Thursday, July 7, 2011

Keeping up with The Times

If you have been following the coverage on Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his sudden reversals of fortune, then this op-ed piece, written by an anthropologist who has lived and worked in west Africa, is worth reading.

When I first heard that there were questions about the "credibility" of the woman who had accused DSK, my thoughts flew wildly to the conspiracy theories that had been floated among DSK's defenders. Could they have been right? Was it entrapment?

Then I read what the woman had done: Told a story that would enable her to gain asylum. Claimed on her tax returns a dependent who was not her child. Apparently allowed a boyfriend of questionable character to open bank accounts in her name to launder drug money.

They might not be honest actions, but can we not understand and explain them?

I fear that Mike McGovern's point, in his op-ed, will be lost on too many Americans who feel that there are too many immigrants, legal and especially illegal, in "their" country.

Americans have constructed mythologies that justify how and why they arrived on these shores: A taste for freedom, a thirst for democracy. Pluck. Hard work. Sacrifice. We tell stories about the values and characters of individuals, glossing over the larger historical contexts in which persons act.

News coverage suggests that prosecutors are backing off because they feel that the issue of credibility makes the case unwinnable: Because the woman lied on her application for asylum (which enabled her to leave Guinea) and on her tax return (BTW, I want to know how "honest" are the filings of the CEOs of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and so on), she cannot be believed.

Casting doubt on a woman's virtue, thus casting doubt on the accusation she makes: The time-honored method of ignoring inconvenient truths about men and power.

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