Chris Powell: Kardashian's lesson for Moral Monday poseurs

Kim Kardashian.

Kim Kardashian.

People who don't watch what is ironically called "reality" television have never understood Kim Kardashian's reason for being except perhaps for her combining a voluptuous figure with tight clothes. But if she never does anything else with her life, she will have justified it by persuading President Trump to pardon Alice Johnson, the 63-year-old woman who has been in federal prison for more than 20 years, serving a life sentence for being part of a drug ring in Tennessee, a first offense and a nonviolent one. 

Twenty years is unjust for mere drug dealing, and mercy is often in order, especially from the president, who lately had been calling for capital punishment for drug dealers. Yes, as New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker complains, the nation's prisons hold thousands of other drug offenders whose sentences are disproportionate to their crimes. But let Kardashian's efforts prompt a review of those cases and indeed of drug criminalization generally. 

After all, as economic inequality worsens because of government policy, contraband law increases the temptation for people to make a living by breaking it. Drug law imprisons some people, like Johnson, longer than some people convicted of murder or manslaughter. 

Trump is not likely to give up his demagoguery any time soon. But if there is a spark of decency and mercy in him, it should be searched for and nurtured. 

Kardashian offers a lesson for the people of Connecticut's Moral Monday group who are making a career of blocking traffic in the Hartford area to protest poverty, racism and such. 

The Moral Monday people exalt this as civil disobedience but it is far from the civil disobedience of old, like the lunch-counter and bus sit-ins protesting racial segregation. Those protests had a direct connection to the evil being protested. Blocking traffic today has none. Indeed, it offends even those who otherwise might be sympathetic. 

The civil disobedience of old also was connected to specific policy objectives. Articulating no specific policy objectives in their protests, the Moral Monday people might as well protest the weather. For they aim less to accomplish anything in policy than to demonstrate self-righteousness. They don't care that by blocking traffic they are inconveniencing the supposed oppressed as much as the supposed oppressors. With their choreographed and gentle arrests, arranged in advance with the police, they seek a mock martyrdom. 

A member of the Moral Monday group, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Manchester, the Rev. Josh Pawelek, who has gotten himself arrested several times only to be sentenced to a little community service, told the (Manchester) Journal Inquirer the other day: "I'm breaking the law because I don't know how else to draw attention to the laws that impoverish people." 

Yet every day Connecticut and the country are full of political clamor and even a little action in regard to poverty. To influence policy and lawmaking and improve lives, people write letters to their elected representatives and news organizations. They support or oppose candidates for office or even become candidates themselves. They speak at public forums. They volunteer for charitable groups. If their message is compelling enough they may even recruit disciples and travel the world to spread it, risking a martyrdom far more severe than community service. 

Yes, Kim Kardashian is fortunate enough to be able to stop traffic without blocking an intersection. But who would have considered her more thoughtful and relevant than a clergyman? 

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.