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 V.20 No.3 | January 20 - 26, 2011 

Gene Grant

Baby Kissing and Crocodile Tears

Now that Gov. Susana Martinez has offered her first State of the State address and laid down a number of markers on her policy approach, a question remains: What do we have on our hands here to judge the moral compass of Susana Martinez?

Is there a bedrock belief that makes her go all “60 Minutes” John Boehner (" ... making sure that these kids have a shot at the American dream like I did ... ” cue Boehner snot)? Everyone has a button. Does she?

The most revealing moments from the governor have clearly been when she’s talking about her work with abused kids in Doña Ana County. Her brother mentioned in an El Paso Times profile that she sometimes chokes up talking about it. That’s a pretty good reason to well up. The experience means something to her.

I don't remember Gov. Richardson choking up over anything in eight years. Maybe it would have helped.

Still, we've had our share of issue-based oddball leakage over the years. Let’s review.

No doubt you'll recall ex-Rep. Heather Wilson losing it during a congressional hearing following the infamous Super Bowl nipplegate. (The Alibi installed a “cry button” at alibi.com where one could listen to Wilson’s waterworks with the click of a mouse; it likely set a record for web hits back then.)

Anyone remember Mitt Romney blubbering on “Meet the Press” during the campaign? John Edwards? He cried on the campaign trail as well, but those tears were clearly no clue about his inner workings.

Sometimes we bust up with them in a shared moment. It's a reminder of how important this all is.

Hillary Clinton got leaky in New Hampshire during the primary (" ... I have so many opportunities from this country. I just don't want to see us fall backward ... ”), and the national press corps was convinced she was done.

I don't remember Gov. Richardson choking up over anything in eight years. Maybe it would have helped.

These clues are not reserved for big-time politicians. Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio had his sensitive moments about animal abuse. (Prisoners roasting in outdoor tents? Pffft.)

On the critter tip, über-conservative radio talk show host Michael Savage has zero qualms about the torture of alleged military combatants, but if you even hint at harm to animals, forget about it.

We like public displays of emotion now and again from public folk. Sometimes we bust up with them in a shared moment. It's a reminder of how important this all is. And it’s a cleansing. But this is all part of the guessing game we play about the emotional temperament of elected officials.

Just like us, these are complicated people. Still, it's frustrating to watch politicians contradict themselves. They possess soft and rock-hard attributes, hypocritically, on the same issue.

Boehner loses it at the mention of innocent American children and their future prospects, but he can turn around the very next day and somehow ignore the consequences of legislation to (poor) children. Why don’t these flashes of emotion carry over to other issues of the day? Will Gov. Martinez recognize root causes of child abuse, such as poverty and substance abuse?

This duality is how it goes. It's always been this way.

One of the more interesting two-sided personalities in New Mexico lore was U.S. Marshal John Pratt, who served the state from 1866 to 1876. Early in the federal lawman's tenure, President Andrew Johnson signed a bill "To Abolish and Forever Prohibit the System of Peonage In the Territory of New Mexico and Other Parts of the United States." New Mexico was among many territories still practicing chattel slavery and peonage (personal bondage as a consequence of indebtedness), since many thought Lincoln’s 1862 act to abolish slavery only applied to blacks.

Pratt might be considered one of the great freedom fighters of this state, helping to haul in more than 150 violators of peonage (mostly in Taos County) and free more than 500 Native American slaves. However, there was another side to Pratt—chiefly his political and financial ties to the notorious Santa Fe Ring, and most notably, Thomas Catron, the then-attorney general of the territory and soon-to-be land and cattle baron.

Some of the deals Catron pulled off—particularly swiping Spanish land grants with Pratt's ruthless aid—were outrageous. As was the marshal's use of deputies to intimidate at the voting booth. Pratt, it turned out, was primarily a shameless political hack as well as law enforcer. Civil liberties? Pfffft. He helped free slaves. I'm sure he slept well.

Actions speak louder than tears. Whether Gov. Martinez shows stirring fervor in front of a camera isn't the point. If Martinez acknowledges the pain and stress her policies could cause, we'll know where her moral compass points.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
Public Comments (4)
  • Poverty, abuse stereotypes  [ Fri Jan 21 2011 10:49 AM ]

    Contrary to popular belief, poor folks are not meaner than rich folks. We may not look as pretty or smell as good, but we may love our kids more, since we actually raise them ourselves, instead of hiring some kid to do it. Families with annual incomes below $15,000 per year are more than 25 times more likely than families with annual income above $30,000 to be REPORTED for abuse or neglect. Social scientists question previous interpretations of reports. Poor families have frequent contact with reporting agencies: social workers, police, clinics, etc. Neighbors and other family members will "rat you out," in revenge for some grudge, by filing an anonymous "report" of abuse, putting you under investigation. You can lose your kids over unsubstantiated gossip! Affluent families more often get a "pass" by those who are more suspicious of the poor (but who can blame them, given the frequent publication of stereotypes, not based on science, but on fear.) Wealthy people tend to live in single family homes: more distance and less sound than crowded, multi-family structures, where abuse can be heard more easily. Wealthy people have connections and "reputations;" the poor do not. And we are forced to live in nasty backwaters, surrounded by danger; our kids get hurt more, just trying to get to school, than the rich kids do, and the parents get blamed.

  • Ignorance  [ Fri Jan 21 2011 1:38 PM ]

    Let me get this straight. You're saying that because people in poor neighborhoods live closer together and have nosier neighbors compared to those in more affluent neighborhoods, they're more likely to get reported for abuse when it's not "really" happening? Say what?

    I'd believe you if you have statistical evidence to support your claims, but my significant other is an APS elementary school teacher in a not-so-nice neighborhood, and the stories she has pertaining to child abuse (since teachers are legally obligated to report such findings) would make your head spin. Things that are unheard of in "nicer" schools in "nicer" areas.

    You can get as bleeding-heart and conspiracy theorist as you want, but facts are facts. The statistics that have come out correlating income level and child/domestic abuse are absolutely staggering. I think we should start at lack of education as a main contributing factor, for one, since I'll agree with you that simply cashing a paltry Whataburger check doesn't clench your fists tighter or anything.

  • Lack of education and financial frustration  [ Fri Jan 21 2011 3:06 PM ]

    I wouldn't discount getting a paltry paycheck as a cause for anger leading to abuse. If someone is unhappy with their lot in life one could reasonably conclude that they would be more prone to frustration which can often lead to abuse.

  • from public folk  [ Fri Jan 21 2011 10:20 PM ]

    Mr. Grant

    The Lady is KIND, but she is hard on the criminal element. Let's leave it at that.

    Regards

    Mike

 
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