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If You Meet Buddha on the Road, Kill Him
If You Meet Buddha on the Road, Kill Him
by Sheldon Kopp
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 5.59

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Misunderstanding or misrepresentation?, 27 April 2013
I first read this book some years ago and found it fascinating, wise and often moving, but hadn't looked at it in a long while. When I read the review by Ecosurfer I was therefore a little perplexed. I certainly didn't remember Sheldon Kopp 'justifying' convicted paedophiles or saying that beating children was fine, so decided to go back to the book and check out some of Ecosurfer's comments. It turned out that these are either based on misunderstandings of what Kopp says, or are blatant attempts to misrepresent or mislead.

First of all, the accusation that Kopp is patronising to women and tells them to join the Women's Movement. Actually, what the author says is 'In my own work with female patients, I try to encourage them to sort out those parts of the problem that belong to all women, to seek the support of their sisterhood, to explore Women's Liberation Movement meetings if they wish, and to find political solutions for the political problems'. There's more on this subject, but I don't see that the tone of any of it is patronising, and Kopp plainly isn't 'telling' anyone to do anything.

There are two cases in the book concerning convicted sex offenders who might be described as 'male paedophiles'. At no point does Kopp say that paedophiles 'are no better or worse than the rest of us'; he does not purport to 'understand' the serial raping of children, or to suggest that paedophiles should have children and families of their own. Ecosurfer says in his (her?) review 'one of his patients...convicted of raping young boys.. who on Kopp's recommendation is paroled, moves in with a single mother'. Kopp apparently also says that the single mother should not be allowed to know that the man moving in with her is a paedophile and that the child rapist 'deserves a second chance'. All of this is complete rubbish. What Kopp actually says is this: 'Eventually, a short while before his release, he (Ross, the paedophile) began to talk longingly about a young woman he had known, a widow left with two small kids when her husband was drowned at sea. I never did find out how it all worked out. Ross never called or wrote once he hit the streets'. So, no 'recommendations' from Kopp (as to 'parole', or anything else), and we have no idea whether Ross got together with the young widow at all.

It's true that the account of Ross is not unsympathetic, but it's made clear that he had an appalling childhood at the hands of a violent foster mother who subjected him to repeated beatings. The context of Ross's crimes is that he was a merchant sailor who on arrival in foreign ports would seek out underage boys, usually ones that looked ill-fed and uncared for, for sex. The account says 'Having thus captivated the boy, he would take him to eat as much as he could hold of whatever he wanted, buy him the clothes he most admired, give him more money than he had ever possessed, and then take him to a furnished room...He insisted that very few of the boys left, and so he knew for sure that many wanted his love'. The last part might be self-deluding, but the point is that Ross does not appear to have used violence. Obviously it could be argued that having sex with young boys is in itself to ill-treat them, but from the long and detailed account of Ross in the book, he hardly fits into the same category as a 'serial rapist'.

Finally, Ecosurfer suggests Kopp says that beating children is fine. Kopp does not say this. The point he is trying to make is that physical beatings, in and of themselves, may not be the worst things that parents do to their children because they are at least a relatively 'honest and open' sort of punishment. He's not advocating beatings or saying they are a good thing, just that the various psychological pressures/terrors that parents sometimes inflict on their offspring are insidious and may in the long run be far more damaging to the child. Ross recounts how, after he had received yet another severe beating from his foster mother,'she'd make me come over to her and tell her that I loved her and was sorry for being so ungrateful to the only good mother God gave me'. At this point (but not before), Kopp says there were groans of pain from every man in the therapy group and gasps of 'what a thing to do to a kid' and 'You poor bastard'

In short, Ecosurfer's review imputes to Kopp views that the latter does not hold, and that indeed seem to be largely the product of Ecosurfer's own imagination (or invention). His comments, I suggest, are best ignored.

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