As some of you here know all too well, my comments tend to be a bit lengthy. Occasionally, they reach an alarming length, a length warranting a post of its own. Such is the case with my comment on the latest post by Robert B. James, a searing indictment of American history, especially the actions and attitudes of America's ruling class.
Though for the most part I share his views on the rapacious nature of much of American history, there is another side to the story, a side that speaks to industriousness, courage and lending a helping hand to a neighbor on the part of ordinary, hard-working Americans. But those virtues did not extend to all their neighbors, as Natives and Blacks could attest. In that sense, ordinary Americans were and are a privileged class as well.
America is often called a classless society (those who so allege are not referring to taste, though that may well be a reasonable charge). To the contrary, the evidence is abundant that is just another of the lies we tell ourselves. And those who benefit most from class and privilege are all too often the least likely to recognize it, or at least to acknowledge it. Take the man recently appointed to the highest court in the land – please!
Imagine Brett Kavanaugh was instead a jobless black teenager charged with sexually assaulting a fifteen year-old white girl – does anyone believe the charges against him would have been so easily dismissed? I think not.
Imagine that same jobless black teenager appearing before Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Even with his own dubious history, would Kavanaugh be capable of judging such a defendant without prejudice? I think not.
But beyond his possible crimes and the very non-judicial temperament he evinced during the hearings, Kavanaugh also exposed the sort of self-serving, self-aggrandizing behavior so often expressed by the privileged. He whined about how he “worked his butt-off to get good grades”, apparently unaware he was in a position to attend prestigious schools in large part due to an accident of birth.
Apparently, he can't imagine someone far less privileged worked at least as hard to get C's in community college – someone who didn't have the time, money or desire to waste their weekends drinking to oblivion. Apparently, he can't imagine someone worked at least as hard in the foundry … or at Walmart … or laying bricks or sod to earn a hard-scrabble existence. Apparently, all that is unimaginable to him; and thus, his lack of empathy and imagination render him unfit to judge others.
Kavanaugh is unable to conceive of the notion that he is where he is in large part due to an accident of birth. He is a textbook example of Self-Made Man Syndrome, a disease epidemic among the privileged class. And as the doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient, so the self-made man has a fool for a maker.
There is perhaps no greater example of Self-Made Man Syndrome than Donald J. Trump, the rich brat and unworthy braggart presently polluting the White House. And thanks to judges like Brett Kavanaugh, it is unlikely that even as crooked and classless a man as Trump will ever see the inside of a prison cell. But if by some miracle he does, you can bet your last dollar he won't do hard time.
That's because the dividing line in America is about more than class; it's also about money. The surest sign the very rich are very different from the rest of us is that they so often escape punishment for their crimes. And when they do get convicted, they get a slap on the wrist and perhaps a fine equal to maybe a tenth of what they stole – see Florida Governor Rick Scott for details.
Even on the rare occasion when the rich and privileged are sent to prison, they serve their sentences in prisons that are little more than country clubs with bars – and not the sort of bars where you can order a martini or an expensive, twelve-year-old single-malt scotch – though I'll wager alcohol is among the contraband available to the privileged few who are fool enough to get themselves imprisoned.
Meanwhile, if you steal bread to feed your children or your drug habit, you will do hard time. As Anatole France observed long ago:
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
Victor Hugo's Les Miserables is, I fear, very much alive and unwell in 21st Century America. All this, and so much more, begs the question – is a revolution at hand?
©2018 Tom Cordle