Now is the time for your tears

Stared at the person who killed for no reason
Who just happened to be feelin’ that way without warnin’
And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished
And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance
William Zanzinger with a six-month sentence.

The judge in Bob Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”

Those of us who listened to Bob Dylan’s songs in the 1960s knew that Hattie Carroll was a real person who was killed by a man who was drunk and who said he had no memory of the crime. The song, typical Dylan, certainly expressed how many of us felt about the light sentence.

stanfordI can’t help but think of this song when I think of  the absurd, six month sentence handed down to Brock Turner for his rape of an unconscious woman in the Stanford University case. There is outrage over this: as there should be. Turner’s father has added to the outrage by calling the rape “20 minutes of action.” The victim, whose name I hope we never know, released a powerful statement that no words of mine can possibly enhance.

Updated 6/9: NBC news reported today that Turner will leave jail three months early due to good behavior.

At the end of Dylan’s song, he sings, “now is the time for your tears.” In terms of Brock Turner, we are past tears into outrage. The tears, though, are for the victim whose life will be forever changed no matter how she works past the terror, shame and scars. I don’t know where the judge’s brains were at when the sentence was concocted, but they appear to have been sitting in the same commode with the prevailing notion that rape is the fault of the victim rather than a brutal crime that’s the fault of the rapist.

This sentence was just as sexist as the Hattie Carroll sentence was racist.


Author: Malcolm R. Campbell

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of "Sarabande," "The Sun Singer," "At Sea," "Conjure Woman's Cat," "Eulalie and Washerwoman," and "Lena."

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