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The Barton Case: Waking The Sleeping Giant?
VDARE.com first reported on this case over a year ago. Mrs. Barton was arrested for using the word "spic" in a public place. Hearing some people talking Spanish in a restaurant, she said to her mother - not to the people speaking Spanish - "I wish these damned 'spics' would learn to speak English."
One of the Spanish-speakers could understand her, though. She was an off-duty Sheriff's Deputy named Caroline Benitez. She followed Mrs. Barton outside, took down her license number, and complained to the local police.
Two weeks later, Mrs. Barton was arrested under a local ordinance forbidding "insulting conduct" in a public place.
We called the report Report from Occupied Michigan (Estado de Michigan), because it sounds like something that might have happened in Alsace-Lorraine under the Prussians.
Speaking disrespectfully of immigrants is apparently a hate crime in Michigan, and the reason it's so dangerous, according to John Roy Castillo, is because his people have terrible tempers and are apt to react violently to insults.
"I'm nonviolent, but I might have confronted her and who knows the personality of that person," said Castillo, who is of Mexican descent. "The ordinance was intended to prevent potential violence."
Barton's use of the word "spic" as an ethnic slur is offensive, and it's also not protected political speech, he said. "In this situation, I'd be insulted," said Castillo. "Here, she said it, and she shouldn't have said it because it could develop into a far more serious condition that it did."
But note: Mrs. Barton wasn't intending to insult the Spanish-speakers. The comment was meant to be private.
Barton said she now regrets using the epithet, but she stands by its use. "I do feel they should speak English in this country," Barton said. "It's a political statement. You have states and cities voting on this."
After a jury trial that must have cost Michigan's taxpayers a good deal of money, Judge Brent Danielson found Mrs. Barton guilty, and sentenced her to 45 days in jail, of which she actually served four.
This is half the maximum sentence for insulting conduct in a public place. And the judge only set it at half because that allowed him to keep Janice Barton on probation for two years. It seems to be a clear case of criminalizing speech that's political.
Judge Danielson said:
,,,This isn't just some generalized stupid speech where someone is just engaging in fascist Xenophobic [sic] logorrhea. This is directed at someone. It's – you don't say words like this when someone is present, like this, unless you are either intending to hurt them, to injure them. Or, you are intending to engage in some kind of a physical altercation. This is a restriction on a free speech that's especially to be guarded in Michigan.
To give some perspective on this 45-day sentence, contrast it with the sentence in a contemporaneous Michigan case, in which mass killer Dr. Jack Kevorkian pled guilty to assaulting police and resisting arrest on the occasion of dropping off the body of his latest - at that time - victim, approximately his 120th, at the ER in Royal Oak.
The judge gave him a $900 dollar fine, and let him go, even though Kevorkian himself wanted to go to jail, and even though he was practically certain to kill again if he were released. (He did, of course, and by a strange coincidence, he's now in a maximum-security facility near Manistee.)
Mrs. Barton's lawyer got her out of jail after four days, allegedly by making a deal that she would give up her right to appeal - a deal she says she didn't agree to.
Edith Hakola of CFAU reports that the Michigan Supreme court has sent the case back to the Appeals Court, telling it to take another look.
There's a larger political issue than this one free speech case, though.
Judge Danielson said that this kind of speech is "Especially to be guarded against in Michigan."
Why? Well, I think it's because of the now massive diversity of Michigan. Recent stories about Dearborn, Michigan include Mood remains subdued in diverse Dearborn and more to the point, in my view, Is Michigan a Terror Stronghold?
Politically, however, the story you need to read is Diverse Michigan true test for GOP.
In the 2000 Presidential primaries, the Detroit News called Michigan "the first primary state this year to reflect America in its size and diversity."
Unlike tiny New Hampshire and Delaware, remote Alaska or religiously conservative South Carolina -- the earlier primary states -- Michigan with its large population, industrial significance, unions and ethnic variety offers a significant national test.
The country has changed a lot since the 1965 Immigration Act. In fact, it has been changed. That's the message of this case.
For example, you wouldn't expect Manistee County, which is in northern Michigan, to have a large Hispanic population. It's literally about as far from the Mexican border as you can go and still be in the Continental United States.
According to the Census, 639 out of the 24,539 people in Manistee County are Hispanic, and 434 of those are Mexican. The Mexicans alone outnumber the black community, which numbers 399. [VDARE.com note: This data is from page 763 of the census report here. Click at your own risk, though, it's a 1325 page, 7 megabyte PDF document.]
You may wonder how it is that, with a Mexican population that small, a Hispanic woman just happens to have a job with the local Sheriff's Department.
Some of you are wondering if there's some kind of affirmative action going on. Very likely. But there's now a rationale for hiring Spanish-speaking officers: in order to communicate with the bad guys, and understand what they're saying, in order to survive.
There's that message again; the country has changed.
In the aftermath of the WTC attacks, Ismael Ahmed, a Michigan Arab-American talked about people who were wary of Arabs, especially on airplanes:
"I feel sorry for people who don't understand yet what America has become," he said, referring to Americans who scapegoat their countrymen based on skin color or religion. "For them, I'm afraid, life is going to be miserable."
Which is one view of the changes. That they're irreversible, that nothing can be done about multiculturalism, that immigration can't be restricted.
The other view is that of Admiral Yamamoto, which you've heard quoted recently in a different context:
I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.
October 24, 2001