The scandal over Dominique Strauss-Kahn has made headlines internationally and been big news even in the global South. There’s been a lot of back-patting about American egalitarianism, that we might prosecute those in power as easily as those out of it – which may be valid enough in this case, but as a systemic observation, is plainly untrue. I found myself nodding in agreement with this piece from Harper’s, particularly this quote: “The single prosecution of a DSK – just like Tom Wolfe’s WASP bond trader in The Bonfire of the Vanities – does not redress the inequities of the American legal system.”
Sure, we can feel better by claiming superiority over the French, just as people can look at Italian rape law and feel good about America’s handling of sexual assault. But being better than terrible doesn’t mean that we are actually good. You don’t become a grownup just because you stop shitting on yourself, and going for a few easy targets hardly amounts to serious, structural justice.