Roman Polanski is a free man. You got a problem with that?
I'm sure that Glenn Beck will somehow find a way to blame this on some Obamaian socialist conspiracy, but the news Monday morning that a Swiss judge has set Roman Polanski free is probably just the latest example of how different European attitudes about sexual abuse are from the views we hold here in America.
It may well be that the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office has bungled the Polanski case again, especially since Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf made it clear that the district attorney's request to extradite the 76-year-old filmmaker was undermined by "persisting doubts concerning the presentation of the facts of the case." But it seems clear that the Swiss -- and the French and the Italians, who keep electing as their presidents guys who seem more infatuated with young women than even Hugh Hefner -- just aren't that worked up about the fact that Polanski forced himself on an underage girl more than 30 years ago.
In America, having sex with a 13-year-girl is a crime worthy of punishment, no matter how talented Polanski is as a filmmaker. In Europe, it's hardly worthy of a raised eyebrow, which is why Polanski is still lionized in most European countries, receiving countless awards and happily accepted in polite society. This drives a lot of Americans crazy, since we're at heart a Puritan nation. But in Europe, attitudes are different. Not better. I'm not sure even worse. Just different.
I still believe that if Polanski wants to return to America, he should have to submit himself to the American judicial system and pay whatever price has to be paid. But I suspect this rejection of the district attorney's case marks the end of any persistent efforts to persuade the Europeans to go along with our mores. Hearing that the Swiss had rejected any extradition efforts, France's Minister of Culture, Frederic Mitterrand, said, "The time has now come for calm," as if he were speaking to the crazed Spaniards celebrating their World Cup victory. But what he was really saying, with a supreme Gallic shrug, is that it's time for us to move on. When it comes to Polanski, history will be the only judge.
Photo: Roman Polanski at the 2002 Spanish premiere of "The Pianist." Credit: Carlos Alvarez / Getty Images