Thursday, October 06, 2011

Dreyfus or OJ?

Does Amanda Knox's hippie vibe, or her status at the time of the crime as an especially mocked cliché: the American coed abroad, drinking and getting to know the local menfolk, mean she must have done it? No, ugh. Does the fact that she's got a Mariel-Hemingway-in-Manhattan thing going on, or that she's a middle-class white girl from a non-threatening-sounding part of Real-ish America, mean that she couldn't possible have? This, too, gets an ugh. Promiscuity does not imply guilt, nor does a soccer-playing past imply innocence.

NYT writer Timothy Egan has once again been summoned to tell us that because Knox reminds him, for some superficial reasons, of his daughter, he knew all along she must be innocent, even before she was found not guilty in an Italian court, and that the black guy did it. I could be misreading him - although going by the comments, I wouldn't be the only one - but I think what Egan is getting at in the bit when he says "Race, of course, is a factor," is that Knox was treated unfairly because she's not a black man. My brain spins, spins, and can make no sense of this.

The victim, meanwhile, British and brown, was maybe too fern, insufficiently wholesome on account of being foreign and of-color, who knows, but for whatever reason Egan did not see his daughter in her.

Part of what's absurd about this is the whole 'my kid's pure as the driven snow' angle. Whenever one hears a parent claiming with confidence that a 20-year-old son or daughter has never had a drink/smoked pot/had sex, don't you want to ask these people how on earth they'd know that, whether they'd spent every waking moment with their kid, including at college?

While the sheer unlikelihood that anyone drawn at random from the population has committed a gruesome murder means that I'd comfortable stating with confidence that Egan's daughter never has, the fact of being NYT writer Timothy Egan's daughter does not put one in some unassailable category. Thus begins the flawed logic: we who are not Timothy Egan are expected to believe that Knox's superficial similarities to Egan's daughter tell us something meaningful. They don't.

Then there's the bizarre demonization of Italy, bizarre in that our own justice system has its salient medieval qualities. Atheist Jewish feminist here, and I'm not moved as a "defender of women’s rights, or modernity" by the detail about there being a "crucifix that adorns Italian courtrooms," or by the lawyers' use of colorful language. I sincerely doubt that anyone was trying to claim literally that Knox was a witch. I mean, in parts of Europe I know well, there are crucifixes everywhere, along with gay marriage and health care for all. America has a lot to offer, but does not get to claim full ownership of Modernity.

Then there's Egan, who's just gotten through explaining why facts about Knox unrelated to the case itself - character details - are irrelevant, telling us that no doubt this other guy acted alone, noting that he is "a drifter with a drug history." So if one's travel and experimentation is done from within the pseudo-supervised framework of an American study-abroad program, it's wholesome and charming, but if not, it's a sign of sordid evil? Ugh.

I really hope Knox is innocent as opposed to merely not proven guilty, and that the man in jail is indeed the sole person responsible for the crime, because it's always a happier story for justice to prevail, and because it's not so wonderful for a sociopath to be roaming around Washington State or wherever else. The coverage of all this, though, has been such ick all around. For what I wish were the last time, the correct response to a claim that being a regular ol' 'merican college student makes someone guilty of murder is not to say that being a regular ol' 'merican college student is, in and of itself, proof of innocence.


Jeff said...

I don't think Seattle counts as Realish-America (and Knox, whether she be victim or sociopath, lives right in my neighborhood, though at the moment her family is holed up in some private location).

Good catch on Mariel Hemingway.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

If she were Rachel Rabinowitz from the Upper West Side, or, well, African-American, Asian-American, etc., this would have been a different story. She's The American Girl Abroad. She could just as well be from Ohio. No one's giving this story a "coastal" angle.