Photo: PresidentBenjaminHarrison.org

Slippery Slopes and Gossips

Saw a disturbingly misleading piece on The FreeThoughtProject.com this morning, about a 22-year-old South Carolina police officer with a juvenile indictment for arson on his record. Commenters jumped on the gossip | indignation bandwagon, as seems to be the go-to response by all-too-many people in the US who are ignorant of the Constitution and the US legal system.

I don’t drink the Faux News Kool-Aid, and I am no fan of law enforcement. Still, this piece insults our intelligence by demonstrating so little basic knowledge of the Constitution, which is essential to fulfill our civic responsibility. We are currently witnessing the impact of three decades or more of hearsay and gossip replacing news on our national conversation.

The assertion that being indicted — not convicted, but indicted — at 16 is grounds for not hiring a 22-year-old for law enforcement is a slippery slope. Would you feel that way if your 16-year-old had been indicted but not convicted at 16 and was still being discriminated against at 22 because of it? We have laws in the US sealing legal minors’ police records. Everyone gets a clean slate as a legal adult, with the possible exception of violent offenders. It’s been an effective law in the US for generations.

Consider: As many people as are convicted, harassed and incarcerated WITH this law in place, imagine the cluster*ck many people’s lives would be if police records before age 18 were legal grounds for not hiring them — ever — effectively saying to them, “You will never be able to work legitimately.”

What choice do they have but to engage in illegal activities to survive? This is already the case in the US on too large a scale — what do you think the ranks of the Prison Industrial Complex would look like if we could effectively prevent from gainful employment every teenager who seemed to have made a bad judgment call, found guilty by a judge|jury or not?

More troubling here is that commenters took no exception to the basic premise that he should be penalized for an indictment at 16. If we’re too lazy to be informed, we put every citizen in the country (well — not EVERY one…..) at risk of violation. We get the government and system we show up for. It is our civic responsibility to inform ourselves about how our legal system works, so we are capable of thinking for ourselves and making rational decisions.

People who jump on every shiny gossip bandwagon to have their opinions validated for a few minutes, then hop off in ignorance of basic rights and the Constitution, don’t know enough to object when those rights are violated. This doesn’t happen by accident. What is more disturbing is that every year, we seem to be farther away from civic literacy, which bodes ill for the 2030 elections and beyond, unless we reverse the trend.

“Innocent until proven guilty” is a core US tenet. The moment we stray from it, we are asking to be oppressed by the machine of our Legislative, Judicial and Executive branches, all of which are controlled predominantly by rich, white men who are terrified that anyone who is NOT a rich, white man will achieve actual equality and exact revenge.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, and slippery slopes, hearsay and gossip mentality are the surest ways to get us there. The deck is already stacked against individual citizens — in large part because 50% or more of us can’t get our ragged asses to a voting booth on election day, to exercise our right to be heard and counted, so all kinds of redistricting and general mayhem goes on, and we can’t be bothered to hold elected officials accountable for doing the work of representing our interests.

Still, there are exponentially more individuals than there are rich, white guys, and “One person, one vote” is still (theoretically) the way it works. Citizens United is a threat only because enough US citizens are reliably ignorant and too apathetic to do their part by being well informed, leaving us all at the effect of anyone who has friends with deep pockets, willing to pay the price of his admission to Congress.

Meanwhile, in swoops Faux News (btw — terrifyingly, the most-watched cable news in the US, at least for now) spewing propaganda, lies and snarky, misinformed sound bites based on pure hate. Rather than formulate their own opinions based on fact, (because they do not know the facts) we see whole parts of the population swelling into what amounts to a virtual mob of functionally illiterate sheep, whipped into a frenzy of fear by propaganda, voting the way they’re told will keep them “safe,” and jeopardizing us all.

But I digress.

I’m surprised TFT posted this piece. Re-thinking the credibility of every other piece I’ve read there; even the ones aligned with my own beliefs. I am just about as “peace-love-drugs-children-laughing-in-the-streets” lefty-hippy as a person can be, and I would rather discover a disturbing truth I don’t like than live ignorant of our basic legal rights, leaving myself and fellow citizens at the mercy of a mob of terrified, hate-filled gossips.