The Republican Blind Eye

In continuing our discussion, Taylor posted a comment on my most recent blog. There are some specific points from his comment that I’m going to further address in this post. First, in a continuation of my earlier post, Taylor’s arguments speak to his experience. For him, and other Republicans, the system works well. The police are there to protect his property from those who might want to take it. He seems to feel that his elected representatives have similar belief systems to himself (as long as they are Republicans), and that the only flaws in the system lay in that it takes too much of his money in taxes. 

It would also seem that one of the central planks in Taylor’s arguments is that the way the system works for him is the same way the system works for everyone, or, as he put it, “I don’t need to understand anything about ‘inner-city blacks’ experience because fortunately for me I live in a country where the same laws (criminal) apply to everyone equally.” This argument is ridiculous on it’s face. Never in the history of civilization have criminal laws applied equally to everyone. There has always existed a privileged class and those who are less privileged and to think that they would be treated exactly the same in the eyes of the law is merely a naive way of saying that the system works just fine.  

There are countless examples of people being treated differently under the law. One of the pernicious things about the structure of the American legal system is that every year more laws get added to the books, and this allows law enforcement officials to pick and chose which laws they want to enforce, against whom, and at what time. When Florida Greenpeace boarded a ship to check if it was trafficking in illegal mahogany, the Bush Administration used a law from 1872 to prosecute them. Never mind that that 1872 law was originally authored to stop people from boarding ships to lure away sailors to nights of booze and women, and that the last instance of its use was in 1890, let’s prosecute them for it anyway.

Speaking of old laws, poker players in South Carolina have been routinely harassed by police who are arresting them for the victimless crime of playing poker in a home game. The law they violated came into being in 1802 and prohibits anyone from playing “any game played with card or dice.” Yet I have a feeling the Monopoly players of the state, and probably the VTES players for that matter, can rest easy; it’s only the poker players they go after.

Both of these situations are examples of people in power wanting people brought down and finding some reason in the law to do it. The thing is Taylor, I feel I know you well enough to know that you don’t have a problem with the idea that Greenpeace was targeted with selective prosecution. I suspect it wouldn’t bother you in the least. You seem to feel that Greenpeace is part of the “they” that you feel opposes you, and whatever tools need to be used against it is just fine. I can understand this attitude, but please don’t be so hypocritical or naive as to say that we are all treated equally under the law. 

If you still aren’t convinced, I might ask you to consider the many elements of racism present in our “War on Drugs.” The penalties for drugs preferred by whites, such as powdered cocaine, are far less severe than the the drugs preferred predominantly by blacks such as crack cocaine. To quote an ACLU report, “distribution of just 5 grams of crack carries a minimum 5-year federal prison sentence, while for powder cocaine, distribution of 500 grams – 100 times the amount of crack cocaine – carries the same sentence.” That same report goes on to say:

The racial disparity in the application of mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine is particularly disturbing. African Americans comprise the vast majority of those convicted of crack cocaine offenses, while the majority of those convicted for powder cocaine offenses are white. This is true, despite the fact that whites and Hispanics form the majority of crack users. For example, in 2003, whites constituted 7.8% and African Americans constituted more than 80% of the defendants sentenced under the harsh federal crack cocaine laws, despite the fact that more than 66% of crack cocaine users in the United States are white or Hispanic. Due in large part to the sentencing disparity based on the form of the drug, African Americans serve substantially more time in prison for drug offenses than do whites. The average sentence for a crack cocaine offense in 2003, which was 123 months, was 3.5 years longer than the average sentence of 81 months for an offense involving the powder form of the drug. Also due in large part to mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, from 1994 to 2003, the difference between the average time African American offenders served in prison increased by 77%, compared to an increase of 28% for white drug offenders. African Americans now serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug offense at 58.7 months, as whites do for a violent offense at 61.7 months. The fact that African American defendants received the mandatory sentences more often than white defendants who were eligible for a mandatory minimum sentence, further supports the racially discriminatory impact of mandatory minimum penalties.

And let’s not forget the study described in Michael Brown’s book Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society that being black would statistically more than double the chances of being convicted of a cocaine related crime and add, on average, more than 40 months to the sentence holding all other things equal. 

