TD Bank’s vow to make the FATCA experience “comfortable” for the affected clients invoked a powerful impression on my psyche, one which remained ineffable for a few days. I’ve written about a paternalist leadership style, and certainly this fits: the US federal government and its representatives exhibit most of the characteristics of paternalism in its relations with other countries and this is becoming increasingly intolerable.
However, it was yesterday as I watched again the Harry Potter series that I began to grasp better the idea that was eluding me. Through her characters, J. K. Rowling pegs certain stereotypes in our day: the incompetent politician, Cornelius Fudge, the unscrupulous reporter, Rita Skeeter, and the sickly sweet bureaucrat, Delores Umbridge. Despite her feminine pink attire and her pictures of kitty-cats on the wall, Umbridge is a torturer and an abuser of human rights. Thus, she promises through her overt femininity to make torture and banishment a comfortable experience.
Harry refuses to report Umbridge’s abuse, because he knows it would just make things worse. Harry, however, regrets not taking a stronger stance when he sees one of the Weasley twins comforting a first year student who Umbridge has likewise tortured with her blood pen.
In the following scene, Umbridge banishes Professor Trelawney. Knowing what it is to experience the pain and injustice of exile, I am deeply moved by this scene:
Now meet Tara Ferris, Attorney, Office of Chief Counsel at the IRS:
By all counts Ms. Ferris is beautiful and bright–though perhaps a little nerdy in her apparel and mannerisms. She is not my idea of an executioner or torturer but rather of a “girl-next door”. Yet before you think that the IRS is made of people just like me and you, consider the point at which she says that the banks must report to the IRS accounts below $50,000 (starting at 39:21, pointed out by reader Mark Twain), if they belong to an already indicated US person. This has serious implications for those of us who think that we can remain below the radar. Let’s just hope that our bank has no knowledge of our US personhood. For this Tara Ferris is not after just the upper-classmen whales, the Harry Potters, but the little first-year minnows too. (My apologies for the mixed metaphor).
Again, I lack words to describe the evil I see when what is saccharine becomes bitter. Sometimes fiction captures it much better.