Eating the Law
Pablo Villavicencio Calderon, a pizza deliveryman originally from Ecuador and with two small children born in the U.S. was arrested by ICE and scheduled for deportation to the country he left years ago. Delivering to the Fort Hamilton Army base, he presented the NYC Identification card City police must accept as proof of identification. Military police do not. They demanded a driver’s license. Unable to produce this document, the base called the ICE after discovering Calderon had failed to heed a voluntary deportation order from 2010. Perhaps because he had met and married the woman who would father his children. That kind of love is a crime. We know this is happening, with variations, every day.
The delivered pizza was consumed, and the deliveryman dragged off to jail.
In the 2003 novel by Edward P. Jones, THE KNOWN WORLD, a free man of color, his freedom long ago purchased by his recently deceased son, is stopped on the road by three white “patrollers.” One of these men decides to confront the black man, whom he has stopped many times before and knows full well has papers proving his freedom. This night, he demands those papers. When they are produced (for no free man of color went anywhere without them) this agent of local law begins to slowly eat the papers in front of the horrified man. His colleagues do not stop him. The reason? “I hate the way you just ride up and down these roads without a care, without a ‘Yes sir, ain’t it a good day, sir?’ Without any kinda ‘May I kiss your sweet ass today, sir.’ ” Chewing, the deputy consumes the man’s freedom. When a few moments later a white man from Tennessee appears on that same road, accompanied by his own slave, the officer of the law sells the free man of color to him. As the overwhelmed man is beaten and thrown in his new “master’s” cart, the deputy sets the newly re-enslaved man’s cart afire. He has destroyed a life, gleefully and righteously. And thus is established the greater law of absolute white power. Freedom is to be determined on a case-by-case basis. This is the world known only to some, those who suffer from it and those who receive power from its whims. This world remains. The law can always be eaten, in order to feed those whose superior status has been established at birth, whether by color of skin or geography. This fundamental power triumphs over the known and celebrated laws of equality and freedom that those of us who live far away, or at with our faces turned elsewhere, assume take precedence. At the borders, on the road, they do not. The arms of our law save and strangle, depending.