Hominy & Hash
THE LEGACY OF CHARLOTTE TEMPLE
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Last week, John Walsh, host of "America's Most Wanted" television show, stood beside President Bush and watched as the President signed into law what he has most wanted for the 25 years since his son, Adam, was abducted and subsequently murdered by person or persons still unknown.
"The Adam Walsh Child Safety and Protection Act" is designed to list every known sex offender in a registry available to law enforcement across the nation. Failure to register or failure to record a change of address is punishable by time in prison.
"There, that's that," you might say. But is it? We have learned how to handle them once we catch them but stopping them before the damage is done is something else. We have names for them - predators, pedophiles, guilty of depraved indifference - we all know what we're talking about because in some way, large or small, we have been exposed to their depravity. "Exposed" is a good word since they do expose their warped characters and twisted minds in preying upon children. A degenerate is on a slippery slope down into places where moral standards are not met and deterioration follows.
A pervert, a word of description we commonly use for all of the above, is really just distorted; he uses what we would consider natural appetites and desires as means to other ends. He's kind of obvious - obvious enough for us not to leave him alone with our children.
We have a whole parcel of pedophiles out there. By the way, pedophile is defined simply as "sexually attracted to children." And yet, we jail them every day for crimes against children - a far cry from merely being sexually attracted.
Anyone who has been on a subway in New York regularly, soon becomes aware of the sexual deviants leaning on and brushing against impressionable young girls and women in ways that just "possibly" might not be an accost - so she won't scream out - but yet, she feels funny.
It won't be until she leaves the car that she notices he left his "mark" on her coat. It is so common that the savvy strap holder might position her foot against his and press down - hard!
When I was walking home from high school with three or four girlfriends (decades ago) we would pass a street level window and be shocked by an exhibitionist with shades down only as far as he needed to expose his nakedness to us as we passed. As freshmen, we paled and hurried our pace until we gasped and said to each other "Did you see ?"
As sophomores, we giggled. We had learned that exhibitionists will not hurt you; they only want a reaction. As juniors we totally turned away, walking backwards to thwart his intention of shocking the teen-aged girls.
As seniors, having a plan this time, we stopped, looked, pointed and laughed our heads off yelling, "Hey look at the weirdo, look at him there in the window." I don't know if anyone took notice, but the shade was pulled down and we kept on walking. We never considered reporting it. We would have been too embarrassed.
Around this time, I told my older brother about the man in the window and some other "Creepers" as we called them, who would drive slowly close to the curb. These were the ones we ran from, fast. Little girls would sometimes approach the car because he'd say: "Do you want some candy?"
My big brother told me the world is full of these creeps and made sure I knew how serious it could be. He told me of a girl who was buried in Trinity Church Cemetery "right there on Wall Street." He said she had been abused (offering no details) and someone was kind enough to bury her there instead of Potters Field.
Her marker has no details, just a name - and it wasn't even her correct name. I'm familiar with Trinity Church, having worked on Broadway and Wall Street for a few years, and I know she is now in the company of Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton, to name two notables.
I decided to look into this and with the Internet at hand, I made short shrift in discovering who is buried in the Churchyard at Trinity Church. I got the list of names, dates of birth and death, a map of the burial plots, places the politicians in 1780 were re-interred at later dates and a grave with no details: Charlotte Temple.
A footnote revealed she was the subject of a book by Susannah Rowson called "A Tale of Truth." Ms. Rowson declared every word was true but names were changed. Charlotte was really named Stanley. I downloaded the entire book from the rare first edition, the first published book in America, 1794, best seller in England and for more than 100 years never out of print. <http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/RowChar.html>
Charlotte was seduced, cast aside, and led a life of unwarranted degradation before dying in her father's arms. Her seducer came in crying and apologizing, asking to be whipped. The father said: "If thou wert the seducer of my child, they own reflections will be punishment." Susannah Rowson had created a name for her subject and she was known world wide by that name. It is fitting that her grave marker bear the name of the novel's woebegone fair young lady, victim of a man-of-the-world who just "wanted his way with her."
Today, we witness the outpouring of love for the victims of these crimes; flowers, balloons and teddy bears. And, still today, they say the grass around Charlotte Temple's grave is greener from all the tears visitors shed. I don't believe that old seducer spent much time reflection about what he had done, any more than I believe our present-day predators care one whit about what they have done.
They are all opportunists of the first order. They leave their homes with days totally unplanned and no intention of exercising power over an innocent. The fact that they have no intention does not mean their acts are unintentional. As soon as they see what could possibly gratify them, their next step is obvious, they know the plan, and it is intentional.
This has been going on far too long. We've rounded up the usual suspects, we know where they are and where to find them. Now what do we do? Like Charlotte's seducer, should we leave them to their own reflections?