You can often judge a man by the company he keeps, it is said.

This week, the Attorney General of North Carolina declared that the three Duke lacrosse players charged with the rape of a black stripper in March of 2006 to be “innocent” of all charges. Such a pronouncement, while it is without legal effect, certainly packs an emotional punch; it is the consummate condemnation of the Attorney General”s own subordinate, the DA of Durham County, Mike Nifong, who brought the charges.

“Our lives have been ruined,” the three players have said, both before, during and after this whole affair. (One – get this – even lost s job that he had lined up at an investment banking firm. Woe to the beleaguered white man!)

One can lament the travesty of justice that was this case without feeling sorry for the accused. I have seen and heard all of them, and on the basis of admittedly superficial impressions (what else do I or anyone else making judgments on this Earth have to go on?), I find it hard to shed a tear for them.

They and people like them – rich white men – have denied justice to poor people, to people of color, to women, throughout history. This episode will not make any of these men more sensitive to that fact. Human history is replete with examples of those who see themselves as victims justify monstrous things by mere virtue of having been “victimized.” “Don’t tell ME what it’s like to be a victim,” they say.

I am tired of people who bleat on about how their lives have been ruined when the people in question have benefited from the customs and traditions of society. These three players presumably (I could be wrong, but I do not think that it matters) only attended Duke because they got in on an athletic scholarship (this is not to say that they are or are not dumb jocks; it is merely to say that society gets the “victims” it deserves). They (again, a presumption I am making that, if it is proven wrong, doesn’t change the point) no doubt used whatever connections they had to bulldoze their way through life and to step over anyone who was seen as an obstacle. I’ve seen rich white men do this all of the time. The behavior is a manifestation of the acting out of a divine right – one which our society encourages the belief in.

It’s a rich man’s game, as Dolly Parton said, and rich white men take care of this own. My god, how I have found this out after searching for a job for four months with no success. Being Jewish and being from New York is a source of pride to me; it is something to be derided by the good old boy network here and everywhere that is the bedrock of the Republican Party and one of the last great obstacles to the tearing down of bigotry and to the making of lasting social progress in this country.

Ironic, is it not, that the Bar Counsel of North Carolina stated, “If these men had a mediocre lawyer, they might not have even known that exculpatory evidence was being excluded from them.” Of course, they did not have mediocre attorneys – Daddy’s money won’t allow that to happen. Republicans and white people in this country do not want to talk about how class is stille everything in this country. If the three white boys were three poor white boys, do you think that Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter would have rushed to their defense with such vigor? If they were three white Jews? Funny how the greatest supporters of these men – the ones who were as quick to denounce the “injustice”as Al Sharpton was to denounce the players – are all charter members of the Bar of Bigotry, are inveterate racists, and all scoff at claims of “injustice” made by poor and black people sent to their execution because a retarded Texas governor couldn’t (literally) read their petitions for clemency.

The powers that control the country (the rest of us are just visiting, as the Matt Damon character said in “The Good Shepherd”) will make sure that these men are taken care of. Because not taking care of them would allow an “affront” to the “pillars of society” to remain.

I am sick of hearing how the criminal justice system mistreated these men. The system mistreated the law. These men happened to be in the way. The system mistreats those who are perceived as weak, as weird, as dangerous, as vulnerable. I know this from personal experience. The reason why this DA is in such trouble is because of the EXTRAORDINARY lengths he had to go to in committing his ethical sins. Would he have to have gone to such lengths if the accused were poor or black? Think about it.

This case, like the Imus case, should teach us all some lessons. Not the banal or obvious ones, of course – which are the only ones we will “learn.” The case should teach us that the best way to avoid trouble is to keep your nose clean. That if you’re the “right” kind of person, you can have a bunch of boogers and it still won’t matter very much (I mean, let’s face it: was there not a gleam on at least one bigot’s eye when it was found out that Strom Thurmond raped – er – had sex with a black woman that produced an illegitimate animal – er – daughter?). That yes, if you’re rich and powerful, and all you care about is the superficial, you really haven’t lost all that much by being “victimized,” have you? That society, as was made clear in the early stages of this game – still favors men over women, and believes that a little rape – er – nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men, because it is.

So if you want to bemoan what has happened in this case, bemoan the hypocrisy of a District Attorney trying, “Bonfire of the Vanities” style to keep his job by pandering to a black constituency. Bemoan how the wheels of justice can grind to such a quick and startling halt when when one rogue cog starts to stick out. Bemoan our despicable national media, which creates our fears, feeds off of them, and then tells us why we should be thankful for its fearmongering.

But please. Don’t call these three “victims.” The law doesn’t. And the society that matters – the real world – will treat them as anything but.

The battle – as Thurgood Marshall once said – is far from over.

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