Friday, October 12, 2012

Elizabeth Escalona, Madeline Albright and bourgeois morals

Elizabeth Escalona
by Richard Mellor 

I see that Elizabeth Escalona, the Dallas woman who beat her child and eventually glued her hands to the wall because she was having trouble with her potty training, has been sentenced to 99 years in prison.  The 22 year old has five children.

One of the prosecutors,  Eren Price said Escalona had not taken responsibility for her actions. "Elizabeth lies to hide the evil," he said, adding that "Only a monster glues her daughter's hands to the wall," The prosecutors threw in another little hint at why this young working class woman resorted to such cruelty, informing us that she had been a gang member and that she started "smoking marijuana at age 11.  Oh, that makes it easier for me to figure out why this happened, it's par for the course for a pot smoking gangster female and they always "hide evil". That pot is some powerful stuff.

So the judge, being a respected man of high morals, sentenced her to 99 years.  "On Sept. 7, 2011, you savagely beat your child to the edge of death," he said, "For this you must be punished."  Counselors and defense lawyers argued that she was not a monster and the counselor claimed with help she can be redeemed.

The judge's comments remind me of those lines from one of the greatest American poets of the 20th century, Bob Dylan.  He wrote and sang of the maid, Hattie Carroll, the wonderful mother of ten children who was struck and killed with a cane by the white tobacco farmer William Zanzinger.  Zanzinger got a six month sentence.  Dylan describes the judge and what he represented:

"In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel
To show that all's equal and that the courts are on the level
And that the strings in the books ain't pulled and persuaded
And that even the nobles get properly handled
Once that the cops have chased after and caught 'em
And that ladder of law has no top and no bottom
Stared at the person who killed for no reason
Who just happened to be feelin' that way without warnin'
And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished
And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance
William Zanzinger with a six-month sentence" 

There is no questioning that what Escalona did to her child was brutal and heartbreaking.  The question for us is why?  I know nothing about her except she is most likely a working class woman of little meansShe might be an immigrant with language difficulties which limits her upward mobility and work opportunities in an English speaking country. She may have been abused herself,  I have no idea.  And there is no arguing that the public needs to be protected from some people especially children and the aged, some of the more vulnerable among us. But I don't accept that people are simply "evil" or "monsters".  What does this mean?

I can guarantee one thing.  I would bet that the Judge and those preaching to us about human behavior and violence have college degrees and that they grew up in a fairly secure and comfortable environment, financially at least, I am well aware that brutality and family violence exists among the well to do, but our environment matters.  We are like a plant. If the soil is barren, the plant will die or wilt, but it can be redeemed if we change the soil and human behavior can be altered also if we change the conditions and especially the society that nurtures it. Capitalism is a brutal system that rewards selfish, individualistic behavior, it has an affect on us that is extremely negative.

But like when people ask me if I support the death penalty, I always say it depends on who does the judging and the killing.  My problem with the legal system is that it has a class base. Bourgeois ideology tells us that we are all individuals and if we work hard we can get whatever we want and that they, as successful members of society achieved their success through their own individual personal efforts. Those who fill the prisons, live under freeway underpasses or can't find a job, are victims of their own failures, society has nothing to do with it. 

When I see such violence I always have to curb my gut feelings that urge me to wish the same on the perpetrator.  But perpetrators are oftern victims too.  The death penalty and US capitalism's prison industrial complex doesn't cure anyone of anything.  The system is biased and racist.  The prison system is but the warehousing of human beings.

So when judges and the apologists of capitalism talk about morally, justice, social behavior etc., it should have no credibility to us as workers. I felt the same way when Lyndie England was jailed for the Abu Ghraib affair.  I am supposed to accept that a white working class woman who was raised in a trailer park is responsible for brutality in the US military and mass murderers like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld etc, live rich financially successful  lives. 

So representatives of bourgeois justice preach in this case against violence and child abuse as their colleagues in their two political parties take from children social benefits that will lead to more and more sickness and deaths. Thousands of Americans die each year through the lack of medical care. 

But lets remember how little US capitalism cares about children. 

Albright and Henry Kissinger, murderer of Vietnamese children
In May 1996, Lesley Stahl on CBS' 60 Minutes questioned the then US Secretary of State Madeline Albright about the half million Iraqi children that had died due to US sanctions against their former pal Saddam Hussein.

Stahl: "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?"

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright:
"I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it."

In Albright's case, she is judged as a representative of US capitalism, its economic interests and the decisions she has to make because of these objective conditions.  In Escolana's case, she is judged, as are the rest of us who fall prey or crack due to the crushing weight of a brutal and uncivilized system of production, as an individual-----the system and the influence it has on behavior doesn't enter in to it.

Albright sort of makes Elizabeth Escolana look like Florence Nightingale doesn't she?

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