Nothing illegal transpired when the grand jury voted not to indict the policeman who put Eric Garner in a chokehold. People may not have liked that decision but no one has accused the prosecutor of not following the proper guidelines of the law or the jury of having been corrupted. There are remedies for dissatisfaction with this conclusion and they have already started to go into effect. The federal govt has begun preliminary investigations into the possibility of a Civil Rights lawsuit and the family of Mr. Garner will undoubtedly initiate a civil suit against the city for wrongful death. A prestigious law school should have used this event as an important lesson in how our legal system works and how individual rights are balanced against other forces and considerations. Instead, Columbia Law School has deemed this event a trauma for its students and has decided to postpone final exams for those students too impaired to take them. By this reasoning, every time a lawyer loses a case, he should be excused from his immediate work load. The only people who can properly be considered traumatized by Garner’s death are members of his immediate family; students of all colors who are displeased should still be held to their academic responsibilities or the definition of trauma gets diluted down to sheer meaningless-ness.
Similarly, the accusation of gang rape at the University of Virginia that precipitated the article by Rolling Stone and its subsequent retraction by the magazine has led to notes written by 300 students who have posed on Facebook bearing a sign saying “I Stand With Survivors.” Time was when a survivor was a word reserved for people who had remained alive after being prisoners of war or inmates in concentration camps during World War II. These people went through years of starvation, torture and indescribable debasement and looked liked skeletons when they were liberated. Now the word is used by students to describe someone who had a sexual assault - an umbrella term on campus not restricted to rape, but including any unwanted sexual activity including kissing, groping, exhibitionism or voyeurism. Does the term survivor as understood in its original context really apply to this? If you got drunk of your own volition and slept with someone who took advantage of your inebriation, you were irresponsible, not a survivor. If you were physically attacked by someone who raped you, you were a victim of a crime that should be reported to the police. Most people don’t want to brand themselves as victims in perpetuity but neither should they be considered survivors for having had one terrible experience.
Lastly, the term “peaceful demonstration” bears no resemblance to the disruptive marches that have closed bridges and tunnels, stalled traffic on highways, thwarted commuters at Grand Central Station, threatened customers inside department stores and goaded the police to step outside the limits of their restraint. Al Sharpton and his accomplices should never be confused or conflated with Martin Luther King; Sharpton’s previous record in both Crown Heights and Harlem resulted in murders and arson, not dissimilar to what we witnessed in Missouri and California. What has happened in New York for the past week has created its own chokehold on the city with the rallying cry ,”No Justice, No Peace.” There are several more rounds for justice to continue to run its course in the courts while the NYPD has already instituted reforms and additional safeguards to insure better relations with the black community. It’s time for that community to remove the I Can’t Breathe shirts, take a very deep breath and give change a chance.
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