The world will not turn itself upside down to please you.
Neither will the law.
Neither will the facts.
Neither will the fact that the law is what it is.
Nor the fact that, under American law, a jury verdict is prima facie (Go ahead, look it up!) correct.
Under the rules of due process, the lawful evidence was presented to a competent jury. This was not so with TV news or radio talk shows.
Moreover, in civil suits, the standard of proof is “a preponderance of the evidence,” but in criminal trials — all criminal trials — it is much higher, “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This standard is so high I wonder that any criminal conviction is ever obtained. Thus in a very similar local case here in Baltimore, an off-duty police officer was recently acquitted in the strangling death of a black teen.
One case, one jury, one defendant. This was not the pivotal moment many wish it were. Sanford, Florida is not the center of the universe. The soul of the nation never was on trial.
In a typical display of the current misunderstandings, Elspeth Reeve’s 07/16/13 “Richard Cohen Shows Why Racism Makes You Do Dumb Things” fails to deliver as promised.
I’m delighted that Reeve can report that crime has been falling nationwide ever since the Reagan era. That’s wonderful. Unfortunately, where I have lived in recent years — blocks like this one — this change is invisible. Reeve does not speak to the 2012 murder rate in Chicago or the 2013 murder rate in Baltimore. In the summer of 2009 there were seven murders in ten weeks within a half mile of my house.
If Reeve believes only Rush Limbaugh and his ilk warned of riots should the “wrong” verdict be returned, I don’t know where she was in the months before trial. Certainly, she has been listening to the wrong people — Limbaugh and his ilk. She was not listening to my neighbors at the homeless shelter where I stay at night; or, when the shelter boots us out in the morning, the bums at the McDonald’s where I drink coffee.
In this context, it is crucial that the public forum have room for expressions of frustration, expressions that may even verge on hate speech. Diametric from the practice of political correctness in decades past, of shaming into silence those who expressed anxiety at social change; so that the anxiety never had occasion to heal, but instead was merely driven underground, to fester until it should reappear in new, more nefarious ways; this frustration must find expression in the open air; the wound must be exposed so that healing can be applied.
One particular correction is to bring folk to understand the meaning of the rule of law — as opposed to the lawless tyranny of gossip, rumor and public opinon.
A second necessary correction is to make folk aware that scandals truly are “stumbling blocks” (as per the meaning of the original root word, skandalon, in Greek), red herrings that distract one from one’s true responsibilities in life.
Yes, as one may surmise from what I’ve said above, I have lived among the “criminal element” for years. Please don’t ask me what they look like. I really, really do not care. What matters is, they are my neighbors.
For better or worse, the center of your universe is you.
You are responsible to make the best use you can of the circumstances and resources within your grasp — those literally at hand to you.
This is where you have power.
This is where you can apply your goodwill to the benefit of yourself and your community.
There is no other place, no other time where you can act, and no one else can do it for you.
These are your choices.