Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sorrows Revisited

          I keep reliving the day my son was sentenced.  I see my son in his best suit.  I see his dad and his God father sitting with me as we wait for the moment that will change our son’s life forever.  We sit on wooden benches, like church pews, at the back of the court room. From there we can see all the others waiting along with us for the judge to enter and the proceedings to begin.  No one smiles and no one speaks.  It has much the same atmosphere as a funeral, and, in a way, it is: the funeral of hope.
          The people who are there voluntarily, the members of the court, smile and talk among themselves, but they do not look at us: the waiting ones.  Maybe they fear emotional involvement might get the better of them, but I think not.  The Assistant D.A., at least,  has already made it clear she does not consider my son eligible to receive compassion.  No, it is much more likely that they do not look at us because they do not see us. There have been too many others before us waiting on the hard benches.  Repetition has robbed us our novelty—our humanity.  Now we are case numbers, specimens, cattle.
           At last, the judge arrives and we all stand and remain standing until he is seated.  He is efficient—repetition’s gift to him—and one by one he quickly calls the waiting ones to stand below him and be consigned to their various fates.  His pace is only slowed when the crime involved is in any way news worthy.  These he savors, going into particulars, playing to the gallery of the press.  He has no trouble regarding each of those before him as human.  Only humans can be made to feel shame.
          During all these proceedings the defense attorneys come and go.  Though they are in suits and their clients, for the most part, in jeans, they look very much the same: tired and sad.  Too many times they have tried and failed to penetrate the indifference and opportunism.
          Then I notice someone new.  She is slim and stylish in her make-up and  business-casual sweater, slacks and heels.  Her blonde hair is gathered up into a pert pony tail.  A card in a plastic holder dangles from a clip attached to the hem of her sweater.  Unlike everyone else, she watches the fatalist workings of the court with a smile and genuine interest. 
          Finally, my son’s waiting ends.  The judge reads out every detail of his case, sentencing him to five years probation and thirty years of calculated humiliation on the sex offender registry.  Why this is necessary when no person was harmed, he does not explain.  After that, it takes me a while to recover enough to be aware of anything, but when I do I realize the young professional is gone.  This tells me she is a reporter and is off to finish the assignment she began when she first exposed my son’s “crime” and adversely effected the outcome of his case.

           It also explains why she is unmoved by the collected misery of the court room: This is how she earns her livelihood.  She emotionally soars above it like a vulture, waiting for the conflict to end, so as to feed on the losers.  Ridicule has always been profitable.  No one escapes this prying—unless they are a reporter.  No organization is exempt—except their own.  Trumpeting the public's “need to know”, they somehow never get around to reporting the shortcomings of reporting: how lawmakers, judges, and prosecutors have their decisions warped, how truth can be twisted into falsehood by careful editing, how lives are ruined to increase circulation or ratings.  Did publishing my son’s offense accomplish any good?  No, it generated injustice.  Did these champions for truth expose that injustice?  No, not when it meant disclosing their own complicity.
          There is another group that uses the “need to know” excuse for spreading hurtful half-truths and innuendo: gossips.  Through the ages they have cause untold suffering and heartbreak.

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