Brooklyn Rail: Alexandra Chasin's Brief


Jaded Ibis Books

We look at art in context, but what about people? 

Of course, during a trial, we hear about the childhood, the hours alone, and the alcoholic step-parent, etc. And maybe that mediates our decision-making in the sentencing phase. Or maybe not. Regardless, we don’t look at history; we don't say—we were invading such-and-such a country at that moment, or we were dropping bombs on so-many innocent civilians that morning so talking about the theft of, let's say, a television, is beyond absurd. That, oh monstrosity, would be the Charlie Manson argument. Defense by hypocrisy.  American culture cannot allow the “you are hypocrites” justification of crime—it would make for the end of criminal liability. Whether you’re talking about the crimes of the I.R.S., the crimes of the A.T.F., the crimes of the U.S. Federal Reserve, the crimes of the U.S. military, we’re societally too guilty, if innocence is the prerequisite for judgment, to judge anyone. … 

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