Friday, September 7, 2012

Robin Hoods Around the Web

In honor of the "grim" jobs report, I found myself back in shelter for the poor.

A facebook friend shared with me a Robin Hood in Spain, and then within the comments of that video I chanced upon a URL link to an older blog about Cheri Honkala, a protest leader from Philly with a long history of activitism. In 2011, Honkala ran and lost for Sheriff of Philadelphia so that she could have worked as an official power against the banks and use selective enforcement of the law to help poor people facing foreclosure remain in their homes. Regardless of one's political orientation, it is difficult not to be moved by the first video or the concerns expressed in the blog.

An excerpt from the blog, This Can't Be Happening, dated April 27, 2011:

Acting Sheriff Barbara Deeley, who is not running, has said, “We have to follow court orders, and that’s what sheriff’s sales are.” But what Deeley doesn't understand is Honkala is not running for the same Sheriff's job Deeley is currently holding. While Kromer wants to eliminate the office, Honkala wants to transform it into an ombudsman for the poor in the city of Philadelphia.

In this sense, Honkala’s campaign revolves around one of the most un-reported realities of American governance, something as American as apple pie, something seen throughout American history and something that always will be with us: The willful selective enforcement of our laws.

It ranges from George W. Bush's notorious “signing statements” concerning laws passed by Congress to the 55 mile per hour speed limit. Historically, you saw it in things like “vagrancy” laws used to selectively snare certain poor people for chain gang labor; you saw it in literacy tests in the south where a black man would be asked to read a line of Greek but a white man would get a “Hello, right this way” to the ballot box. In general, it’s the ugly, prejudicial backside of police and judicial discretion.

It’s often such a taken-for-granted part of American governance that no one really notices it. The wealthy, the powerful, the popular and the white tend to get the breaks, which come in the form of mitigating circumstances, good character reports and assurances the individual is sorry and didn’t really mean it. On the other hand, the poor, the powerless, the unattractive, the mentally ill and the darker races tend – and statistics back this up – to get the opposite: the assumption of laziness or evil intent, projections of fear and just flat-out prejudice.

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