I seldom write a column anymore, thus sparing many of you the opportunity to send me e-mails saying, “Your column sucked! I can’t get those 10 minutes back, asshole!!” As much as I appreciate the humanity of anonymous e-mails and the tender tug of emotion I get by adjusting my reading glasses, then creeping ever closer to my monitor screen to see if the sender hadn’t misspelled the word “asshole” (perhaps it should have been “all wise one”?), I confess that when one doesn’t write with frequency, it’s harder and harder to write at all. Right now, I’m having a hard time writing.
It’s not the writing part that’s hard. It’s the choosing part. As I sit here, there are two juicy topics, looking like fat balloons at a carnival midway just waiting to be popped. One is the “No Pay, No Pray” debacle that has engulfed the local Greek Orthodox community. The other is the retrograde assessment of Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill made by Salt Lake County Republican party chairman Chad Bennion. I’m going with No. 2, for safety reasons.
If you’ve been following the news on Twitter, you know that Utah Democratic Party Chairman and Utah State Sen. Jim Dabakis is upset that Bennion is upset. If you’ve been following the news on Twitter plus Facebook, you know that what upset Dabakis was Bennion’s derisive comments about Gill, including dubious assertions about Gill’s homeland and upbringing.
Some social-media commenters have gone on to proclaim that Indians like Gill should go “back to the rez, bro.” Others correct that mistake (Gill is not a Native American, he was born in India, a country you cannot see from the tip of Alaska even if Bennion says you can from your tippy-toes), and just ask why Gill is never photographed wearing “that towel thingy.” Bennion thinks that persons born outside of the Salt Lake Valley have a distorted sense of morality that disqualifies elected officials like Gill from making legitimate legal decisions regarding our local police and the use of deadly force.
Those following the story on Twitter, Facebook plus on TV or in print know that what triggered Bennion’s racial-profiling reflex was that Gill recently ruled that the shooting death of a West Valley City woman, Danielle Willard, by West Valley detectives in November 2012 was unjustified. In Bennion’s world, Gill hasn’t lived in this country long enough to know that shootings by our police cannot be questioned. In Bennion La La Land, Gill’s upbringing as an Indian distorts his sense of right and wrong in matters of use of force or police brutality. Apparently, that distortion comes from Gill witnessing it firsthand, unlike Bennion, who has only witnessed police brutality on MTV reruns featuring the Village People.
The biggest and most deceptive slog? Bennion thinks Gill is a “cop hater.” Look, ladies and gentlemen, let’s put down for a moment (and not a nanosecond longer) that Bennion’s words represent the worst of crass and craven idiocy. Actually, it’s crass and craven politics. What Bennion is really doing is political posturing for the next election cycle. There’s a mayor’s race to be won in West Valley City. Gill will soon enough be up for re-election. Bennion likely has higher ambitions than those of his current, basically useless calling as GOP party chair (I live in Murray, which he allegedly represented in the Legislature, yet I’ve barely heard of him. I thought he was a dentist.), so dropping words like “cop hater” into a decision regarding a young woman’s death is all about removing Gill from office and not about finding closure for Willard’s family.
Bennion is an opportunist at the core. Even if a young woman dies unnecessarily, Bennion sees it as a chance to curry favor, to grab a vote here or there, all the while putting a nice shine on that silver star on his forehead with backhanded blows to Gill and to all the peoples of India—very few of whom call Utah home. Bennion has nothing to lose by being a jackass, and he knows that demeaning every native-born Indian living in Utah will not cost the GOP a single vote in the next, or any, Utah election.
Is Bennion a racist? You decide. He’s more like a hit man. Like all hit men, he hits when no one is looking. Do you think he would have said similar if Gill were born in Mexico or Vietnam? Hell, no—at least not if he wants his party to win a race in West Valley City. Would he have made the same comparison to being witness to police brutality as a disqualifier if Gill were an inner-city child of a U.S. city? Nah. He would know the consequences of that.
And that’s the rub when people like Bennion make statements such as he did. They cannot get away with it. It matters not where Gill was born; it does matter if Gill is fair, honest and disciplined and able to uphold the Utah laws he swore on a holy book to uphold. He is our county’s top prosecutor—our top cop, not a cop hater. If he’s bad at it, don’t vote for him next time. If he’s good, then do, but don’t base it on the ugly ruse that Bennion is flying now.
I’m going to make you a bet: I bet Bennion wet himself whenever Mitt Romney’s religion was mentioned in the media during his run for the presidency. I’ll also bet that Bennion can’t make himself admit that what he did and what he didn’t like when Romney was running are the same thing.