conspiratorially accused. The attorney begins a relationship with the sister of the main accused who is then murdered for pressing his innocence. She, her family, the three other young men have become the real victims of the alleged rape and will be adversely affected for the rest of their lives.

The greater part of the film is devoted to the local policeman assigned to bring the four young men to justice realising that they are being set up and his attempts to expose the conspiracy of individuals and the system Eventually he is able to do so because the adulterous women breaks down at the trial of her husband and blurts out that the four young men are not guilty and that her husband killed an innocent man. Eventually he gets the proof when the consultant and the doctor who performed the abortion admit that the child was three months of age within the womb. The officer’s best friend is arrested. His shipmates are arrested. The husband has to live with the knowledge that he murdered an innocent man and that his wife and best friend betrayed him and his wife then commits suicide. The matriarch is to be prosecuted for her part in the conspiracy and has to live with finding the body of her daughter, that she engineered the killing of her only grand child and that her actions led to the beginning of he end of white supremacy on the Island (I wish). The nice policeman has a holiday romance with the wife of the defence attorney to add to the impression that this is story of romance, passion and honour gone wrong.

The film is very loosely based on real events and in several respects is a travesty of truth and justice and which in turn underlines the often complexity of rape cases to which Kenneth Clarke alluded.

The actual case did involve the wife of a naval officer in 1932. The woman’s mother was Grace Hubbard Fortescue the grand daughter of Gardiner Greene Hubbard the first President of the National Geographical Society. She had married Major Granville Fortescue one of the sons of Robert Barnwell Roosevelt and although not a wealthy family she and her daughter Thalia lived an upper class lifestyle.

Thalia married a naval Lieutenant, Thomas Masie who was stationed at Pearl Harbour and because of the way she had been raised Thalia considered herself superior to the other officer wives and kept herself apart and was generally disliked by them as a consequence. The marriage was not successful and there were public fights as well as heavy drinking. On September 12th 1931 the couple attended an event at a nightclub in Waikiki and during the evening Mrs Massie got into an argument with another officer, slapping his face and walking out of the club. Her husband not seeing the incident assumed she had became tired and had gone home.

When Lieutenant Massie contacted home to check his wife had arrived safely he found she was in a state so he returned and she said she had been raped by several Hawaiian men. What later emerged is that she had been found by the roadside by a Mrs Bellinger at 1 am who had wanted to take her to hospital but Thalia insisted she should be taken to her home. She also did not want the husband to involve the police but her had insisted on this allegedly after finding that his wife’s jaw was broken. At first she said it was too dark to identify any of the men or their car.

Horace Ida had been d riving the car of his sister that night with Joseph Kawakawa a well known local prize fighter and three others. Their vehicle was nearly hit by that driven by a couple, Mr and Mrs Peebles, and following an argument Joseph hit the woman in the face. She reported what happened to the police giving a time and location which made it unlikely to impossible these young men could have been involved in the alleged rape of Thalia.

So when the police arrested him Joseph thought it was for the incident and was shocked to be charged with the rape. The previous incident was not mentioned. It subsequently became evident that some of the police involved that because a black man had hit a white woman they should charge with the greater offence of rape and Thalia was coached by the police with the descriptions and an almost accurate car number plate

Rear Admiral Yates Stirling Commandant of the US Navy District is recorded as saying that he was minded to collect several naval men, hunt down the gang and string them up, while a newspaper described Thalia as a white woman of refinement and culture reminding of the judge when referring to the wife of an international writer and deputy chairman of the Tory Party when he was accused of perjury or the judge in the High Court case in which I was involved who initially mistook me for the plaintiff because I was in court wearing a suit collar and tie and he was not and changed his manner accordingly.

It became evident that given the location of the altercation it was difficult or impossible for the vehicle to have been in the part of the island where the alleged rape took place and that there were witnesses who saw Thalia being followed by a white man as she left the night club and that the policed had planted information with these matter not being mention in court. The police were in fact divided and the speculation grew some of which appeared in the local media ranging from the Thalia having had a relationship with one of the five to the allegation that she was having an affair with one of her husband’s shipmates and he had returned home to find them together and her beat her up.

It was only at this point that Thalia’s mother Grace Fortescue arrived on the island and commenced to organise the defence of her daughter’s good name. Admiral Stirling became anxious about the situation reaching the mainland media to reveal his lack of control as racial tension on the island mounted. Every effort was made to keep the story off the mainland and in court after three weeks the jury could not reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared.
It was at this point that the matriarch talked her son in law into kidnapping Joseph , who happened to be the darkest skinned of the defendants, and with the help of two others the man was tortured and then shot and his body dumped. Fortunately the kidnapping was reported and a police stopped the car in which Grace, Thomas and the two others were travelling because the blinds were drawn and all four were arrested and the charged with murder.

The story reached the mainland and given white supremacy throughout most of the United States at the time, the emphasis was on the lawlessness of the natives despite the admissions that the white four had collectively kidnapped, tortured and murdered

Clarence Darrow, the most famous attorney of the day dropped his current case to travel Hawaii to defend the four for a then princely sum of $40000. He was socially connected to the Fortescues and the Roosevelts. In revealing the true sign of the times although Thalia became angry in court and stormed out when shown to be the nasty lying woman she was, the rest of the white filled court room is said to have erupted in applause. Instead of murder the juryt returned a verdict of manslaughter fuelling the anger among the white supremacists that the four had not been acquitted and among the suppressed people at the continuing perversion of justice. Worse was to follow as the 10 year sentence was commuted to one hour served in in the office of the Governor and the four left the island. Thalia and her husband divorced in 1934 and she committed suicide in 1963. Grace died in 1979, the husband in 1987 after the CBS TV production was released. Charges against the four remaining defendants to the rape charge were also dropped.

The film is therefore yet another injustice upon the original injustice because it ignored the police involvement in the framing and persecution of the Hawaiians and the extent of white supremacist extremism that was extensively widespread in USA society and which remains but less so to this day.

The Hawaiian Convention centre in Waikiki was built on the site of the night club. In 2006 the American Bar Association met there and among the events of the events they held a rerun of the trial of the alleged rapists and found them not guilty, mainly because there was no way they could have been at the two places within the times given.

This only serves to emphasises how understandably emotive the subject of rape has always been, that the law itself had always been involved in manipulations and at times perversion of justice and injustice. I was conceived as the consequence of an effective rape of my mother by a Catholic priest so I know what I am talking about.

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