Despite a lack of evidence for a so-called “crime,” a close friend of mine was recently punished by the Willoughby, Ohio judicial system. Since then, my friend has been severely depressed, nearly to the point of committing suicide. This person is also exhibiting symptoms of mental degeneration after suffering from the stress and torment of the courthouse, law enforcement and other individuals involved. Now, I ponder why certain people have no problem persecuting others, if such experiences are in fact quite common and, if so, how we can grow from them as a community, especially here at Case Western Reserve University.
Of course, there are plenty of examples that indicate Americans are experiencing a kind of collective suffering. The New York Times reports that almost one-third of all Americans are arrested by age 23. Now, due to our “protective” policies, the newspaper also reports that the U.S. detains nearly 25 percent of all prisoners on Earth. Many of these, unfortunately, are convicted for controversial or petty acts. Take, for instance, the parents of children who are left in overheated cars. Though unfortunate, the vast majority of these are accidents, so do the parents deserved to be referred to as “criminals”? Evidently, many Americans support them, sending them thousands of dollars to help fight their legal battles. While it may be difficult to support such an individual for his or her deadly mistake, perhaps these people empathize with them, recognizing personal mistakes in their lives and the difficulty of alleviating them.
I am uncertain if those in our judicial system are able to make these same recognitions, or, if they do, are willing to admit them. Unlike when others make a mistake, the judicial system’s often goes unpunished. Perhaps this is because it is difficult to fight them, given their potential influence within the judicial system itself. This past July, a police officer was stopped in Willoughby for driving under the influence, but Willoughby police let him go quickly, without conducting a breath test. Only 20 minutes later, the officer was arrested by a highway trooper, and a test revealed he was over twice the legal limit. Evidently, some police appear unwilling to punish their fellow officers.
Also, in a behavioral incident in 1999, during a heated debate, Ohio prosecutor Michael Germano allegedly told a councilman, “You fat little bald man! I’ll kick your ass all over the parking lot!” Interestingly, no charges were filed. In other professions, such behavior would be deemed intolerable. Perhaps if those in the judicial system were not as above the law, they would better understand the consequences of their actions and the suffering of the masses they convict and would be less likely to attack smaller injustices for their own financial benefit.
Over the last few months, I’m aware that debates about the Ferguson, Missouri riots are occurring on campus. Perhaps it will take years to find a solution to such a problem, but there are some things we can do right now. Given that college is a time of transition, many CWRU students are particularly stressed at this point in their lives for various reasons. If everyone could empathize with the experiences of others, however indirectly, we might come to a better understanding of them—not just of what they experience, but of how they feel. Ultimately, by these means, we would build an improved and conscious campus, avoiding the persecution of others for faulty reasons and with it, avoid damaging ourselves.