The lawyers escorted Justin B. to a small windowless room. Everything there was made of wood, walls, ceiling and floor, hammered clumsily into place. The television was also made of wood. As B. looked around this wretched chamber, his pompadour wilted. One of the lawyers leaned over the desk where he sat and regarded him evenly. “Do you know Selena Gomez?” he asked. B. did not answer. The lawyer went on for some time, not even waiting for a response: “Do you know Selena Gomez? Do you know Selena Gomez?” B., who suffered from an anxious disposition, felt this was all quite impossible. Finally he raised a trembling hand and pleaded: “Don’t—don’t ask me. Please don’t ask… don’t ask me about her again.”
The lawyer paused, tugging on his neatly trimmed beard. “I am a trustee of this court,” he offered mildly, “and we all know you have recognized its authority.” B. sank into his chair, eyes closed, and gathered his floral Dries Van Noten jacket about him. “Indeed, to deny that would only confirm your provisionally established guilt. Now,” the lawyer continued, “do you remember being in Australia?” Shaking, B. stammered: “I-I don’t know if I’ve been to Australia. Have I been to Australia?” He flung his strangely buff form across the desk in a heap, growing more and more agitated. He could not recall visiting the nation at issue, but he felt that he had long dwelt in an abstracted, metaphysical Australia, a dreamtime, as it were. B. lifted up a finger with abject regret and asked: “What kind of question is that?”
It wasn’t that bad. Depending on which uniform
Banged at the door I’d say we’d always lived here
Or—who’s asking? There was no shortage
Of federalist visions; we had flexible identities.
In the cities the rent was cheap. Someone’s trash
Usually ended up at my house: I’d take bookshelves;
Then there was that old couch. Burckhardt wrote
Of our unprecedented variety of life. Masses rejoiced
In the profusion of the masses—my bread and butter.... Read more
In The News: A User’s Manual, Alain de Botton argues that more sensitive portrayals of criminals would lead to greater empathy. But news media doesn’t completely refrain from humanizing criminals—it just depends on their skin colour.