Friday, April 8, 2011

My Back Pages: A Defense Of A Washington Scoundrel

Everything requires careful consideration if one is to understand it. In ancient times, as I recollect, people often ate human beings, but I am rather hazy about it. I tried to look this up, but my history has no chronology, and scrawled all over each page are the words: 'virtue' and 'morality.' Since I could not sleep anyway, I read intently half the night, until I began to see words between the lines, the whole book being filled with the two words --'eat people.'
--Lu Hsun, "Diary of a Madman"
One of the unusual features of Hangzhou of that period (the Song Dynasty) is that there were establishments that served human flesh. That of woman, old men, young girls, and children was served in separate dishes, since each had its own distinctive taste. The food in general was referred to as 'two-legged mutton.' 
--Alasdair Clarke, The Heart of the Dragon
None of the tribes of West Africa eat human flesh, but the interior tribes eat any corpse regardless of the cause of death. Families hesitate to eat their own dead, but they sell or exchange them for the dead of other families. 
       --William Graham Sumner, Folkways 
It is not my intention to stand before you today and attempt to deny that my client did, in fact, cook children and eat them. The preponderance of evidence on this point is clear and overwhelming, and though the prosecution has chosen --for what I would maintain are purely the purposes of pandering to public outrage-- to emphasize the cooking and eating of children, it should be noted that my client has also acknowledged that he cooked and ate many others as well --many, many others, as you have heard.

He has cooked and eaten adults --primarily the elderly, the poor, and the infirm-- as well as children, many of them, as the evidence has shown, also poor and infirm. And while I cannot defend my client's actions, I will nonetheless attempt to show that, offensive as his behavior may well be, and perhaps rightfully should be, to modern sensibilities, it was not, in fact, all that long ago that the appetite for human flesh was common in many parts of the world.

Indeed, there are reports from the field of anthropology that indicate that this practice is still being carried out in some parts of the globe even today.

As such I would maintain that my client's behavior is an atavistic kink, if you will, and purely genetic; you have heard testimony that the practice of the cooking and eating of children was a long tradition in my client's family. For many generations his otherwise respectable --and respected-- family has largely subsisted on human flesh.

That said, we make no excuses in pleading for leniency. My client takes full responsibility for behavior that doubtless strikes many of you as wholly reprehensible, yet given his status as a duly elected official and his otherwise exemplary conduct --he has raised three predatory and dependent  children of his own that he did not cook and eat-- and his years of devoted political service to his personal interests, I would ask that, in considering his sentence today, you recognize his potential for full reform.

It is my belief that a moderate prison term, during which my client would be subjected to a strenuous program of dietary reeducation, is in society's best interest, and will ensure that he is eventually and successfully reintroduced in full standing to the human community, where his leadership skills and winning if wholly inexplicable charisma may once again be utilized for the benefit of his many wealthy constituents.

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