Of course, I don’t expect you to pick up a copy of that book any more than I expect that you’d watch the movie of Rendition that explores a real-life case of abuses at the hands of President Bush, whom you consider a personal friend. The suggests that you consider material such as books and movies that are unsympathetic towards the Republican cause are meet with “I haven’t scene (sic) Rendition – I typically don’t use my money to fund liberal hacks.” Which just goes to show that you, and the other Republicans like you, are willfully ignorant. It’s not that information has not been offered to you to refute your assertion that the system works just fine, it’s that you have chosen to ignore it. I can only believe the reason is because you rather like the way the system works for you and would hate to see it changed to where it wold be more fair for everyone.

In my last blog I compared this to sort of willful ignorance to that of the Germans during the Second World War who were also willfully ignorant. You attacked this by saying:

These are some the scary fallacies you put forward. The difference is more than obvious. In the former 1) The persons actually committed crimes 2) Their possessions were not seized by a government 3) They were given a choice to fight or go to jail – they choose to fight. In the latter 1) They were falsely imprisoned 2) Their possessions were seized 3) Their labor was a means to an end in a dastardly program of genocide.

Are you seriously going to compare being given a choice to fight in a war with being systematically exterminated?

Taylor is ignoring that my original post also noted that blacks were disproportionately drafted into the army. Hence, there is a form of systematic extermination going on at the time that greatly bothered the civil rights leaders of its day such as Martin Luther King. In regards to my other point, that offering deferment to drug charges in order to get more (predominately black) people to fight a war they didn’t believe in, you seem to be suggesting that they have made an entirely free choice and should just accept the consequences, however fatal. 

Taylor is ignoring the coercive hand of government in this decision that was carrying out a policy of prosecuting people for the victimless crime of drug possession. Even if we buy Taylor’s later (and rather contrived) argument that drugs are not victimless, the racist execution of the war on drugs and its use as a tool for recruiting for the unpopular Vietnam war undermines his assertion of equal treatment for all.

Lastly, Taylor is making an extreme argument of personal responsibility here. In essence he says that people should be free to make decisions, such as fighting in Vietnam, that may prove fatal to them. If we accept this argument, then that means that we are all responsible for our own well being and that if we make decisions that ultimately lead to our death in a rice patty rather than serving out a prison term, then we should allow people to make these decisions. 

How ironic then that Taylor, and other Republicans, insist that blacks be free to make such harmful decisions as dying in Vietnam, yet they are NOT allowed to make the decision to damage their body with drugs. In essence, Taylor is saying that our bodies are the property of the US government to do with as it sees fit. If we chose to damage government property by taking drugs that would harm it, then it has recourse to instead use our bodies to fight wars. This is an argument of extreme totalitarianism, and the only reason anyone would make it is if there body in particular were not at risk. 

Taylor again argues that prostitution is not victimless because, “Prostitution is also not a victimless crime. I have a friend who works for a NGO involved with human trafficking – most of which is underage or barely legal women forced into prostitution. So again, don’t preach that jons are beyond reproach, they enable the problem.”  This argument does not fall far from the hypocritical tree from which it originated. Blacks are free to chose to allow their bodies to fight and die in Vietnam, but foreign women are not allowed to use their bodies to be engaged in the sex trade.  

I, for one, feel that our bodies are our own property to do with as we will. That includes destroying it at the time and method of my choosing if I so desire. Hence, drugs and prostitution are victimless. Furthermore, I feel that people should be allowed to spend and risk their money in whatever way they want. So I see no problem with home poker games in South Carolina. Any argument to the contrary says that the greater good of all must be considered in regards to how I spend my money and what I do with my body, and opening that bottle now allows the government to dictate whatever terms it wants in regards to laws and legislation that has the potential to extinguish liberty altogether. Anyone interested in reading more about Libertarian ethics is urged to pick with the book, For a New Liberty.

Ultimately the problem with Republican rhetoric is that is extremely inconsistent. It jumps from demanding personal liberty and freedom from the government in one case, and then demands government authority and virtually totalitarian power at other times. This is not new in history of human events, but is instead the telltale pattern of a powerful class using its influence to ensure that the government works, not only FOR them, but AGAINST others. This is the reason why, when the discussion of American politics comes up, I tend to start the discussion with, “The Republican party is all about power.” Lastly Taylor, I must apologize for my anti-Republican bias, but if I am forced to chose between which of the two American parties to oppose, the Facists or the Socialists, I’m afraid I have to oppose the Facists.

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