Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Lou's Crusade

I was in a discussion over the weekend with a truly conservative friend of mine, who surprised me by saying he watched Lou Dobbs. So I thought about it a good bit as I drove back to Washington. Upon reflection I still think his is a classic case of Lynch Mob Meme: the noble crusade (in this case defense of the saintly Middle Class) which necessitates the evils to be visited upon the weak, poor, powerless. I will make a leap of faith here in suggesting we ought to cultivate a reflex suspicion of the urge to persecute the powerless.

It seems to me there are much more worthy (even, dare we say it, Christian) crusades to be about right now, maybe something that takes up the plight of the weak, poor, powerless – however little one would wish to have a beer with them. The American middle class can, to a greater degree than any other class in the history of the planet, take care of itself, if it so chooses. For the most part, of late, it chooses stupidly, and by definition bad things happen from stupid choices. If Lou wanted to use his pulpit on behalf of the booboisie he might better enlighten them on the suicidal folly of their auto-centric society, or perhaps undermine the notion that we will “grow” and innovate our way out of problems based in unchecked growth, or even try to generally inculcate the self-denial, self-restraint which might ameliorate looming crises. But no, that would trouble ourselves rather than Others. We are perhaps wrong to waste our concern on very smug, ignorant, shortsighted people, but we are certainly wrong to scapegoat others, as Dobbs does, on behalf of stupid people, rather than confront them with their stupidity.

There is certainly some crime problem associated with illegal immigrants but Dobbs eagerly exagerrates it just as he does rate of leprosy among those damn dirty contagious foreigners. And I’m sure in terms of net utility it is hugely offset by the benefits rendered by the majority who are not criminals. We ought to be far more concerned with the criminality of people who wear suits to work, for that is where the real systematic harm is done – just ask anyone who worked for or invested in Enron, and the Enrons of today and tomorrow. Lou should also be more worried about the wholesale looting of the treasury by GOP cronies in the war industry, the subversion of the “Justice” Department into the Cheney/Rove ongoing criminal enterprise, the suspension safety and environmental of laws and regulations for corporate donors, the perversion of the intelligence apparatus for domestic political operations, the innumerable perjuries and treasonous conduct of virtually the entire Bush administration, but none of these more vexing concerns comes with a powerless brown person to symbolize it, so it’s much more fun, satisfying, safe and easy to focus on the immigrant and his threat to our sacred, wise, reverent, and capacious American Way of Life.

As to the matter of Border Agents Ramos and Compean – one of Dobb’s reported hobby horses – nobody disputes that they did beat and then shoot an unarmed man in the back, then they destroyed evidence to cover up their crime, so their prison sentences don’t really seem disproportionate to their malfeasance. It’s abundantly probable that their victim is, as you many say, a “scumbag,” but I myself would prefer that law enforcement officers would obey the law against shooting unarmed non-violent suspects, else they become no longer law-enforcers but rather merely enforcers of their own preferred ordering of things, and thus become also, in the dereliction of duty and the violation of the oath which compounds the malfeasance, morally inferior to the crack dealer protecting his turf. But that’s just me; I may have a unique perspective. Still, everyone would do well to remember, as corrective to the cinematic distortions of the case, that in almost every case, a cop is just a gym teacher who has augmented his whistle with a gun. Very often they are little souls venially corrupted by the little power given them in exchange for the oath they regularly violate. When you need them, you may need them very badly, but that does not mean they should ever be tasked or entrusted with complex ethical dilemmas – not to mention extralegal execution authority. They should uphold the law, period.

Having said all this, it still may well be that the convictions of Ramos and Compean, in true justice, should be overturned as stemming from another of the innumerable selective prosecutions by the Bush Justice department. It would be nice if Lou Dobbs raised his view from the particular case of people opportunistically prosecuted for harming a brown person, to the larger general corruption betokened by this prosecution, but there again, this doesn’t feature the fetishistic aspect (Brown Peril! Mexican Leprosy!), the easy profit, or the complete safety which so attaches Dobbs to his particular crusade.


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