An excerpt from “Humbling and Humility“
I characterized the state’s actions as vigilante in nature, of how they’d called in, came in unsolicited into my home, and how they deemed me, on the spot, to be the criminal to be prosecuted. It was fair to say that Manuel’s story stoked my own smoldering fire against presumed guilt, and injustice, by the state.
Sid attempted to explain the state’s behavior. “There is zero tolerance; the state throws ninety seven people under the bus to get two or three really bad ones.” He spoke about the perception of violence, about how almost any action even including one’s very presence could be perceived to be intimidating, and interpreted by the state as [domestic violence]. As the group listened with some disbelief, Sid tried to backpedal, indicating that the state does this so the ninety seven thrown under the bus can see how bad it can get. We get it, Sid, thank you. The state’s the bus, and you, a modern Arnaud Amalric. We are the ninety seven crushed under it, the doomed Cathars of Béziers.
The group voiced that the label sucks, and that the damage can be permanent to one so labeled. The actions by the state, I continued, could compel me to leave Wariduna and the country to be able to find gainful employment. Or impoverish me and compel me to explore new, alternate occupations. Though I did not reveal this in the group, thoughts of a life of white-collar crime had also crept into my mind.
Sid strove to justify the state’s approach. “It used to be different in the past, but the pendulum has now swung the other way.” He said that certain high-profile cases, that my lawyer Mindy also alluded to, the O. J. Simpson case in particular, had prompted a number of states to act. The states provided new guidelines, to their law enforcement cadre, to err on the side of caution. This produced large numbers of undeserving instances of prosecution of men under the DV umbrella.
A pendulum? Is that what the justice––no––legal system is, here? Something that swings to an extreme, and then back the other way, passing for a fleeting moment through the middle? It may have been just an illustrative model Sid employed, but his pendulum sure had swung hard against me, knocking any expectations of fairness and equal treatment out. This pendulum was not only an unstable system, it was, in the hands of a ruthless and single-minded collection of authorities, a hammer of social injustice and repression.
That reminded me of our many unilateral actions, arrogantly undertaken, including invasions. Action that resulted in unimaginable suffering for innocents, as in recent wars waged to liberate countries, to teach their ancient people how to govern themselves with our laws and law enforcement. And of rough statements––“Boot on BP’s throat”––from none other than the head of the country’s administration, bringing to mind an image of violence far removed from the diplomacy hoped for. I recall emailing Lauren about this––after my matter had concluded––with not a word back in response from her.
What was most troubling was the same righteousness, with which our ways, of convenience and rampant materialism, invaded other ways of life readily, overcoming and decimating them. Is this integration and inclusion, wise and considerate cultural assimilation, or is this an extreme approach that could give rise to and foster fundamentalism?
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