Wash out your mouth

WRITING - Joe Bob's America

In the bad old days, when the judge would decide whether to send you to Sing Sing, Alcatraz or Leavenworth,

he would be mostly interested in one thing:

What did you do?

This was the only thing considered fair.


If you did the crime, you served the time. The judge never asked "Well, is there a chance he'd do it again?" Or "Did his parents beat him when he was a kid?" Or "Has he shown proper remorse?" Or "Did he watch too much Mighty Mouse on TV?"

People might TALK about all that stuff, but they didn't get all tangled up in it. The main question remained:

What did he do?

Another example: In the recent past, when the high school teacher was deciding whether you deserved a B or a D, he would ask one thing only:

What did you do?

He didn't ask "What did you do compared to other people in your socio-economic group?" He didn't ask "What did you INTEND to do, but you didn't quite get it done because you were upset over your parents' divorce?" And he never ever asked "How earnest and sincere are you?"

If you did the work, you got an A or a B. If you didn't do the work, you got a C or worse. You were judged by what you DID.

This is ancient history. Nobody believes this anymore. Did you know that it's now possible to be kicked out of college for making "slurs"? That doesn't mean that you actually FIGHT with somebody, or that you conspire to deprive them of something--it just means you SAY something that reveals you to be the scum you always were, but we didn't find out about it till now, so you can't stay here.

You following this?

You say something like, "You know what, I don't like French guys." And pretty soon the French Foreign Exchange Students Association is bringing you up on charges of being a Francophobe, or whatever fancy name they've cooked up for it. And my point is that, yes, well, you ARE a Francophobe--maybe you're even a royal raving bigot--but this is not a CRIME. Some of the biggest bigots on college campuses, in fact, are actually foreign exchange students--Japanese who consider other Asians inferior, Kenyans who can't stand Tanzanians, and on down the line of ancient hatreds, enmities, bitternesses. But until now it was never a CRIME. We never had this kind of bloodlust--people calling for the HIDES of these people. Because, again, you were only judged by what you did, not by what you said.

Same deal in the courts, where you're now judged by what you SAID or THOUGHT before, after and during what you DID. A woman who says "I stole that set of steel-belted radials to feed my hungry child" is treated differently from someone who says "We were hanging out at the gas station and we thought we'd cut up some tires." The woman who actually STEALS the tires will be treated more leniently than the guy who simply vandalizes the tires, because a) she's a mother (nothing to do with what she did), b) she had a better "reason" (nothing to do with what she did), and c) we want to believe we can read her mind and read the guy's mind and know which one is more sincere and trustworthy.

When you start judging the invisible instead of the visible, it leads to one thing. Read my lips:

Witch Hunt.

The bonfires are being lit. The scaffolds are ready. When you see this happening, open your damn mouth.