Apropos of almost nothing I was thinking the other day about show trials and how even the noblest of societies sometimes engage in trials which seem at best unnecessary and at worst horribly propagandist. A common factor in show trials is the near universal expectation of a guilty verdict, and the arguable inability of the courts to produce any sentence other than guilt and any punishment other than the maximum available. What I'm a little unclear about in my own mind is whether or not the inaccessibility of an innocent verdict means the court is necessarily corrupt. In principle it should be p0ssible for any trial to end with the accused found "not guilty", even if the accused was in fact guilty of the crime. An accused man may go free because of actual innocence, because of inadmissible evidence (either of an inappropriate type or material illegally obtained), because of juror/judge/lawyer misconduct (which may or may not be followed by a retrial), because of bad decisions by jurors, and probably a host of other reasons too subtle for me to be aware of. The issue is that even someone who commits a murder in front of 100 trustworthy witnesses and several HD security cameras can potentially avoid a guilty verdict by some means. Hopefully such situations where justice goes unserved in the name of some larger principle of justice (or as a result of errors) are extremely rare, but the possibility does exist. In the case of a show trial, however, I would argue that that possibility has been removed. Society wants a particular verdict and almost everyone involved in the administration of justice wants that same verdict, and that bias will likely create changes (subtle or severe) in how law is applied, keeping in inappropriate evidence, keeping out exculpatory evidence, seating a biased jury, etc. And my question is really, does this represent a fatal flaw in our system of law that such things can occur? Is it so bad that good societies sometimes do bad things in the name of satisfying some sort of collective will. If you'd asked me many years ago I'm sure I would have argued that it was a very bad thing, that the court must always be impartial and that the trial of a universally hated individual is the perfect exercise for our judicial body, the perfect opportunity to prove (or simply discover) how fair our system is. But I suppose there comes a point in growing older, or perhaps merely growing more aware of the flawed nature of all things, when the overly rigid application of rules seems at times to pervert rather than produce the results we need. And perhaps that's what show trials are all about, the acceptance that a particular man (or woman) has already been tried and convicted by a vastly larger body of peers, and the court's role is to provide nothing more than a cathartic forum for allowing victims the right to share their pain, face their tormentor, and for society to have the crimes officially documented. If we allow that that is so, that the court sometimes neglects its sworn duty, then I wish we could admit as much within our codes of law, thereby restoring honor and honesty to the system by defining when it cannot be relied upon to be so.
I love Mexico and its people. But, I also recognize that the saying "Good fences make good neighbors" is a truism. The US government has long pursued a course of token border enforcement, apparently under the theory (perhaps proven true?) that cheap labor will make us strong. Regardless, laws should exist and be enforced, or should be modified and used, or should be eliminated if we continue not exercise them. We have quasi-legitimized illegal immigration to a degree which can't possibly be good as a long term solution, by giving people here illegally greater freedoms and legitimate access while stymieing the ability of police to act when they know a person is here illegally.
Try as I might I can't find anything unreasonable in body of the Arizona law (as updated). No one I've heard debate this issue has pointed to anything within the law they find flawed; they have only expressed grave fears the law will be used in a manner which is unreasonable and/or illegal. And that is a very legitimate concern, and one larger than Arizona and this particular issue. It is something which can and should be addressed nationally, so that all people are protected. Checks and balances must always exist to prevent the abuse of power, in this case racial profiling. To this end, all police officer's activity should be monitored and tracked. Any time a traffic stop is made the ethnicity and circumstances should be recorded for statistical purposes. Periodic checks should be made of video from traffic stops and other police-civilian interactions to ensure that the police are accurately recording their statistics. Through these statistics it can be understood whether police are behaving appropriately, and adjustments can be made to ensure they do. It is short-sighted to focus only on objecting to a reasonable law simply because you fear it will be used unreasonably. We are a nation of states, and the purpose of having separate states with state powers is to let each state be a petri dish to culture new cures for our collective societal and governmental ills. We must allow individual states the chance and freedom to develop individual solutions, especially when the federal government is unwilling to fully recognize the patient is sick. Clearly there are moments when the federal government must a state's conscious and enforce a more enlightened rule of law, but until it is proven that this new law is being abused, now is not the time.
I'm all for legal immigration. I believe illegal immigrants have contributed more than hurt this nation. And I'm all for granting amnesty to all the illegal immigrants already here, but that only makes sense in the context of a country with sealed borders. And that's not something the federal government has seemed to pursue seriously. I have talked to too many people who have described how "easy" it was to get into the US. (I say easy in the sense that it cost them only a few thousand dollars and they weren't caught; the actual journey with the "cayotes" sounds like a miserable and perilous few days.)
In case you missed it, there was a recent story about a TSA agent who snapped and assaulted a coworker after being humiliated for a year over the alleged size of his manhood. As part of routine training this agent passed through the new millimeter wave body scanner while his coworkers saw his genitals in sufficient detail on their monitor to form opinions.
The issue reminded me of the bizarre disparity between how physical and emotional assaults are viewed. I think too many have bought into the nonsense of the saying, "Sticks and stones will break your bones but names will never hurt you.
While I am entirely against any sort of physical aggression against another person, I think it's completely wrong to view physical actions as automatically more serious than emotional ones. And because the impact of emotional abuse is often so minimized by society, the people suffering it are often expected to simply tolerate or ignore it, which can lead to explosive physical responses. And I don't think we should blame the victim twice.
Quite frankly, if the story is true as it's reported, I think the humiliated man in this case showed great restraint in tolerating his coworkers jabs for a year. I don't condone this man's demanding an apology from his coworker under threat of a baton beating, nor the beating he gave when he didn't get it, but I understand it. And I think society and the courts should understand it. I think the courts should be able to say to the beaten man, in effect, "You brought this on yourself. We're not getting involved." As I understand it, there is a principle in the law where legal remedies are not available to resolve an illegal transaction; if person A buys illegal drugs from person B, and the drugs turn out to be powdered sugar, the law will not help person A recover his money. I believe a similar view should be taken of this situation. The victimizer is engaging in an illegal harassment of the victim, and thus he shouldn't be able to seek a legal remedy in the courts for the beating he ultimately receives as a direct result. The humiliated man should not have been arrested and should not be prosecuted. Or, perhaps an alternative that seems also fairer than the current one, the courts could prosecute both people, but they must view the emotionally abusive person as the more serious crime (based on the actual "damage" done).
Society and the courts need to recognize that things said are often far more destructive than things done, and that the damage often lasts far longer. We cannot as humans be reasonably expected to respond otherwise. I still cringingly remember awful and unfortunate things said to me when I was a kid, but a few fights with and bruises from school yard bullies? I remember them without any emotional pain at all.
Domestic abuse needs to be viewed in this light as well. Neither physical nor emotional abuse should be tolerated, and both should be considered abuse. The courts seem to feel even the most horrific verbal insult should just be ignored by the intended recipient while any physical contact in response (even literally a slap in the face) is criminal. (At least if what I've seen on TV in news and on Cops is to be believed.) This makes no sense. Acts should be deemed criminal based on the level of damage that act would cause to a reasonable person.