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Democracy Doesn't Work

After a whirlwind past two weeks, I decided to only work a half-day today. I went to the gym in the afternoon and decided to mix things up and do some cardio in front of a few TVs. Bad idea.

One TV was showing a news program about bullying. The news ticker said Obama was thinking about withholding federal education money from states that don’t enact tough anti-bullying laws. Bullying is apparently an “epidemic,” and we need new laws. The point and counter-point seemed to consist of whether we should pass really ridiculously tough laws or really, really ridiculously tough laws. Another TV was showing a program about people blinding aircraft pilots with lasers. Some federal legislator seems determined to make it a federal crime.

Disgusted, I diverted my attention to a TV showing some game show where participants get to consult an expert if they don’t know the answer to a question. The expert? Former Republican congressman Tom Delay. He was remarkably ignorant and unable to provide an answer to any of the questions asked of him, though to his credit, he at least admitted he had no clue instead of guessing. Specifically, he didn’t know who wrote “A Moveable Feast” or what René Magritte’s painting “The Son of Man” depicted. Literature and art must not be his thing.

After my workout, I came home. I interrupted my half-day-off by making some calls and working on my cases, and then I caught up on all the blog reading I’ve neglected for the past two weeks. I read an entry wherein a smart political blogger and occasional commenter here endorsed this guy for superintendent. Ugh.

I couldn’t take any more media, so I sat down for a second in silence and thought about the rest of this week and next. On Friday, I go to a sentencing for a client whose children will be orphans for a year. She was supposedly a lookout during a drug sale where the cops brought the marijuana. Just marijuana, but lots of it. The cops determined the quantity. On Monday, I drive across the state to do a change of plea. My elderly client is pleading guilty to driving his Ford Model T under the influence. When I say “elderly,” I’m not using the term lightly; this is a guy who can remember the attack on Pearl Harbor.

What’s the deterrent effect of punishing someone in his twilight years who’s already lived most of a century without breaking a law? Do we need to keep him off the streets? What does he really deserve? Do we really need to communicate to our senior citizens that we won’t tolerate them cruising around in their Tin Lizzies after tossing back a cold one? Most people my client’s age don’t drive. Even worse, is it worth orphaning young children to teach a poor, desperate woman that she shouldn’t help cops sell the devil’s lettuce? Things like these offend me to the point of sending me into a rage. Like Dickens said, the law is an ass. The public isn’t inclined to change it for the better. Instead, we’re racing to make it worse.

We elect idiots. At best, we elect people who know very little about the world around them aside from their own lust for power. Smart and stupid people alike support lying morons all the way to Washington, where those morons get together and decide how best to tighten our shackles. They’re people who don’t know the faintest thing about Hemingway or surrealism, but proudly go on TV to play expert. They’re people who happily pass new laws covering things that are already illegal. FYI: there are already laws to punish someone who brings down a plane with a laser pointer. The bullying victims on the show I watched openly acknowledged the perpetrators were already being charged criminally for the bullying that got out of hand.

We are so scared of everything that we want our justice system, which doesn’t really have much to do with justice even at this point, to become an unpleasantness-prevention system as well. Life can suck, but we want to change that. How? Let’s make it suck more for everyone!

We’re marching in the wrong direction. This is the second time in two months I’ve been moved to write about politics. At this point, I have absolutely no faith in people to make good decisions about whom they put in charge. We aren’t even talking about things that matter. Democracy doesn’t work. And I really have to quit watching TV at the gym.

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