%/10.,E110Aforr, and interest at any sacrifice. The alacrity and promptness with which our volunteer forces rushed to the field on their country’s call prove not only their patriotism, but their deep conviction that our cause is just.” Either man could have said the following: “The war will continue to be prosecuted with vigor as the best means of securing peace. It is hoped that … our last overture … may result in a speedy and honorable peace. With our experience, however, of the unreasonable course of their … authorities, it is the part of wisdom not to relax in the energy of our military operations until the result is made known.” That was President Polk. Which President do you think said the following? “It has never been contemplated by me, as an object of the war, to make a permanent conquest of the Republic … or to annihilate her separate existence as an independent nation. On the contrary, it has ever been my desire that she maintain her nationality, and under a good government adapted to her condition be a free, independent, and prosperous Republic.” Those too, were the words of President Polk, who seemed to have “backed into the future.” Certainly this comparison is more than just an analogy. A thread of continuity links the marshes of San Jacinto with the sands of Dhahran; what connects these wars of conquest and liberation is a long thread of hegemony of a European-American center over a non-European periphery. Indeed, one can argue that the preeminent position of the United States its “more commanding position,” in President Polk’s words in today’s “New World Order” had its origins in the Texas Revolution and the U.S.-Mexico War. President Polk in his Fourth Annual Message to Congress, noted as much: that one of the “most important” results of the MexicanAmerican War was the demonstration of the country’s military strength, which many European and other foreign powers had questioned. The war with Mexico had “undeceived” them. Moreover, the vast additions of Texas, New Mexico and California which now gave the country as much territory as “the whole of Europe, Russia only excepted” had elevated the country to a “more commanding position among nations than at any former period.” In fact, emphasized Polk, these acquisitions “will add more to the strength and wealth of the nation than any which have preceded them since the adoption of the Constitution.” Moreover, added Polk, such strength and wealth would make for peace: “The great importance and wealth of the territorial acquisitions” would enable the United States to pursue without interruption “our cherished policy of ‘peace with all nations, entangling alliances with none.'” Since the days of San Jacinto in 1836, the European-American axis has shifted its center from Western Europe to the United States, but this axis nonetheless remains the domi nant allied force in the international arena. An Anglo-European core continues to exer cise dominion over a non-European periphery. EFLECTING, THEN, on President Bush’s declaration of a “New World Order,” one might ask, in complete candor, what really is so “new”? As one political scientist wrote in the New York Times, “the Administration’s proclaimed new world order is remarkably like the old one: The United States still calls the tune.” Perhaps the only “new” aspect is that this latest military action took place in the post-Cold War era, after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the crises of communism in the Soviet Union. Some have called this the “end of history,” meaning that with the decline of fascism and communism, Western liberal democracy has won the great East-West ideological struggle. More appropriate, in my opinion, is Hegel’s dicho, that “man learns nothing from History.” ‘ Crimes Continued from page 3 the nation to pass such legislation, during the 1989 session, but the bills were vetoed by then-Gov. Bill Clements. Last year, Ohio using the Texas legislation as a model began a similar process. The result: clemency for 26 battered women who killed their abusers; Maryland commuted the sentences of eight more. Family violence experts estimate that scores of Texas cases might merit similar review under the new law. I don’t know whether these laws would have affected Melinda’s situation, or those of any of the other children I spoke with that day and night. I don’t, of course, condone violence, even against child abusers. But given the state’s flawed system of dealing with abusive partners and parents, and the almost incomprehensible psychological damage abusers inflict on their vulnerable victims, it seems the only humane course to allow judges and juries to hear evidence of such abuse in cases where the abused victims felt they had no other choice than to resort to violence. And those whose cases have already been adjudicated deserve similar, retroactive investigation. My day at Giddings opened my eyes to one small corner of the complex reality of crime and punishment in Texas. It taught me that a complex reality often underlies superficially simple acts of violence. But though crime is perhaps the most serious immediate concern for many Texans, too many politicians exploit those fears by crusading against the rights of defendants and pushing for longer and longer sentences, regardless of individual circumstances. Meanwhile, these tough-talking putative crime-busters refuse to muster the political courage required to pay for measures that really would reduce crime in the long run, such as education and job-training programs, maternity and infant-health programs, abuseprevention and counseling, and so on. \(Studies indicate that as many as two-thirds sessions of the Legislature have been especially odious in this regard, as a number of short-sighted so-called anti-crime laws were enacted that do nothing to address the causes behind the symptoms we all deplore. In the midst of this kind of mindless response to a devastating social pathology, it’s surprising, and heartening, to see that even in a state whose mythology so glorifies violence and retribution, laws as enlightened as these could slip through. While those laws will certainly help a few tortured souls, they are even more important because they signify the Legislature’s willingness to acknowledge, at least after the fact, the role of abuse in some crimes. Moreover, the just-completed legislative session, which saw a number of reactionary bills proposed only to be rejected, and the defeat of the “bustin’ rocks” mentality in the November election, may signify a trend toward a more rational, thoughtful approach to dealing with crime. Let us hope that the day comes soon when our lawmakers will realize that behind most crimes and most victims lies a history of abuse or neglect of some kind, and that we should turn our attention and resources to addressing the sources of such abuses before they erupt in violence. So that people like Melinda won’t have to deal with the consequences. B.C. Dialogue Continued from page 2 tica, Australia? If only some men somewhere, then which men where? Personally, I share Mencken’s delight in the daily belly-laugh that Kulchur in the USA provides. James Sledd Austin Michael King replies: As the sentence Sledd cites from Iron John itself implies, Bly is speaking primarily of men in western, industrialized societies, and not of personal “grieving”. but of the sort of spiritual/ cultural grief well known to Blake, Lawrence, Kafka, and Bly, among many others. To take delight, as did Mencken, in contempt for one’s own culture, may be justifiable or even necessary, but it is also a confession of homelessness. Is that not sufficient reason for mourning? In this society, the education of the young is in the hands of ambitious demagogues like John Silber or corporate underbosses like William Cunningham. th is s book suggests that in a sane culture, this task would be in the hands of shaggy elders who like to cause Jim Sledd. 18 JUNE 14, 1991
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