June 04, 2023

LETTER:There is a seldom-recognized device known as the ‘apostrophe’

Sandra Baringer


In classical rhetoric, there is a seldom-recognized device known as the “apostrophe,” defined on the Merriam-Webster website as “the making of a speech or address to an absent person or a thing that is personified,” coming from the Greek word ‘apostrephein’ ...meaning “to turn away.” One oft-cited example is when Hamlet addresses the skull of Yorick.

Such an apostrophe was the first thing I thought of when reading the long digression in The Ramsey Report in the August 18 issue. After an apt and entertaining account of the journey of an OWI suspect from an ex-girlfriend’s house to Clarke County, ending in the consumption of hand soap at the local constabulary, Ramsey embarks on a long diatribe directed at the Democratic candidate for Polk County district attorney Kimberly Graham – an election in which it is doubtful anyone reading the Sentinel-Tribune will have the opportunity to vote. Candidate Graham, an attorney in private practice specializing mainly in family and juvenile law, is then attacked with another rhetorical device, guilt by association, with the observation that her campaign has received significant funding from one of the right’s great bugaboos, George Soros. Soros could be said to be inhabiting Yorick’s skull at this point in the argument, wherein a foot of column inches is devoted to Soros and his alleged associations with the problems of metropolises from San Francisco to Chicago.

Soros is one of many who have called for the reduction of racial disparities in traffic stops, arrests, prosecutions, and sentencing, oppose the criminalization of nonviolent cannabis users, and support directing some drug offenders into diversion programs. Unlike the numerous political and social scientists calling for these measures, however, Soros has a lot of money to fund prosecutor candidates, and thus he has become a prime target for the other side.

Whatever one’s position on these issues, anyone who reads the Des Moines Register has to have noticed that there seems to be a problem with targeting of African Americans in traffic stops and occasional excessive force by police, and not just against African Americans. For example, in 2019 Des Moines police officers arrested a white man, Nick Templeton, on his way back to work as a Capitol groundskeeper after his lunch break. He was having a seizure. The police hogtied him, held him down with a knee to the back, and released him only when somebody noticed that his face was turning purple (one of the advantages of being white being that at least one symptom of strangulation was more visible than it was in the case of George Floyd). Templeton’s lawsuit was recently dismissed by a federal judge who granted qualified immunity to the police officers involved. Such immunity is an unfortunate extension of the common law doctrine of sovereign immunity: that “the king can do no wrong.” But why did the situation ever happen in the first place? At least one of those officers had a previous record of excessive force. There needs to be some accountability somewhere, and Graham has pledged to hold such officers accountable.

According to her website, Graham wants to stop charging people with low-level cannabis possession and redirect those resources to investigation and prosecution of violent crime. She wants to treat drug addiction and mental illness as public health issues, and she wants to keep juveniles out of the criminal system when possible with literacy-based diversion and restorative justice programs. I wouldn’t normally write to the Sentinel-Tribune about an election in another county, but a different perspective seemed called for here.