At least once a day, I am appalled by behavior or comments made by strangers or people I know. Examples of inappropriate behavior, arrogant demands, inconsiderate actions, and blatant disregard for common courtesy, helpfulness, kindness or empathy.
But occasionally, on days like today, on the heels of the Zimmerman verdict, and the strong reactions that immediately followed, I find myself deeply ashamed of and gravely concerned for my culture, society and country and the choices and actions that are being taken. From Hollywood to Main Street, America, people are shocked and many are outraged.
And now, the latest screaming headline is that one of the jurors, still identified only by her court designation of B37, has just inked a book deal. Need I say much more?
I remember well the Simpson trial. I shudder when I recall the horrific decisions and lies offered up during the Bush era including (but not limited to) the infamous weapons of mass destruction. And I grit my teeth at the memories of the hate-filled and racist insults that Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, et al, and the rest of those who spewed bigotry during the past two elections and the unthinkable audacity they displayed as they tried to disguise those utterances in the cloak of fair game and impartial reporting.
Reporting, my foot. Impartial? Really. Their unconscionable behavior transformed my hard-won and valued membership in the hallowed club of journalism into a piece of dirty toilet paper upon which I no longer wanted to list my name.
And since then, there have been far too many other cases when the Court of Public Opinion along with the frenzied, unqualified multitude that labels itself “the media” has weighed in minutes after an event occurred, claiming evidence that didn’t yet exist and “source material” from others who had no business offering up an opinion, thus tainting the waters in a criminal case and making it impossible for any jury to not be impacted or biased by the assaultive environment in which we all huddle down and try to hold on to our objectivity and fairness.
My name may not be Scout, but I grew up the proud daughter of a real-life Atticus Finch. Dad was a brilliant trial lawyer; the stuff of legends. And one of the most thrilling moments of my life was having the opportunity to dine with Gregory Peck and his beautiful wife, Veronica, and place my father next to Gregory for the course of that memorable evening so that these two amazing men could talk about, among other things, To Kill a Mockingbird and the character they both revered and honored.
Growing up in the law during the 50s and 60s, life, law and journalism were different animals. The law was sacred, juries and trials and verdicts were respected and protected, and there was no media circus or instant speculation about the guilt or innocence of a person on trial.
Of course, there was gossip in our small town. Definitely, around the dinner table, people opined about the state of affairs. But there was no 24/7 global chatter by thousands of paid talking heads, dissecting the minutia of everyone and anyone eager to be heard and flooding our airwaves and brains with in-depth discussions of the law and the case at hand.
And I worry, now, as I have for several decades, as our sources for information have transferred from highly respected, academic encyclopedias that were vetted and proofed for years to instant sources such as Google and Wikipedia, are we becoming judge, jury and arbiter of all things about which we know very little or nothing? And is that acceptable, wise or, in the long run, what we really want ourselves and our world to become?
It is incomprehensible to me, on mere ethical, factual evidence, how these six women found this man not guilty. Not guilty of what? Not taking actions that led to the death of a young man. An African-American young man, I must add.
This is a sorry day in my country and a sobering day for my heart.
Since the 60s and 70s, after so much rage and loss, I had hoped, dreamed, prayed and thought that we were capable of genuinely moving forward. That the deeply, ingrained streaks of prejudice and racism that had festered in too many Americans for so long could finally be lessened and overcome.
And yet, here we are again. Mourning.
Mourning for a fair verdict that didn’t come. Mourning for a healing that won’t happen. And mourning for a resolution and proof that when we are pressed to deliver just four, simple, core ethical values of respect, fairness, honesty and integrity, we hide behind lies, manipulation, arrogance and pathetic theatrics for the benefit of the watching cameras rather than have the courage to honor our better angels.
Shame on us all, for allowing our legal system and the handling of the process of trial and law to degrade into this. Woe to anyone who carries the cancer of racism and bias deep in their bones and professes to have no color line. And woe to us all for allowing the circus to come to town and take over fairness, impartiality and, ultimately, freedom and closure.
You can submit your questions or book private phone sessions with Olive at theinnerbottomline.com, call into her blogtalkradio.com show, “The Inner Bottom Line,” at 661-449-1425 with your questions, or explore her new blog at whatskeepingyouawakeatnight.com. All letters and calls can be anonymous and confidential.
Kindle and audio versions along with the hard cover of Olive’s book, The Nude Ethicist: A Simple Path to The Good Life, are now available on amazon.com.