Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Troll Busters - Coming Soon To A City Near You

I know its New Year's Eve and it would be nice to reflect on the year and lessons learned, the variants acts of others, the tragedies of the past twelve months. But, I don't want to talk about that. I want to talk about TROLLS. Trolls live everywhere now a days, not just under bridges where they belong. Modern day trolls are those cowardly, snidely, weasel-like creatures who, under the protection of anonymity post such vile racist and sexist dribble that it makes your skin crawl. These creature are not normal people of average intelligence.  They are cowardly mean creatures who derive a perverse pleasure from anonymously harassing others. What sort of person is so vile as to harass others online seemingly without consequence?  Did their mothers routinely kick them as babies, where they chosen last for dodge ball, or are they merely the product of a noxious genetic mutation than makes them unloving and concomitantly unloveable?  Who knows?

My friend Tony of TKC is a staunch believer in the First Amendment and refuses to edit or delete Troll comments on his blog. I believe in the First Amendment, too. I am following Tony's lead and weathering the Troll storm, while realizing how pathetic and sad these people must be. However, not everyone reacts so passively to trolls. In Sweden there is a television program called Troll Hunters where a team of Internet investigators search and uncover trolls and ambush them in television interviews. When caught, some trolls resort to crying and bawling or trying to run away from the cameras. It seems that many trolls lack courage when faced with exposure. 

What would happen in this country if Troll Hunters  caught on?  Sure, we have the Bill of Rights, but free speech has its limits. In fact, in Missouri it is a crime to harass or threaten others online. I just read the statute, MO. Rev. Stat. Sections 565.090  and following. Mo. Criminal Harassment Statute Hmmmm.  Do you think these racist, sexist, despicable trolls would fare well in jail?  It's something to think about.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Discrimination and Justice - From A Certain Point of View

My law partner and another lawyer we work with got a large verdict in an age discrimination case last week. I think the jury got it right. My partner told me that she felt the Cosmos, or something God-like if not God, was in their favor. I reminded her of the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, "the moral arc of time is long, but it bends toward justice."  The quote resonated with her. I considered a case I tried where I disagreed with what the jury decided. I felt no Cosmic aid, no ultimate Justice.  Everything about Justice, or life, really depends on one's point of view.

I try, unsuccessfully most times, to consider all points of view in my cases, and, hopefully, in life. Everything in which I believe depends on a certain point of view. Police officers shooting unarmed Black men disturbs me. I am White and a woman, and no one has ever pulled a gun on me or anyone in my family and I hope no one ever does.  Yesterday, two New York police officers were randomly gunned down by a deranged man upset by the Ferguson and Staten Island killings. This was another horrible and senseless killing. I have people with whom I am "friends" on Facebook who, like me, are outraged by what happened in Ferguson and New York. Today someone wanted me to participate in a group called "Police Lives Matter."  I agree that police lives do matter. Yet, I found the request ironic, since this person had an unarmed, white, loved one who was shot and killed by a police officer. I suspect the person advocating the group identifies with white police officers more than the unarmed African-Americans who were shot, even though the person's loved one was killed in a similar fashion.  The only difference I can see in the advocates allegiance with the new group is the police officer victims were not Black, so this person whose White loved one was also gunned down by a police officer doesn't relate to the Black victim in Ferguson. Race appears to be the only difference. It's apparent that our feelings are dependent on our points of view, this time about race.

When I was a kid, Vietnam was the biggest issue. I, as a child, believed, like the sayings on posters, that there would be no war if no soldiers showed up. That was a very simplistic and naive notion. Yet, the notion remains with me that people would be more merciful, and less insular, if we all could just understand the points of view of others. Empathy and compassion are the key to most of society's problems. It's hard, when filled with anger, to step back and try to understand what motivates others with whom we disagree. But, if we do not try to understand what it's like to be a Black youth, a White police officer, or anyone who is frightened or scared or angry or defeated, we cannot progress. Without empathy and compassion, there can be no resolution. Our prisons are over-crowded.  Our streets are often dangerous. Our criminal justice system is dysfunctional. We need to change. I hope Dr. King was right, that the arc of time bends toward Justice.  We all need to expand our points of view. Otherwise, this society will continue to fail.