The Image of a Bad Place
University of Rhode Island Women’s Studies Professor Donna Hughes is pessimistic about the likelihood that Rhode Island will decline to correct its permission of prostitution:
AFTER MY EXPERIENCE at the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday, I believe Rhode Island is headed for a human rights disaster and nationwide political embarrassment. It is becoming apparent that the Senate is not going to pass a much-needed prostitution bill. Rhode Island will continue to have an expanding number of spa-brothels, prostitution of minors in clubs, and no law that will enable the police to stop it. …
The end of the General Assembly session is near. From my observation, I believe the Senate is going to let another year go by without a prostitution law. This will be a tragedy for victims caught in the sex industry, a black eye for Rhode Island’s reputation, and a victory for the pimps.
Between those two paragraphs — the first and the last of the article — Professor Hughes describes the (ahem) colorful atmosphere of the Judiciary hearing as well as some of the political circumstances of the times. The scene blends with various other news items in the state to evoke a common image in American movies and books of the Place Gone Wrong. I’m thinking of Pottersville, from It’s a Wondeful Life, and (for those of my generation) Biff Tannen’s remake of Hill Valley in Back to the Future 2 — the archetype of a place governed by the wrong people, succumbing to the wrong impulses, bereft of goodness and soul.
Matching up the particulars of that cliché, it’s difficult not to find Rhode Island to be well on its way. Prostitution. Gambling. General corruption.
You know, maybe it just needs to be said in order to give others permission to believe it: Sometimes that which has been known to be bad is, indeed, bad.