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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Empty Words & Hidden Agendas

Heart-and-brain

I watched Jeffrey Toobin analyze on CNN the disgusting, abhorrent attack on Nafissatou Diallo, an economically disadvantaged hotel maid of color, by a powerful, rich Caucasian who to her had all the power in the world.

Toobin absolutely no trouble mouthing the pros and cons of the accuser’s case in the coldest of legal-strategy terms. It was almost as though he were a sports analyst predicting who would win a major football game. “...may be a smart move on the part of her legal team, considering…”

In my mind I contrasted these cold, uncaring words with the straightforward words the victim used to tell her story:


Excerpt from interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts:


DIALLO: I was watching the news and then they say he's going to be the next president of France. Then I say, oh, my God. And I was crying. I said they're going to kill me. I said they're going to kill me. I'm going to die.

ROBERTS: Why did you think that, Nafi?

DIALLO: Because I know if I was in my country, a powerful man like that, they're going to kill me before someone knows what happened to me.


Read the interview with Newsweek. Put yourself in her shoes. Feel the terror she must have felt. Finally a decent job but cause any trouble and you're gone.

The Jewish Bible tells us to be especially kind to the immigrant, to the stranger in one’s land, because the Jewish people know exactly what it feels like.

It’s sort of laughable to me that people try to undermine the victim’s credibility by saying she was somehow trying to play the situation for money. Like, how would that work exactly? She was so happy to have a hotel floor all to herself rather than have to run up and down the stairs, and being suddenly assaulted by an old man was…a bonus she could use to buy a gold watch?

Whatever happened to her in the past, whatever lies she has told either to survive or because she is a psychopath, I believe her. The courts should try the case, I believe. But it looks damn clear to me that Diallo is telling the truth. And that DSK was a perpetrator who tried to run, failed, and now is lying.

The U.S. has a unique legal system, where accuser and accused get to duke it out in the world of rhetoric. In a way this is good – let the best case win – but in a way it is terrible. We have become immune to trusting our simple common sense. Everything people say is just “one side of the story,” a side they are most likely playing for a buck.

It is difficult in a climate like this to get to the truth of anything. It’s like “Fight Club” except we’re always debating.

Marketing culture has, unfortunately, made matters worse. We make up some words out of whole cloth; mangle the meaning of others; distort what we know to be true; turn wrong into right; and document it all with reams and reams of paper. Kindly assembled by the legal team, which has the “terms and conditions of use” carefully on file.

It is a sad fact that young women not even of teenage years have been completely thrown into a sexualized arena, one created specifically by the lies marketing culture has created. Everyone's making money from these girls: The makers of clothing, cosmetics, phones, music, movies, social media. The men young and old who are only too happy to exploit them. And their so-called "friends," already exploited, hate to see them remain innocent. Are only too eager to lie and manipulate them into adulthood before they can even drive a car.

I read such a case in the newspaper on Sunday. It paralleled the movie “Thirteen,” where an American girl’s best friend drags her down and out until her childhood and innocence are completely gone and unrecognizable. UK’s The Daily Mail reports of a 12 year-old whose girlfriend tells a bunch of 19-year-old boys they are both 16; delivers friend to boys; and she is of course attacked. The boys are initially convicted of the crime, but the conviction is overturned, because the appeals judge determines that the 12-year-old somehow consented.

We want to know why are kids are so spiritually lost, so unhappy. We want to know why the “underclasses” are smoldering with resentment. We can’t put our finger on precisely what has gone wrong. But we are perpetuating the problem every single day. By closing our eyes to reality, and preferring instead to let the “system” – legal, marketing, education, what have you – run its course. Lie its way to more profit and more pain.

Over the weekend a stranger tried to abduct two little girls. The perpetrator wasn’t who you might think. In fact it was a woman, young and sweet-seeming. She rolled the window down and said, “I have an infant in the car…and I give people rides sometimes. Do you want to get in?”

Lacking in cynicism, insufficiently cold, fully kind and emotional and receptive, the kids listened for a minute.

And then their instincts took over and they ran. Fortunately.

We have become a society with the wrong kind of compassion. We are cold to the daily attacks that take place against the powerless, ignoring their pleas for help and stepping over them when they eventually lie homeless, and then stinking and dead, in the streets.

At the same time we are fully attuned to our childrens’ every whim and desire, especially the tormented desire to be “popular” when what they really want is to be loved and paid attention to at home. Today the word “popular” is a code for having passed through a terrible kind of hazing, the kind that gets left on cellphones and passed from kid to kid with a laugh. Hazing that begins and ends with lies.

We are so busy talking and texting and shopping and running that we have lost touch with our ability to listen. To really think critically about the things we read and see and listen to and yes, feel.

Am I crusading against the legal system or due process? Hell no.

Telling people to ground kids till they turn 18? Of course not.

Saying that only girls are attacked and not boys? That is silly.

I am arguing that with all our seeming sophistication and fast-moving pace, we have lost touch with a critical survival factor: simple thinking - connected to simple morality and common sense.

We have a duty to look after adults who are vulnerable to exploitation – yes we do. And an equal responsibility to protect our children from themselves. To do so requires looking past the legalistic, cold analyses and staring manipulative marketing right in the eye. In a society that often seems to have gone crazy, the most important thing we can do is think – and feel – for ourselves.


Did I tie the point all together? I hope so. It seemed important to share these thoughts even if the edges are a little ragged.

Have a good rest of the day everyone, and good luck.

___

Image source here.