Friday, February 29, 2008

Letting Go of the Bernie Ward Story

The sad, sad story of Bernie Ward has been at the forefront of my mind for the past several days. If he were just anyone, I might not give the matter a second thought. But when you've listened to him on the radio as long and as much as I have, corresponded with him on occasion, and come to feel as though you know him so well that he could almost be a friend or even a member of the family, one can't help but feel virtually consumed with disappointment toward Bernie, sadness for him and his family, and anger toward those who seem to be reveling in his suffering and earnestly say the ugliest things about what they'd like to see happen to him.

There are those who believe that he deserves to go federal prison for a very long time (and to suffer the stereotypical indignities thereof) for briefly possessing and sharing three pornographic pictures involving minors with an online dominatrix while cyber-chatting with her. He claims that he was conducting research for a book. However, the police transcripts of the sordid chats cast this in doubt.

In any case, the law says motives don't matter, and supporters of this strict law, in tandem with Bernie's detractors, say that the government must be merciless with child predators and with those who aid and abet them in any manner.

Is Bernie a child predator? He wasn't charged with child molestation, and his children are still living with him. Did his actions support child predator-pornographers to any degree? I think it would be exceedingly difficult to argue that his reinforcement of child pornography was anything more than vanishingly small.

But that's just what I think. Many if not most of those who've discussed this in public forums disagree, and I guess there's no point in my fretting about Bernie's fate or arguing with others about what it should be. What will be will be. However, I hope it turns out better for him and his family than it now looks like it will.


Anonymous said...

I liked your eassy on Bernie Ward. I troo have been consumed with despair over this whole affair. There was no better and more humane voice for simple human justice than Bernies. I too had listened almost every night for years, decades, to this most articulate and generous guy. I miss him like crazy, it eats me up. 10PM every night used to mean "Bernie time" and I would tune in. So I have had to re-adjust my life and I dont even listen anywhere as much to radio any more since Bernies demise, let alone KGO.

I felt like I could have written your essay word for word. There's not a whole lot more I can add. Let's hope that some facts come out in his trial that will serve to exonerate Bernie, who it seems suffered a lapse of judgment during that time in question. I don't believe the chat scripts were for real, that is, I think they were complete fantasies. Even if true, they indicate, if anything, that he may need psychiatric help, not imprisonment. I do believe he suffered from chronic depression and maybe sleep apnea had something to do with it. I don't know.

I too am sickened by the so-called Christians who want to see him tortured, further humiliated, or even executed. Most of these horrible people are right-wingers or fundamentalists of the sort that Bernie deftly bettered in debate on his show. He was a man in control of his facts and that, plus an excellent memory for same, made him such a great talk-show host. Plus he had a razor sharp humor.

But let's wish Bernie and his family well. I don't know what more you or I can do. If there is, please let us know.

Martin in San Francisco

Nagarjuna said...

Martin, I share your belief that what Bernie said in those chats was fictional. I think he said those things and sent those pictures not because he's had or wants to have sex in porno theaters or with kids, including his own, but because he was trying, for whatever reason, to come across to the "mistress" as "naughty." Nevertheless, I don't want to even think of how Bernie's family must feel, for surely they've read the transcripts or, at least, been made aware of their essential contents.

I really don't see how Bernie's going to be able to avoid federal prison and, probably, permanent sex offender status. So, not only have we undoubtedly lost his media voice forever and local charities have lost the copious contributions he raised, but he will never again be allowed to teach children or the public at large for a living. I really don't know what he's going to do, and I worry that he might become so despondent that he'll do something awful.

I've often thought of how I wish I could go back in time knowing what I do now and do certain things very differently. I can well imagine how much more Bernie must wish the same for himself!

Thanks for writing, Martin.

Anonymous said...

For days now your website has been absolutely determined to crash my browser (Safari), thus until just now I've been unable to read more than the first few lines of your excellent post. So much did I want to read the whole thing, I decided to download Firefox and see if that would make a difference. So far, so good. :)

I don't know what I can say that you haven't already said. I worry about Bernie, I miss something awful, and I'm baffled by his behavior. Yes, his references to his kids in the chat transcripts have troubled me deeply, role-playing or not.

What's more, I don't really think he should have gone fishing around for moral inconsistencies in other people--regardless of whatever mindblowing hypocrisy he believed he would ultimately uncover--when we are all of us clearly teeming with inconsistencies ourselves. Personally, I believe that this was the greatest of his follies.

But all that aside, I still love the man. I guess I always will. I can't help loving him; I took him into my heart much too long ago to throw him out now. Bernie's like family; you take the good with the bad -- even the really, really bad.

Thank you so much for this blog post; it's virtually the only Bernie-related article on the net that resonates with my own feelings.

Take care.

Anonymous said...

In contrast to what has been said, I have mixed feelings for Bernie. I've listened to him for many years and was always struck by how vicious and cutting he would be with anyone who disagreed with him politically. If this were a Republican talk show host, Bernie would have a field day with it and verbally crucify the person. I do agree that the offense was kind of minor and does not deserve any significant jail time, if it deserves jail time at all. On the other hand, and this is entirely conjecture, the fact that he had so many screennames and email addresses to me suggests that there was probably a lengthy history of this kind of behaviour. I have no problem with online fantasy role playing, but the casualness with which he distributed child porn to a stranger strikes me and if I had to guess, I would say there was probably a history of this. In any event my heart goes out to anybody in trouble and I wish him well.

Anonymous said...

I truly feel bad for, and hope for the best for, Bernies family. Bernie though, I feel absolutely no compassion for. I agree with what one of the posters said earlier. The alacrity with which he sent the images to a unknown person is more than just "troubling", it is downright sickening. He must have been doing it for much longer to feel so comfortable sending that content out...unsolicted. She did ask for photo's but she didn't ask for child pornography. He sent that on his own.

It is a sad fall for one who I listened too for a great many years. But I am not delusional, and will sadly listen to others who hopefully are not of similar

Nagarjuna said...

I don't understand why you feel "absolutely no compassion" for Bernie. You say you listened to him "for many years." You must have enjoyed or somehow benefited from what he offered. Yet, now that he's lost his livelihood, suffered humiliation and widespread ostracism, possibly alienated his family forever, and may very well spend years in federal prison enduring God knows what and have to register and be permanently treated by the legal system as a sex offender when gets out, even though there's no indication that he ever actually molested any children, you feel NO compassion for a man who has taken what you yourself call a "sad fall"? Why is that?