A bit of housecleaning here at halphillips.net: First, I coined a useful, new word a while back. See below and feel free to deploy as part of your common parlance going forward:
Smoor n. archaic, 13th century Iberian slang for a mixed-race resident of Andalusia during the Muslim occupation of what is now modern Spain; one of mixed parentage with chocolate-, graham cracker-, or, less frequently, golden marshmallow-colored skin; one who stands to be roasted over an open fire for this crime of miscegenation.
Next, I had a couple letters to the editor printed this spring in the Portland Press-Herald, not technically my “local” paper (those have folded) but published only 20 miles south and still the largest daily in Maine. See below, and if you want to check out the comments, visit here (you’ll find a pretty typical right-left troll exchange therein).
To the editor:
In this day and age of reckless, willfully obtuse, anti-government bloviation, it’s important to be clear about how/why government functions as it does, why it’s rarely “perfect”, but why it is nevertheless worth defending and maintaining. Today’s case in point: Kevin Miller’s April 25 story re. L.D. 1379, which would allow the Dept. of Marine Resources to more actively police (via GPS) disputed fishing boundaries. I’m no lobsterman. I’ve no dog in this fight. But here we clearly have an industry that cannot or will not police itself in civil fashion. All parties agree that escalation, even violence will ensue if nothing is done. Like so many prickly deals in a country of 330 million people, responsibility for any potential solution falls to government.
This scenario is typical. Government action is by nature reactive. It works slowly. It can be unwieldy. But when there’s a problem — when human nature and/or the “unerring” profit motive fail to address (or utterly pervert) that problem — it is the authority of last resort. That’s the story with L.D. 1379, and it’s the story behind 90 percent of the regulatory measures on the books today. Right-wingers are convinced that bureaucrats sit in rooms all day wondering how they can extend their unelected influence over this business sector or that public domain. That’s just not how it works. Observe the gestation of L.D. 1379. That’s how it works.
Will L.D. 1379 solve the problem outright? Maybe not. Ultimately it may take additional tweaks get the job done — a job no one else would even countenance, outside vigilante justice… Then, four years thereafter, some libertarian yahoo (who may or may not be our governor) will decry L.D. 1379 and its derivative measures as another example of anti-business government overreach.
Hal Phillips, New Gloucester
And here’s the other one, the online incarnation of which produced next to nothing, last I checked. Not my headline, by the way. I would have substituted “empathy” for sympathy, but
To the editor:
If it’s not too late, I’d like to applaud the Press-Herald for devoting so much time, resources and good ol’ fashioned empathy to casualties of the opioid crisis here in Maine. The March/April series was stellar, its most admirable upshot being the determined humanization of these people. The break-out biographies in particular effectively illustrated the breadth of the issue and the breadth of people who are sadly pulled into this vortex — by something we ‘ve traditionally seen as safe and palliative: a doctor’s visit.
I have been struck and continue to be struck by the seemingly culture-wide determination NOT to criminalize and dehumanize 21st century heroin casualties. It’s remarkable how little such perspective has been brought to other drugs epidemics through the years. Having lived through the coke/crack years of the 1980s and ‘90s, I cannot but notice something of a double standard.
Think of the way casualties of crack were treated back then (and still today). Humanization of these largely black, urban casualties was never a goal of media coverage. Legislators also treated these people differently, too: The U.S. Congress passed laws that created a 100:1 sentencing disparity for the possession or trafficking of crack (whose users were largely black and urban) compared to penalties for trafficking powder (white and suburban). Starting in 1986, someone caught with 5 grams of crack received the same minimum mandatory sentence (5 years in federal prison) as someone possessing 500 grams of powder cocaine. These laws were “remedied” in 2010 to reflect a mere 18:1 disparity, but still… This statutory response and the recent PPH series oblige us to ask of our culture: Why the disparity at all? And why are we today so determined to privilege (with empathy) the casualties of one drug epidemic, but not others?
Hal Phillips, New Gloucester