Saturday, June 9, 2007

Justice for all?

There's been so much hostility expressed towards Paris Hilton the past few days it makes my head swim. Nobody has yet said to burn her at the stake, but I suppose that's only a matter of time. What is going on here?

Perhaps people are just so frustrated with their lives they can't help being envious of someone like Paris Hilton, who has never had to work a day in her life and has enjoyed the kind of lifestyle most Americans can never aspire to. Perhaps it's a backlash of all the celebrity worship-so many people live vicariously through celebrities they haven't done anything with their own lives. There's no regret quite as poignant as that of looking back on what might have been, and if people can blame their pain on someone else, they will. It's not Paris Hilton's fault if people don't make the most of their own lives, instead of envying hers, but she certainly seems to be shouldering the blame anyway.

Maybe she's just a plain old-fashioned scapegoat. OJ Simpson was found not guilty of butchering two people; Robert Blake got off on a charge of shooting his wife. Michael Jackson has beaten two child molestation charges. The cult of celebrity has a sour lining-the age old fact that the rich and powerful ARE different from the common man. They can do more. When they do wrong, they are punished less, if at all. Could it be that Paris Hilton is being made to suffer for the unpunished crimes of every celebrity who has walked away from the judicial system unscathed? And is this sheltered girl, a non-violent offender, really the right person to make an example of?

Some people insist that poor, obscure people are treated differently under the law. Let's look at two women who exited the Los Angeles County Jail in Lynwood on Friday morning. One is Rhonda Thompson, a 36-year-old Downey resident. She thinks it's unfair that Paris got out after 3 days for driving with a suspended license. I suppose Rhonda thinks it's fair that she got out after only 4 days for driving with a suspended license. The only difference I can see is Rhonda served one day more than Paris, but on the other hand, no one is chasing her to put her back in prison. Then there's Robbie Davenport, a 42-year-old resident of Hollywood, who is angry that she spent half of her 90 day sentence, for violating probation by driving, in jail. Robbie admits to 2 prior arrests for driving under the influence. There's no public outcry to send her back to jail to finish out her sentence either. I suppose Robbie thinks it's fair she's not being sent back to do her time, but she would still like to see Paris Hilton back behind bars. Read the article for yourself at,1,4458829.story?ctrack=2&cset=true

So what's the answer? It might help if people were to see that destroying Paris Hilton is not going to reform the judicial system. The problem here is not that a rich girl did not serve out her whole sentence. The problem is that violent criminals are favored over victims; that people do not make enough money to meet basic needs; that children are growing up illiterate; that the country is involved, yet again, in a war overseas we cannot hope to win. And perhaps these problems are just symptoms of the biggest problem of all-that most people are apathetic of what is going on in the world as long as they are not personally affected. And one of the answers is that Paris Hilton is not responsible for any of this.