Sunday, December 6, 2009

It Wasn't Us

It been an interesting couple of weeks here in the Puget Sound area, if you follow murder cases. On the one hand, the murder of four Lakewood, Washington police officers by "Arkansas parolee" Maurice Clemmons is still making front page news. On the other hand, the conviction of West Seattle native Amanda Knox in an Italian court for a part in the murder of her British roommate still vies with it for the public's attention.

Locals are upset about both cases, for reasons that are as different as the cases themselves. In the Clemmons case, there seems to be something of a consensus forming that It's All Arkansas' Fault, along with Mike Huckabee. (While Clemmons might turn out to be Huckabee's Willie Horton, I suspect that the local opinion that it nails shut the coffin on his political career is likely premature.) Although it's more or less a truism that if Clemmons were still sitting in an Arkansas prison, he wouldn't have been in a position to shoot four police officers, the sudden expectation of precognition on the part of authorities there seems unrealistic. This hasn't stopped the Governor from saying that no more paroled convicts from Arkansas will be allowed into the state until a full investigation has been completed. (Preferably, it seems, one that places all the blame in Arkansas.)

On the other side of the coin, there's also a constant whisper of It's All Italy's Fault that Amanda Knox was convicted. Senator Maria Cantwell has said that she plans to go to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to share concerns over "whether 'anti-Americanism' tainted the trial." This despite the fact that Knox may have sunk her own ship by not having a consistent story about where she was that night (she claimed that she was in the home and heard her roommate dying - but later claimed she was elsewhere), and by pointing the finger at someone who was later exonerated. But people here still talk about corruption in the Italian legal system, and voice doubts Knox was given a fair trial.

Much of this is to be expected - Clemmons was a black male from elsewhere, while Knox is an attractive, white, female local. That alone could easily explain the differences in people's reactions. But there's another side of things, that doesn't drive as much press: people in the Seattle area seem to like blaming the world's ills on people from elsewhere - as then-Mayor Paul Schell blamed the riots that made 1999's World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle into a complete fiasco on out-of-town anarchists. There seems to be a desire on the part of certain people in the Puget Sound area to believe they live in an Earthly Paradise - or at least they WOULD, if it weren't for all of the transplants who flooded the place, bringing crime, traffic, the housing bubble and bad coffee. (One wonders what the Native American population would say about this.) Normally, this manifests itself as what's sometimes termed "the Seattle Chill" (the tendency of Seattlites to be polite, while managing to be distinctly unwelcoming to newcomers). Every so often, this manifests itself as a minor hostility to pretty much the entire rest of the planet. Luckily for us, the rest of the planet rarely notices.

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