Thursday, June 3, 2010

I have not written in about a week because I have been pleasantly indisposed.  But here are some topics.
Recently the Supreme Court in Berghuis v Thompkins, decided that the suspect must explicitly invoke the right to remain silent.  Simply remaining silent is not enough.  I do not think that the spirit of Miranda is well served with this decision.  The dissent, penned by Sotomayor, reminds the audience that the original Miranda decision was that the police could not presume a suspect has waived the rights of the 5th Amendment simply because he or she is silent.  What that means is that a lengthy interrogation or brutal police tactics to get a confession constituted coercion.  There was no limit or time frame to the original Miranda ruling.  Standard: the accused should voice their desire to remain silent and request an attorney, immediately whether guilty or not.  Law & Order did a fine job in demonstrating how anyone who did not do those two things always ended up in jail or caught in a web of confusing yet undeniable self incrimination.  But, aside from the regular complaints that it simply weakens Miranda and the Robert’s Court rules unfavorably against Miranda, I am concerned with; illegal immigrants who may not understand their rights and non-verbal communication.  Illegal immigrants may not have the clear understanding at the time to request to be silent.  It seems that the ruling simply protects those who know they are protected and can clearly express it.  There are cases where individuals may not be able to clearly express their desire, or the officer may not properly interpret their desire and continue the relentless questioning.  Maybe, just maybe, the police officer will say, forget it, I don’t care that you do not want to speak, and then claim the intentions were not clear so the questioning continued, not that a cop would ever do that, but its possible.  What about the language barrier!  What if they say it in Cantonese, Armenian or Spanish?  Must the request be in English to be acknowledged?  Isn’t the purpose of the law to protect everyone’s rights regardless?  Land of the free, pursuit of happiness what happened to that?  It is not fair that police officers can now inquire as long as they want so long as the illegal does not voice his desire not to speak.  It is ridiculous.  What about witnesses non-verbally identifying criminals by pointing?  Should they be forced to speak and identify them in person; what are we AZ? Do I need a birth certificate to then say that I do not want to say anything? WTF?  I see the need for the ruling in the particular case, but I do not think weakening Miranda was the appropriate move.  I do not like the ruling and I can only hope police departments around the country do not violate my first amendment right to speak; and conversely not too.  My form of free speech may be silence?  Remember passive resistance during slavery times?  What about MLK passive actions to change the way we viewed ourselves and others through peaceful demonstrations that were not necessarily vocal?  Should I be castigated for wanting my voice to express silence?  It seems to simply be shooting Miranda in the leg Austin Powers status, since previous attempts to badly burn Miranda have only weakened it.
Another topic came up in conversation with a friend of mine so I figured I will write a little about it.  I will take a minute to chat about racism.  Over the last few years racism has not approached me in the typical way, i.e. name calling and insults; it has become deceptively subtle.  It is a look or a comment and very rarely an overt act.  Overt acts have occurred recently but I will not chat about them now.  I still feel prejudice around me at times and that is a scary thing.  I understand that all people regardless have some prejudices.  However, when those inhibit your ability to see the good in people, there is a problem.  Ago; when I used to socially gather at the local watering holes I would notice that depending on the area my race felt like a detriment or an advantage.  It was a feeling; obviously it would be a tad on the creepy side to ask, hey do you care if I am Mexican or are you stereotyping me because I drive a white truck?  Its true I have a white truck, so whatever choke on it.  Anyway, I think that depending on their exposure and experiences to a given race or members of that race most people associate the whole race with whomever they have met.  I am not going to lie and tell you I did not do it too, when I was a child I thought that Asian people were all good at math and all knew some form of martial arts and that if you did not have my mom’s tamales you were missing the purpose of your life and lead a sad existence.  The second half is still true and obviously with time and having met enough different people of Asian descent to know that I was stereotyping and although innocent it is still wrong.  Unfortunately many people never have the chance to grow out of their prejudices.  They simply believe people are what they look like without ever considering anything different.  We saw a documentary at a little independent movie theatre called “the philosopher kings” that told the stories of custodians at prestigious colleges.  It is eye opening to see how much experience and wisdom they have to offer but saddening how they are disregarded, marginalized and ignored.  The best part…they do not care!  They are happy being themselves and going about their business and learning from everyone along the way.  One of them struck me in particular because he had crazy hours.  He worked an 8 hr shift, at Princeton I think, and then worked as a cab driver till 2 am.  He would send money to Haiti to feed his hometown and was trying to develop a way to get drinkable water to the inhabitants; his passion for helping his people was contagious.  Guy did more for humanity with two “lowly” jobs that many CEOs (cough, **bear sterns et al. **).  Anyway, check it out, Netflix may have it in a few weeks it is on not available yet.  You can argue prejudice can keep you safe, but there is a point where safety turns isolationist and you miss all things other cultures have and they miss getting to see all you have.

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