Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery could have said a lot of things on the news yesterday, regarding his case against struggling single mother Shanesha Taylor. He might have implied that the internet donors and other people who have taken up her cause don't have all the information he does(This could be true. Only in television, and bad television at that, are we offered completely blameless victims, but I am inclined to believe Ms. Taylor needs a break, not the full force of the justice system.) Still, perhaps he could have issued a fatherly statement about trying any case in the media before it comes before a jury. Instead, he fell back on old stereotypes about the netroots, and made it clear he believes compassion is a problem, not a solution. Follow me below the fold for more.
First, I have to say I'm not a lawyer. Nor can I imagine being County Attorney in a jurisdiction with so much gun violence, identity theft(at one time Phoenix led the nation in this), a threadbare child-protection system and the like. I have no doubt that the stress must be considerable, but I really found the way that he snapped at fellow citizens who take action online to be inappropriate.
Granted, I'm not saying signing petitions makes a person Rosa Parks: there are too many of them now, in some cases there are duplications of effort and it's true that some people do it more to look like nice people to their friends than to affect real change. However, when we see an injustice done, sometimes it can be a little satisfaction, and one I generally indulge in fully clothed, to imagine that people in power might see the many names arrayed there and decide to change course. After all, it only takes a second. Sometimes I am inspired to further action. Is Shanesha Taylor a "good investment" for this kind of attention? Only time will tell. But trying to help someone that you believe is in trouble is never the *wrong*thing to do, and I hate to see public officials invoking the sad stereotype of the internet as a place full of people who never even bother to get dressed in the morning. In 12,000 signatures(Including mine), there have got to be a few people who have other roles in life than "people signing petitions in their pajamas" and I think we deserve at least that much respect. I think that kind of thing comes from our best impulses of caring about others and wanting the system to be the best that it can. I think Phoenix would be a better city if people took more of an interest, not less, and I wish Montgomery's remarks had been a bit more sensitive.
I've got bigger problems, and I know for sure that he does, probably even more now, after shooting his mouth off(Maybe there should be a waiting period for that, too) but I feel better getting that off my chest.