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signs that the harassment against U.S. Central American peace groups has grown more sophisticated. One indication is that El Salvador now is requiring Americans to obtain visas before visiting the country. Previously none was required. To get a visa, an applicant must present a clearance from the local police department including either a copy of the individual’s record or an indication that the person has no record. In addition, applicants must present a letter verifying employment and, if he or she owns property, proof of that ownership. Since American officials, including the CIA, have been assisting the Duarte government with the installation of infrastructure in El Salvador, these new regulations may have been designed in Washington. The following is excerpted from a speech delivered by federal Judge William Wayne Justice of Tyler to a conference sponsored by the Texas Legal Services Center on December 12, 1986, in San Antonio. The audience was made up primarily of lawyers With an interest in the cases of the poor and the underrepresented. LEGAL SERVICE WORKERS are sometimes attacked as dangerous nuisances. They are “unreconstructed,” to use a favorite adjective of their critics “unreconstructed” anachronisms who should have gone out with the sixties. Occasionally we learn from these same critics that you are “unrepentant.” This term is usually accompanied by the indignant observation that, along with a scattering of other confused persons, you missed the general enlightenment that succeeded the dark ages of the Vietnam Syndrome. There would be no problems no homelessness, no hunger, no underclass if only you would stop bringing them up, as you do, unavoidably, with every case you handle. And even if your clients didn’t go away, they would then be easier to ignore, to distance through comfortable, well-worn abstractions that efface their individuality. Such abstractions are important. The only lives we experience as real, the only ones we truly care about, are the ones we see and know. Poor people are made invisible or at least easier to disregard by categorical assertions that their sufferings are somehow predestined. The nineteenth century notion that virtue leads to prosperity, and its absence to poverty, still has its adher William Wayne Justice is a United States district judge for the eastern district in Texas. ents. So does the belief that nonwhites are burdened by ethnic culture or heredity with insuperable flaws that prevent them from joining our natural aristocracy. But the best way to devalue the lives of large groups of people is to pretend they’re not there. Most privileged people \(I would include, in this category, a great many of the judges before whom you appear only with others in a similar position. They live in their own world, as do we all, and that world is the one that matters most to them. For many reasons, tremendous efforts are made to ensure that as many details as possible of one’s life partake explicitly of that circle. One such reason is to further the undistracted realization of pleasure. One can feast in peace, with everyone who matters in contented attendance. But the meal is made less pleasant, and finally indigestible, by the presence of specific individuals living meagerly on the scraps. The good life requires that the poor remain faceless, that they exist only theoretically or amorphously, and not as individual human beings to whom we are connected and who must be taken into account. There is nothing new in the observation that your clients figure but little in the daily lives of the more powerful. Nor is it surprising that the practice of living as though the poor were not among us is elaborately buttressed by insulating routines, or that poverty is perceived as some cosmic punishment, or as somehow innate. Like any deeply rooted view of human nature, these ideas and habits have adopted the form of a controlling assumption, silently determining the choices made by those who share it. Like other credos that simplify life by ignoring large chunks of it, the habitual disregard of poor people allows a person, or a group, to make all kinds of judgments, untroubled by the fact that he quite literally does not know what he is talking about. This kinds of prearranged thought leads to policies that hurt and demean the judged. Over time, it leads to elite histories that ignore or misrepresent the discarded reality, and the living are left not only to repeat their mistakes but to invent new ones. The usual antidote to blissful ignorance of this kind is a strong dose of raw facts, free of interpretive jargon. Millions of unsuspecting Americans, for example, were jolted into recognition of the rural poor by Walker Evans and James Agee’s book, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a tract illustrating the awesome power of details truly rendered. The steady stream of reports, during World War II, of the existence of the Nazi death camps made virtually no impact until the appearance, in 1945, of the first photographs, films, and eyewitness accounts. And for many people, Vietnam was an unreal clash of general theories, having something to do with dominoes, until the war became a nightly exercise in televised horror. Had we not been painfully confronted with the facts, these matters would have escaped our attention and been erased from our history or consigned, as some would have your clients, to an historical purgatory of things that exist but are not experienced. THERE IS A TRAGIC, selfdefeating irony in the contempt harbored by some committed egalitarians for the majority of Americans. It makes no sense to condemn and abandon a middle class that is adversely affected by, and has the power to change, the circumstances that define the economic and institutional context within which all but the wealthy live. No surfeit of color televisions and no number of computerized cars can erase the aching fear millions of such Americans feel for themselves and their children. Most people who work at least those who, with the years, have lost the sense of immortality known to the very young are aware that they are thinly shielded from the economic shocks that are visited on the old or infirm. The wracked anxiety of working parents whose young children are daily entrusted, with luck, to available strangers, suggests they cannot tolerate forever a social order that requires two incomes on which to get by and preaches Burrs Under a Saddle By William Wayne Justice THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11