Friday, December 7, 2007

Manneh from Staten Island

It's an easy pun from among so many temptations ('bushmeat'? Look, I'm a paragon of restraint). But I like to think it is not irrelevant to the analysis Stanley Fish makes available to those of us who would avail ourselves regarding a pending case in which a Staten Island resident defends herself against charges that she has violated US customs regulations and illegally imported 'bushmeat'.

According to CNN
A criminal complaint cited evidence that the illegal importation of bushmeat encourages the slaughter of protected wild animals. More ominously, the complaint warned of "the potential health risks to humans linking bushmeat to diseases like Lassa fever, Ebola, HIV, SARS and monkeypox.

At the center of the case in federal court is a modest woman with nine children and a history of domestic discord.

The case dates to early 2006, when federal inspectors at JFK Airport examined a shipment of 12 cardboard boxes from Guinea.

They were addressed to [Mamie] Manneh and, according to a flight manifest, contained African dresses and smoked fish with a value of $780.

Instead, stashed underneath the smoked fish, the inspectors found what West Africans refer to as bushmeat: "skulls, limbs and torsos of nonhuman primate species" plus the hoof and leg of a small antelope, according to court papers.

.... after she consented to a search, the agents came across a tiny, hairy arm hidden in her garage.

'Monkey,' she explained, claiming the arm was sent to her out of the blue "as a gift from God in heaven.

Well, call me a disciple and pass me a thigh.

responds Stanley Fish

to the defense attorney's assertion that the case represents a regrettable but inevitable by-product of the sort of 'clash of cultural and religious values inherent in the [thoroughly discredited metaphor of the] melting pot that is America'.
It represents a more fundamental clash: between the imperatives of religion and the rule of law. The question raised by the case is whether the fact of a religious belief is sufficient to exempt the believer from the application of generally applicable laws — laws (like driving on the right-hand side of the road) that apply to every citizen no matter what his or her religious, ethical or moral convictions. Is religious belief a special case, so special that the devout practitioner gets a pass?

If it is, then I guess it's up to God to save the USA.

No comments: