Book Review: Climbing Piano’s Mount Everest

Alan Rusbridger, editor, The Guardian Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, The Guardian

Alan Rusbridger, editor, The Guardian Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, The Guardian

I love the piano.

I mean, I really love the piano.

The fact that I’ve taken it up late in life and have no ambitions about it — and I mean absolutely no ambitions about it — is part of the reason why I love it.

My elderly mother is constantly telling me how much she regrets that she and my father didn’t give me piano lessons when I was a child.  “You could have been someone really great, a concert pianist,” she tells me.

Her short term memory is gone, so she repeats this refrain often. Each time she says it, I tell her that I have no regrets about the fact that I’m taking up piano now, and not earlier.

I love it.

Now.

It makes me happy.

Now.

And if there’s one small thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that the best time to be happy is always — you guessed it — Now.

My newfound love of the piano is without a doubt the reason why I downloaded, Play It Again, an Amateur Against the Impossible onto my Kindle. It’s the first-person story of British journalist Alan Rusbridger’s attempt to learn Chopin’s Ballade No 1 in G Minor.

The Ballade, as Mr Rusbridger calls it, is something of a Mount Everest among pianists. Playing it is usually considered the province of the best of the best, the professionals, and not the amateurs among us.

While Mr Rusbridger is an accomplished and enthusiastic musician, he is not by any stretch a professional pianist.  His day job is at the British newspaper, The Guardian, where he’s the editor. That’s a big job at any time, but the year that he chose to take on the Ballade was also the year of Wikileaks and the story about a powerful British newspaper bugging cell phones to get stories. These stories were both broken by The Guardian, and neither of them was received easily by the world at large.

Mr Rusbridger had to be determined to find 20 minutes each morning for piano practice. While that night be enough time for a child to learn this week’s lesson, it is not in the universe of the amount of time a pianist needs to devote to master something like the Ballade.

He took lessons from three extraordinary teachers and interviewed experts in related fields during the course of his journey with the Ballade. He also engaged in lots of social music playing with friends.

After a year and a half, he successfully performed the Ballade for a group of friends, which, for him, was mission accomplished.

The important thing for me is that he never, at any time, worked toward a professional performance. He had a goal, but the journey was just as important as the final outcome.

This is what piano is to me. It’s about the music, yes, but in a personal, entirely selfish way. Of all the things I do, the piano stands alone among as the one thing that I do entirely for myself. I am an amateur and I have a determination to never be anything else.

The joy of it all is that it’s not about being a professional musician. It’s not about being a musician at all. It is, simply, about the pleasure, the incredible, totally absorbing and absolutely healing to the depths, pleasure of me and the piano and the music that is in both of us.

I identified with this book on many levels. Mr Rusbridger works in a public profession that is competitive to the point of combativeness. His tools are words that change people’s lives. He is constantly on call, always under the gun, never really “off” from his job.

Ask any elected official and they’ll tell you that this sounds a lot like what they do.

I always wanted to play the piano, but I never did. It was a vague longing with no direction. It might have stayed like that except a friend from my church told me she had a friend who wanted “to get rid of” a piano. I jumped at the chance to get it, and the rest is a love story.

It turns out that the piano and I were star-crossed lovers, or at least we were on my part. I sit down at the piano and the world falls away. When I first touched those keys, it was if a long-slumbering part of my brain woke up, kicked it’s heels and started doing fist pumps.

Mr Rusbridger talks a lot about his problems remembering the score. I have a somewhat analogous disability. I cannot, for the life of me remember notes. After I’ve plunked through a new piece of music the first time,  and I look back at it the next day, I remember the sound. I hear the note when I look at it on paper.

I’ve had a hard time describing this to my teacher, but here’s what it’s like. I look at a note on the page for D, and instead of thinking D, I hear the note itself. It’s weird and it makes what people call method books almost painful to me.

I pulled myself out of the method books and into real music within a couple of months. I’ve been working on one advanced piece of music for almost 8 months now, slowly learning my way through it. First, the fingering, then the hands, then, ever so slowly, the hands together, and then, finally, the pedals. The whole time, I’m searching for the music in the notes, the story it’s telling me.

It’s a slow process, but it is so much fun. Let me repeat that: It. Is. Fun.

If you take a good piece of music apart, you will see quite quickly how it moves from one key to the next, how the chords come apart and combine, how the sounds repeat but do it differently, how they build and then fall, how it speaks. That’s the fun of it; finding the story in the music, the voice in it that uses these sounds to create a world of its own.

Mr Rusbridger studied music as a child, went through the (to me) mechanical process of graded learning. He’s modest about his abilities, but it is just modesty. I gather from reading the book that he is actually a very good amateur pianist. Which is to say that he may actually be a better pianist than the homogenized and rather dead predictability of much professional pianism I’ve heard in recordings.

We are veering toward a computer-like perfection in classical music, which is to say, we are taking the life out of it. Mr Rusbridger discusses this in some depth in his book. He theorizes that it’s the power of our recording studios to eliminate the flaws in performance that leads to this.

We are doing to music what Photoshop is doing to the human form: Replacing it with a plasticized shape that is a caricature of the beautifully flawed reality of life.

Real music, played by real people has flaws. But it also has voice and power and tells stories that reach into people and bring their deep inner selves to the surface. People love music. They love to listen to it, to dance to it, to just let it wash over them and lift them up and away.

The value of amateurs such as Mr Rusbridger, and, yes, even me, is that we keep music alive. We lift it out of the recording studio and the sterility of computer programs that eliminate flaws and place it squarely back into the human.

Mr Rusbridger makes an excellent case for this, and I will take it one step further. Without amateurs, music dies. This is true partly because the audiences for professionals is made up of amateurs. It is also true because the flaws, fun and good times of amateur playing is where the life of music lives. Music is of the human soul, not the human-made equipment that wipes performances clean of flaws and packages them to sell.

My family was a musical family. I never thought about this, took it for granted, until I got my hands on that first piano. We would get together and after a big meal with fried chicken, baked beans, potato salad, homemade ice cream and watermelon, everyone would get out their fiddles and guitars.

Nobody could read music. They just played. The standard line when someone asked “Do you know …” was “Hum it.” If you could hum it, they could play it. First one, then the other would take it up, and they’d be off.

That’s the ultimate amateurism; one step removed from playing a bottle and keeping time on a washboard with a spoon. It was also, I realize now, beautiful.

Not the music so much, although if I remember correctly, it wasn’t all that bad. The beauty was in the family, the love, the life of it. Music is a human invention.

Music is emotion, language, math, symbolism, and our driving need for beauty all rolled up into a profound self-expression. It links us, one to another on a profound and visceral level.

Without music, would people die? Would we become like neglected children who fail to thrive? Would our eyes hollow out into deep pits of despair and our bodies grow frail and and wraithlike if we lost our ability to sing?

I think we would. I really think we would.

Because music is not about perfection or performance or making money. Music is, and always has been, our soul’s voice with wings.

 

Is Brian Williams a Star or a Journalist?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Peabody Awards https://www.flickr.com/photos/peabodyawards/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Peabody Awards https://www.flickr.com/photos/peabodyawards/

I’ve been looking at videos of Brian Williams. The thing that jumps out at me is that he has been more of a personality than a journalist for quite a while.

There’s something vaguely trashy about the anchor of a network news show performing as he does in these videos. However, it goes a long way toward explaining his I Caught a Fish THAT BIG story about coming under fire in Iraq. That story was part of the Brian Williams act, the Brian Williams persona.

All this is in keeping with the way “news” has been trending for a long time. On cable news channels, they don’t so much report the news as they talk about it.

Each of the cable channels brings in “experts” of one sort or the other to dice up some itty bitty story or an itty bitty aspect of a large story that they’ve decided to focus on. Invariably, this chosen aspect they are going to dissect with talk, talk, talk is something that they can massage to put forth the slant, the bias, of that particular network. The “experts” viewpoints reflect the cable “news” channel’s bias, as well.

On network news, there’s a bit more reporting, but they have been overtaken by the star power of their anchors. The whole idea of a journalist being a “star” is antithetical to journalism. When the guy reading the news becomes bigger than the news he’s reading, we get a messy, viewpoint-driven version of events that veers haplessly toward propaganda and flat-out lying.

What I’m saying is that “news” as it’s being served up to the American people on television is one part trashy entertainment, complete with verbal pushing and shoving, one part star bias, one part network bias and a smidge of actual reporting.

That’s why news channels report, report, report non-news about one story: It’s cheaper to produce and easier to do than actual journalism.

The problem we are experiencing with our free press, at least on television, is that it’s not a free press. In fact, it’s not a press at all. It’s a corporate-owned propaganda machine that is being used to drive public opinion in order to control rather than inform the populace.

Brian Williams, star anchor and teller of tall tales, is just a symptom of the overall lack of credibility and journalistic chops in our money-driven television news empires. He’s just a good looking guy who reads the news.

I’d rather have homely folks who report the news without becoming the news themselves.

Brian Williams’ apology.

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Brian Williams, describing the helicopter story in 2003, before it became the I Caught a Fish THIS BIG story.

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Brian Willaims, telling the full I Caught a Fish THIS BIG story on Letterman.

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Brian Williams’ newscast in which tells his I Caught a Fish THIS BIG on NBC news. The self-promotion in this is shameless.

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Brian Williams, talking about the importance of the news.

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Stars and Stripes debunked the I Caught a Fish THIS BIG story. There is a video with the reporter who debunked the story here.

From Stars and Stripes:

Williams and his camera crew were actually aboard a Chinook in a formation that was about an hour behind the three helicopters that came under fire, according to crew member interviews.

That Chinook took no fire and landed later beside the damaged helicopter due to an impending sandstorm from the Iraqi desert, according to Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Miller, who was the flight engineer on the aircraft that carried the journalists.

“No, we never came under direct enemy fire to the aircraft,” he said Wednesday.

The helicopters, along with the NBC crew, remained on the ground at a forward operating base west of Baghdad for two or three days, where they were surrounded by an Army unit with Bradley fighting vehicles and Abrams M-1 tanks.

Miller said he never saw any direct fire on the position from Iraqi forces.

The claim rankled Miller as well as soldiers aboard the formation of 159th Aviation Regiment Chinooks that were flying far ahead and did come under attack during the March 24, 2003, mission.

One of the helicopters was hit by two rocket-propelled grenades — one did not detonate but passed through the airframe and rotor blades — as well as small arms fire.

 

 

Brian Williams and the I Caught a Fish THIS BIG Story

 

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Peabody Awards https://www.flickr.com/photos/peabodyawards/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Peabody Awards https://www.flickr.com/photos/peabodyawards/

Deacon Greg and the Anchoress have done a good job of covering the story.

It seems that news anchor Brian Williams has, over the years, slowly dressed up a story about what happened when he was covering the Iraq war. A helicopter was shot at and forced down. Brian Williams was in another helicopter that was not shot at and was not forced down. But he was near the helicopter that was shot down. Not very near, but somewhat near.

Over the years, his telling of the story has slowly inched toward saying that the helicopter he was in took the fire and was forced down, until he finally jumped the ole’ shark and said exactly that.

So.

Brian Williams has, over time, expanded an incident he was in during the time he was covering the Iraq War into a big windy.

And he got caught.

And then he apologized.

Sort of.

It turns out that his apology wasn’t all that truthful, either.

And now, everybody is piling on.

Oh what tangled webs we weave.

Do I care?

Nope.

Or at least not much.

So far as I’m concerned, Mr Williams is a good looking guy who reads the news. I never took him all that seriously in the first place.

I know that Mr Williams sits in front of a camera night after night and reads stories to us that we are supposed to believe are the absolute truth of the way things are in the world. But I never believed these things were the absolute truth of the way things are in the world, not even before Mr Williams’ big windy.

I’ve been reported on enough in my life to know that every single news story is, at least in part, fiction. Not, usually, deliberate fiction, but fiction born of deadline pressure, reporters who don’t know all that much about the stories they’re covering and, well, human nature being human nature.

In some instances — not too many of them, but they were memorable — I’ve been part of stories that were reported with deliberate lies and propaganda. The coverage on a bill I did to stop doctors from paying women to have their ovaries harvested for eggs was one of the worst of these. I couldn’t even get one local news anchor to accurately report demonstrable facts. He deliberately and with knowledge of what he was doing ignored the facts and reported untruths when he knew they were untruths.

So, excuse me please when I tell you that I’m not all that lathered up because a news anchor has been telling an I Caught a Fish THIS BIG story about his wartime reporting adventures. When it comes to wartime, it always seems to work that way. Guys who never did the deal brag about what wasn’t and those who actually saw combat won’t say a word about it.

As for Brian Williams and his flapping gums, network news is still, even today, less of a carny show than cable news. But it’s been moving in that direction for a long while. There was a time when a news anchor who did something like this would have been anathema. But now? Not so much.

Which leads to the question:  Does anybody really believe the news anymore?

Anybody?

Brian Williams got caught exaggerating his wartime coverage experiences and slowly, over the years, side-stepped himself into a tall tale about how he ended up where nobody in their right mind wants to be in real life: In a helicopter, under such severe fire that it was forced down.

He was in a helicopter. And he was near (sort of) the attack that actually did happen. Helicopters were forced down. And he was nearby.

The rest of the story … drifted … over time.

Make what you want of this. I don’t care.

Has Mr Williams’ credibility as a newscaster been harmed?

Uh-huh.

Do I want to hate him to death over this?

Nope.

I’ll let all you folks who never told a lie cast the first stone at him.

If we hold to that standard of rock throwing, I think Mr Williams will be safe.

Pro Life Oklahoma 2015: Rose Day

Wednesday of this week was Rose Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

It was a clear, cold day and every parking space, everywhere, was taken. The capitol was full to the brim with pro life people, carrying roses to give to their state legislators.

I hugged a lot of people I hadn’t seen for several months and then found a seat at the back of the House Chamber for the program. Pro life people filled every seat in the chamber, including all the galleries, and there was overflow into the rotunda, as well.

If you don’t have a Rose Day in your state, consider starting one. It’s a great way to begin legislative sessions, since it reminds legislators — in a positive and loving way — just how many pro life people there are in their state.

Here are a couple of really bad photos I took of the chamber with my iPhone. The photos are terrible, but the love in that room was beautiful.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

 

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Pro Life Oklahoma 2015: Tulsa March for Life

Tulsa March for Life 2015. Oklahoma has two metropolitan areas: Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The state capitol is in Oklahoma City.

Tulsa has an annual march for life which draws thousands of people each year. Oklahoma City has the annual Rose Day at the State Capitol.

It was a blessing on my life that I was given the opportunity to be  the keynote speaker at this year’s Tulsa March for Life. Anything I can do for the babies is a gift to me. I will treasure the memories of this night for the rest of my life.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

 

Bishop of Slattery Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

Bishop of Slattery Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

 

Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

 

Me, speaking at the march. Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

Me, speaking at the march. Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

 

Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

 

I love this one. The Hunters for Life sign is so Okie. I love Oklahoma. Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

I love this one. The Hunters for Life sign is so Okie. I love Oklahoma. Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used withPermission. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

ISIS Burns Jordanian Pilot Alive. Jordan Vows Revenge.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Klaus Nahr https://www.flickr.com/photos/klausnahr/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Klaus Nahr https://www.flickr.com/photos/klausnahr/

In their race to the bottom of the human pile, ISIS murdered a captive Jordanian pilot by putting him in a cage and setting him on fire.

I’ve decided to link to the video, primarily because I think that we need to know what ISIS is, and why they must be defeated absolutely. Anyone who joins ISIS or helps them should be hunted down and put in prison, even if it takes decades to get all of them.

You can see the video here.

The people of Jordan reacted explosively to the video. You can see a bit of their reaction in the video below. Jordan has already begun carrying out its promised reprisals.

I understand the emotion. I’ve been feeling the same emotions about ISIS for quite some time. Muslims who oppose this barbarism are our brothers and sisters in this fight.

We need to end ISIS. Hunt down the perpetrators and build a civilized and lasting peace. I pray that this war will not become an on-going blood feud that ultimately destroys civilization in that part of the world. In order for that to happen, ISIS must be laid to ground absolutely. But then, people must turn their backs on the bloodshed and move forward into civilization building.

This business of carrying on hates for generations (which seems to be the way they do things in the Middle East) will, if it is not checked, cripple and destroy that part of the world so that it never pulls itself out of the abyss of war.

I don’t know how you change people whose cultural trajectory is built on never forgetting and generational blood feud. But I do know that it is a necessity if that region of the world is ever going to move forward to provide stable and good lives for the people who live there.

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Tomorrow is Rose Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol

Representative Gary Banz Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives File Photo

Representative Gary Banz Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives File Photo

Representative Gary Banz told me that when I left, he wanted my parking place.

I understood that.

My parking place was fantabulous; right next to the Gov’s parking place.

That’s what happens when a Rep has more seniority than anybody else in the building. She gets whatever parking space she wants.

Did Representative Banz get “my” parking space? I dunno. I haven’t been back to check.

I’m going to the Oklahoma State Capitol building for the first time since my son and one of his friends and I went out and loaded up my office and brought it home. That was, if memory serves, the Monday after the Friday on which we adjourned.

Oh, I’ve had phone conversations with people at the Capitol since then. Lots of them. And I’ve also had conversations with my former colleagues in the House and Senate. Lots of them, as well.

But I haven’t set foot in the actual building, or driven by it, for that matter, since I brought my stuff home to stay.

But I’m going to the Capitol tomorrow. I’m going with a couple of friends, who, because of their health problems, I will drop off on the Senate side of the building where they can get in without climbing stairs, and then I’m going to wind back south and park far from the building in one of the visitor spaces.

I will then go in, meet up with my friends and begin handing out roses to the reps and sens I know.

Because tomorrow is Rose Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Photo Source: Oklahoma Rose Day Committee. Used with Permission.

Photo Source: Oklahoma Rose Day Committee. Used with Permission.

Rose Day is an annual event sponsored by pro life people, in particular the Oklahoma Southern Baptist Convention and Catholic Charities, which brings hundreds of pro life Okies to Oklahoma City to cheer on their pro life legislative heroes.

I loved Rose Day when I was in office. It was so nice to have people in the building who actually liked what I was doing by working to pass pro life legislation. The life of a pro life Democrat can be lonely, indeed. After some of the ugliness that happened to me, I drew into myself as a survival tactic. I just hunkered down and fought my way through the last half of my time in office.

Day after day, nobody asked me join them for lunch, nobody talked to me. When we stayed late in the evenings, I had friends from outside the legislature come pick me up for supper because I knew none of my colleagues would eat with me.

Rose Day was the one day that turned that on its head. For a couple of hours, I actually had friends inside that building.

That’s why I’m writing this now. If you are a pro life Okie, you need to be at the Oklahoma State Capitol Building tomorrow. You need to let pro life legislators know that you appreciate what they are doing.

You need especially to look up pro life Democrats and encourage them, because, believe me, they won’t hear another encouraging word all session long.

I’m going to Rose Day tomorrow as a spectator, rather than a participant. It will be my first time in a long, long time when I can’t just swing into my parking space next to the door and hustle up to my office.

Tomorrow, I’m walking in from the South 40, and then I’m going to have to find someone who will let me leave my coat in their office for a couple of hours.

I am so looking forward to it. I plan to drop by and encourage every single pro life Democrat I know, and to hug many of the dedicated pro life Republicans that I know. I’ll watch the inspiring program we have planned.

Then, I’m going to go back out to the South 40, get in my car, drive around and pick up my friends and we’ll go out and celebrate. Because this year I don’t have to stay. My time as an active participant in the legislative bear-and-bull-fight is over, and for that I am soooo grateful.

As for the pro life Okies reading this, be sure join me at Rose Day. Tomorrow is going to be a wonderful pro life celebration for all of us.

Vatican Announces Day of Prayer Against Human Trafficking

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by A Campaign to Drop Sales https://www.flickr.com/photos/humantrafficking/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by A Campaign to Drop Sales https://www.flickr.com/photos/humantrafficking/

Public Catholic reader Ken gave me the link to this story.

According to Crux, the Vatican has announced an International Day of Prayer and Recollection Against Human Trafficking on February 8.

Slavery is on the rise, and a lot of people who think they oppose slavery are aiding and abetting it. I could write a series of posts on the ways in which those of us who oppose slavery with our words end up buying products made by slaves, hiring people who are slaves and, yes, using prostitutes who are slaves.

One of the things I’ve heard from human trafficking victims who have been sold as prostitutes is that they fear going to church because they will see men who have bought them there. This is a startling example of how low we can go.

Don’t buy other people, and that means, among other things, do not use prostitutes. Also, do not hire people’s services when they are sold to you on street corners.

We like to rant and rave about “illegal immigration” in this country. It comes up every four years in every off election, just like clockwork. Then, after the election passes, so does the concern. Remember last fall and all the carrying on about the invasion at the border? Where is that now?

But don’t worry, it’ll be back in four years for the next off-year election.

In the meantime, corporations bring people into this country illicitly to work on their farms and similar low-skilled jobs. No one is actually going to do anything about illegal immigration because there is money to be made from it.

Human trafficking gets lost in this political demagoguery and the corporatism that drives it. Slave labor is used on a massive scale around the globe. There is a distinction between free illegal immigrants who cross the Rio Grande to work in this country and people who are brought here and used as slaves. We tend to lump them together, but the difference is that one is a slave and the other is a free human being. This difference eludes a lot of people.

I’m not going to get into the question of hiring illegal immigrants in this post. All I will say is that I know – know – that we will never pass meaningful laws against the practice. The money interests don’t want such laws, and the money interests control our government. I doubt that we can even stop money interests from knowingly using slave labor.

What is possible is for you and I to make an effort to do so. Small business people out there who hire day laborers, are oftentimes employing slaves without being aware of it. They don’t have to commit this crime against humanity, if they are willing to work to avoid it.

The easy way to avoid using slaves is to simply refuse to hire people off street corners and through shady agencies. You might also look into the lives of the people you hire. If they go home to their own home, with their own family, if they go to church and sit out in the yard on Saturday night, trading stories with their friends and knocking back a few brews, chances are good that they are not slaves.

Human trafficking, which means slavery, is becoming increasingly ubiquitous. According to many news reports I’ve read, groups like ISIS finance their operations at least in part by taking civilian populations, including large parts of the local Christian populations, captive and then selling them as slaves.

Of course, they could not do this if other people didn’t buy these slaves.

That’s the equation with slavery. Someone must sell the slaves. And someone else must buy them.

We need to join with Pope Francis on February 8 in the International Day of Prayer and Recollection Against Human Trafficking.

We also need to do everything we can to make sure that we do not buy products made by slaves, and do not unwittingly use slaves in our businesses.

And oh yes, men should stop buying women and children off street corners to use for sex. When you buy a human being, that does not make them your date. It makes them your slave, and being a deliberate user of slave labor makes you a monster.

 

 

 

Clickbait and the Boston Marathon Bomber Trial

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ninian Reid, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ninian_reid/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ninian Reid, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ninian_reid/

An odd story has begun to circle the web lately.

It seems that prosecutors in the Boston Marathon bomber case are (gasp!) asking qualifying questions of prospective jurors. Among these questions are a query as to whether or not said prospective juror would, if the evidence warrants it, find for the death penalty.

Now, if someone asked me that question, I would say, No, I will not find for the death penalty.

At that point, the prosecutor would reject me as a potential juror.

However, if one of my friends who supports the death penalty had been answering the question, a “yes” on their part would not in any way commit them to find for the death penalty in this particular case. The prosecution still has to prove the charges, and then he or she still has to convince these people to actually do the deed and sentence another human being to die.

It’s far from pro forma.

The new hyperbole is that this particular form of jury qualification is, in fact, a method of selectively disqualifying Catholics from jury membership. The reason is that it appears that many of the Catholics of Boston actually follow Church teaching concerning the death penalty. Or else, Boston is a very liberal area and they are following the liberal zeitgeist on the death penalty. Or else, the zeitgeist and the Church combine in these people’s hearts on the question of the death penalty.

I say that because the good people of Massachusetts appear to have no qualms about electing pro abortion politicians. So, I’m thinking their followership of Church teaching is somewhat conditional.

That aside, a lot of Catholics are getting tossed from consideration as jurors in the Boston Marathon bomber case. And, this, of all things, is rising to the top of the media milk as a form of “discrimination” about which the media somewhat cares. True, they are almost gagging on their words, and quickly rushing to assure readers that their real concern is discrimination against death penalty opponents, not Catholics.

But when the dust on this argument settles, “discrimination” against an idea, in this case opposition to the death penalty, rather than a group of people,  doesn’t hold a lot of legal water. So, the line of argument is forced to circle back to anti-Catholic talk again. You can almost hear the scribes stutter as they deal with what, for them, is a great emotional conundrum.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Meanwhile, Christian bashing/hazing/mocking continues unabated in many of our universities and colleges, Christians are constantly being told to keep their faith at home and not act on it in public affairs, and Christian mom and pop business people are being told that they must participate in gay weddings or face fines, “sensitivity training,” even jail time. In one instance, ordained ministers were threatened with these things for refusal to perform gay weddings.

Elsewhere, Christians are burnt, beheaded, gang-raped, sold into slavery and herded into refugee camps. And the same pundits who are writing this latest stuff about the death penalty in the Boston Marathon bomber trial are not only silent, they often support those who seek to oppress religious freedom.

Christians are overtly attacked and mocked in the same media which has found its new cause in the supposed discrimination against Catholics in the jury selection in the Boston Marathon Bomber case.

I’m not buying it.

I do not believe that fair treatment of Catholics is the concern here. I think this is a back-handed way to attack the death penalty. While I do not favor the death penalty, I think the way to change that is through the law, not by crippling the judicial system by changing it to suit the caterwauling  section of our society.

I do not believe for one moment that it is discrimination for prosecutors to qualify jurors in this manner. They are not singling out Catholics. They are merely asking if the jurors would be willing, after considering the evidence, to find for the penalty which they, the prosecutors, are seeking.

This is a lot of things, but discrimination isn’t one of them. It is standard courtroom behavior. It is not, in itself, aimed at any group of people.

I could, if I was so inclined, frame all sorts of arguments about the death penalty based on the lopsided way in which it is applied to certain groups of people, in particular those who do not have the money to mount a sophisticated defense.

In my opinion, we talk too much about race in this matter and far too little about money. Race was a huge factor in the OJ murder trial (as a for-instance) but money was the real reason he got off. Race would never have become a factor if he had not had the money to mount an incredible defense. The same goes for a lot of other wealthy people.

The Boston Marathon bomber case is so high-profile that the question of money is not really valid. This young man is going to have a good defense.

To be honest, I’m not interested in this trial. First, I’m not a trial watcher. It’s not my idea of entertainment to watch people fight for their lives for real. Second, I had enough of terrorists and their drama with the Oklahoma City bombing. I have zero desire to revisit it unless duty — as in writing about ISIS et al — requires it. Even then, it is a sacrifice on my part that takes a lot out of me.

I am content to allow the people of Boston and their court system handle this particular situation. I don’t have to sit on this jury (thank God) and I don’t have to make these decisions.

As for the prosecutors qualifying prospective jurors in this manner, it is not discrimination, and frankly, I think most of the people raising the question are, based on their lack of concern and active participation in actual Christian bashing, mocking hazing in other quarters, insincere in doing so.

Turn the page folks and think on other things. This story is, in the words of someone I know, “clickbait.”

Pope Francis to Lithuanian Bishops: Defend the Family

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann https://www.flickr.com/photos/home_of_chaos/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann https://www.flickr.com/photos/home_of_chaos/

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