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Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Tears of the Oppressed

I was rather impressed with the perspective of Reade W. Seligmann, one of the Duke Lacrosse players who was cleared of recent charges:

At an emotional news conference of their own on Wednesday, the three former teammates, flanked by defense lawyers and families, spoke of relief and vindication, but also of their lingering anger toward Mr. Nifong and many in the news media for what they described as a rush to believe the worst about them.

“This entire experience has opened my eyes up to a tragic world of injustice I never knew existed,” Mr. Seligmann said. “If police officers and a district attorney can systematically railroad us with absolutely no evidence whatsoever, I can’t imagine what they’d do to people who do not have the resources to defend themselves. So rather than relying on disparaging stereotypes and creating political and racial conflicts, all of us need to take a step back from this case and learn from it.

“The Duke lacrosse case has shown that our society has lost sight of the most fundamental principle of our legal system: the presumption of innocence.”

[taken from nytimes.com]

Why was I impressed with Mr. Seligmann? Instead of simply whining about how he had got a raw deal, something, no doubt that I would have done quite a bit of if I had been in his position, he spoke from the heart and spoke to the gross injustice that occurs in our world everyday. Mr. Seligmann is practicing what we have been discussing recently on this blog: Listening to the voices of those who will never be heard.

Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed — and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors — and they have no comforter. Ecclesiastes 4

Of course, we don't have time for justice. We don't have time to contemplate the ramifications of injustice or this case or the tears of the oppressed.....we are already moving on to the next news story or the next celebrity screw up or the next big game or the next tv show or the next installment of Ocean's Eleven or the next hurdle in my life or the next big headline.......

Welcome to hyper-culture, baby. There's no time for the tears of the oppressed.


ktismatics said...

I have to admit, when I first heard about this I figured the college boys were probably guilty but that their lawyers would get them off. Certainly that story plays itself out often enough to make the casual observer cynical. When we lived in Boulder there were sex abuse scandals involving the football team. To tell you the truth I don't know how the legalities ever played out -- I suspect there were out-of-court settlements that required the gals to keep quiet. But there was a growing sense in town that sex was a prime recruiting tool used by the football program. The head coach at the time was very cavalier about the whole thing; eventually he got canned. You got the sense that these abuses had been going on for years, but it didn't surface until one woman spoke up, then another followed, and another. I suspect that despite the rightful acquittal of the Duke lacrosse players, they're not going to invite any more professional strippers to their parties for awhile.

Dawn said...

I agree. When I heard his statements, I thought: wow, now maybe this is the good that will come of this situation.

Maybe he went through this so that when he's some big shot later in life, he'll use his power for good and not evil.

samlcarr said...

Wrongly accusing an innocent person is certainly a miscarriage of justice. But what injustice in society causes sexual exploitation for money - that's what the stripper was doing. There's no doubt that this woman was abused by many people that night only the wrong three got accused and in addition the woman has clearly exaggerated and dramatised whatever did happen to her. Her mode of employment is considered legal and we tend to think that some of this stuff is just "the hazards of practicing that profession". There's also the 'consenting adults' ethic which says that if two people decide to do something a bit weird others have no business having an opinion about that let alone interfering. But that's not what we see in 1Cor.

Perhaps there needs to be a different set of norms for the fellowship of believers that comes out of a discussion of what biblical justice and love should mean for the community of followers of Christ.

Jonathan Erdman said...

So, even in this case the fact that "justice was done" actually opens up the possibility for further injustice. For example, can more women be exploited without recourse to law? Will prosecutors now think twice before pursuing a case of sexual abuse for fear of wrongly accusing someone?

It's an ugly world, and a bizarre thought that justice can actually open up the possibility for more injustice. But who knows for sure? Maybe, like Dawn says, the end result will be that some of these privileged kids will fight for the underprivileged rather than simply doing the "American Dream" thing and having a nice house, 2.5 kids, and making boat loads of cash.....