Thursday, May 19, 2011

Le Perp Walk

How about the reaction of the French media to the arrest of IMF president and former French presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn! They are appalled, they are horrified... at how harshly the NYPD treated him, fishing him out of first class on a departing plane and oo la la, the violence and the humiliation of le perp walk.
Quel horreur!
They have not shown that much sympathy for the chambermaid who accused him or the many women he has apparently groped and humiliated throughout the years. He comes with a reputation for randiness. Mesdames et monsieurs, if the guy is innocent, he will be exonerated. If he isn't, he deserves to be behind bars. Knowing the French, they may even vote for him in solidarity with his irrepressible joie de vivre. Stephen Clarke, the guy who wrote the very funny A Year in the Merde, explains how French society really works. Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, mon cul.
What the French don't understand is that we are a country of puritans and the perp walk is our morality play. We collapse as a nation if someone shows an accidental nipple in the Superbowl, so actual sex scandals really do scandalize us. In contrast to the laissez faire attitude of Pepe le Pew, we don't believe that you should be the leader of a country, a party, a state, or a world bank if you can't keep your dick safely inside your pants. And usually we're talking mostly pecadilloes, like cheating on your spouse, having secret children out of wedlock and getting bjs under the table, not rape.
The French also don't understand that in this country the wealthy can try to get acquittal with the help of very good, expensive lawyers. But if you are arrested, and particularly if you are notorious, you'll get the perp walk (remember Bernie Madoff, O.J Simpson, etc). The perp walk is unfair and perhaps it should be abolished, but it's not a guilty sentence either. Some people are championing the perp walk as an equalizer, although I suspect that the perp walks of the rich and famous get much more attention than those of anonymous criminals. Supposedly, in America everybody gets treated equally (thanks to some ideas we actually borrowed from the French). However, this sentence made my eyebrows rise to the ceiling:
Mr. Strauss-Kahn was being held in protective custody in the West Facility at Rikers because there was room there to give him a wing to himself, an official said.
Do all presumed rapists get a wing to themselves in Rikers? Je ne croi pas.
In this world there is no such thing as 100% equal justice and there will never be. It's simply not in human nature.

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