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Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Sentence Of The Innocent: Shackles Forever Unbroken

"Wherever you see persecution, there is more than a probability that truth lies on the persecuted side." -Hugh Latimer

As more frequent readers may recall, I recently went on a business trip, and I still apologize for the lack of posting that it caused. But, what I didn't get into is that I was reminded of something that I should need no reminder of during my trip...

While going through the wonderful security process for boarding flights in the US, I reached a Transportation Security Administration agent who examined my ticket, which was marked with a series of S's, and informed me that I must go through the enhanced security checkpoint. He then asked if I had done this before and I replied, in my usual pleasant manner, that this was quite new to me even though I had traveled many times in the past. It was at this point that he looked up at me and retorted after a thoughtful pause, "Oh really? Are you sure about that?" and he then politely told me which line to go to and what to expect.

While being patted down and watching the contents of my backpack emptied and swabbed on a metal desk I pondered the words of the agent and the tone; "what did he mean by that?" I wondered to myself... it seems there is only one answer, that my name is now upon some list of people who deserve extra scrutiny and I will always go through this hassle forever more... but why? I had further incentive to ponder that later when receiving the same treatment on the way back and seeing the pleasant note inside my other luggage that informed me that my baggage had been carefully inspected for everyone's safety as well... apparently my camera was dangerous because it was mysteriously missing as well.

I talked with my wife about it and she seemed convinced that it was the color of my skin that prompted my being repeatedly singled out, but I informed her that I never had to go through this before... so the answer would be found in determining what had changed since the last time I flew.

Well, a hint for those who aren't aware of the reason I started this site, what had changed was that I was severely beaten and accused of a crime I did not commit a little over a year ago. It appears that even though I was found innocent and the charges were dismissed, that I am still deemed guilty, or at least deemed to be worth treating as if I were guilty.

But, again, it is a lesson for which I have plenty of reminders already. Like when I interviewed for a new job a few months after that terrible incident I was reminded again of this fact. I knew that I had a permanent mark on my record, that even though I was found innocent, any background check would find an arrest on my record. So I dutifully informed my prospective employer of what happened, that he would see an arrest on my record but I was declared innocent so he need not worry... to which he cheerfully replied, "That's alright, we all make mistakes."

Indeed, we all make mistakes and the dutiful among us should make them right when made... but the mistake made was not mine, even though I'm the one who was made to pay for it, and I kindly informed him of that fact. But, it seems, no amount of informing will convince the record, and the perfunctory lists that my name now appears on as a result, in permanence... as a reminder to officials everywhere, apparently, that I should be treated as if I was guilty irregardless.

Of course, it's not like we have some sort of support group, for it seems that even the supposed defenders of our civil rights feel that once a person stands accused that they are forever tainted with guilt, deservedly or not. At least, that's what I gather by their reactions when I tell them why I started advocating for those who are victims like me... that reaction ranging from silence to outright animosity. So it is that we who have been found innocent and tossed aside by the justice system are always made to feel isolated socially, not just by those we should expect to be judgmental, but from those we expect help from as well.

Thus it is that I, a person who was actually a victim of a pretty brutal crime, which was compounded in brutality with the addition of being wrongfully accused, must now always be punished for that crime that was done to me. But, it's not just me... this is the way the justice system works in America, treating all who enter it as if they are already guilty before their trial, and still guilty after they have been cleared of any wrong.

For those who doubt that the concept of presumptive innocence is dead within the borders of America, I invite you to be falsely accused of a crime if you are so certain of that fact... for I assure you, that once you stand accused, you will always stand guilty in the eyes of Americans everywhere. You will be prejudged and persecuted forever more nothing more than being judged innocent by the law... One set of shackles may have been released when they release you from the system, but it appears that there are others they place upon you that shall always remain unbroken and shut.

1 comment:

Sherril said...

Shades of Herbert Hoover and the secret FBI files on "suspicious" Americans during the '60s.

These are scary times.

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