Political Crimes and Criminal Activity (fwd)

Fri, 5 Jan 1996 16:28:52 -0500 (EST)

Sender: smg7@cornell.edu (S. Graw)
Subject: Political Crimes and Criminal Activity

In response to Jeff Apfel's proposed debate topic on the subject of
political prisoners:
>I suppose I differ with Maggie Jaffe in that I view American government
>as suffering from no fundamental crisis of legitimacy and I suspect her
>view is the opposite. Activists in the sixties often conflated their
>own views on the war, racism and other matters into the argument that
>government simply lacked all legitimate authority. This was, I think,
>a view born of the frustration that "the people" for whom one spoke
>seemed more often than not to be on the other side of the issues.

"Legitimacy" of governments is a snake pit that political scholars of this
era try to avoid: first post-colonialism and now post-modern relativism have
made it all too apparent that legitimacy is in the eye of the legitimator.
Aside from the judgements about dictatorships that Jeff alludes to, what
about countries like Taiwan or North and South Korea, and lest we forget,
North and South Vietnam? Did the blocs of the Cold War bring "legitimacy"
to any ot those in an absolute or impartial sense? Legitimacy, like the
dualism of "criminal" or "political" to categorize anti-state activities, is
hopelessly mired in ideological garb. I think that thread of the discussion
isn't germane to the topic of this list.
But we should focus on what Jeff says about the '60s era. It was my
experience that people who opposed the Vietnam War (for the most part)
viewed THE WAR as "illegitimate:" It wasn't a declared war; the enemy had
never attacked the US (unless you believed in the Tonkin Gulf incident -
recognized as a prototype 'whopper' by many); the information US people were
getting was patently illegitimate - sired by bastards and propagated by
their compliant mouthpieces; and underneath all the US flags & apple pie&mom
patriotism, no legitimate cause to fight, kill and be killed could be found.
Joe Mc Donald's post reminds me how his poignant lines went: "And it's
1,2,3,4 what are we fightin' for, I don't give a damn, next stop is Viet
Nam." When Nixon went to China, NOBODY on either side of the pro and anti
war sides could any longer believe that Communists LEGITIMATELY deserved to die.
What I'm really getting off on here is the claim that protestors in
the '60s were a frustrated and alienated clique within a narrow sphere of
the society. That argument is a recent construction in an era when
uniformity and confomity masquerade as positive social and political
attributes for the individual. I'm ok and you're ok, but that other one is
WEIRD and ALIENATED so we don't have to listen to what that one's saying!
It's as easy to classify a broad group of people as it is the
legitimacy of a given government. Census takers and bureaucrats make their
livings like that. And we all know that Newt Gingrich hates bureaucrats........
* From: Steve Graw
* at Cornell U./Field of Development Sociology
* Warren 34/ (607) 255-7684
* Old hippies never die, they just trip out *