NewsHour Essayist Richard Rodriguez shares thoughts on justice and class.
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Finally tonight, essayist Richard Rodriguez on justice and class.
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ, NewsHour Essayist:
Ken Lay, the convicted head of Enron, died in early July before he could be formally sentenced to jail, but middle-class Americans had at least the satisfaction of seeing his fame reduced to a walk of shame.
Commonly, when the rich of Beverly Hills, or Greenwich, or River Oaks are indicted, the middle-class assumption is that the lawyers will get them off. Indeed, so ubiquitous have high-priced lawyers become, we can name many of them, recognize their silky voices and fine suits.
THE BARENAKED LADIES, Musicians (singing):
If I had a million dollars…
We of the middle class know that a lotto ticket is about the only chance we have for fabulous wealth. We see the very rich in magazines and on television, and we can only wonder at their Learjets and the palaces they've built to house their egos. The very rich have always been different from you and me, but as that difference has so vastly grown, so, too, has middle-class cynicism.
When they are indicted, we assume that their wealth will purchase them singularity. We tell ourselves, "The rich are not subject to the same kind of justice the rest of us know." At most, the Hollywood celebrity or the CEO will get off with a sentence of community service…
Yes, good deal.