12 Angry Men. If you've never had the opportunity to see this classic 1957 film, which I haven't, or its excellent 1997 remake, which I have, you need to find the time. It focuses on 12 jurors tasked with deciding the fate of a young man accused of killing his own father. The judge opens the movie instructing the jurors before their deliberations as they decide on his guilt or innocence, that must return a unanimous verdict, reminding them that the man is facing the death penalty.
A decision of tremendous gravity, that has life changing implications, left to a small group of people.
It has an excellent cast, featuring George C. Scott, James Gandolfini, Edward James Olmos, Hume Cronin, William Peterson, and others. You've got quite a few leaders in that group, or at least the characters they've played - General Patton, head of the New Jersey Mob, CO of the Battlestar Galactica, the head of CSI, etc. Strong actors, used to playing big roles.
|Jack Lemmon as Ensign Pulver Source|
The twelfth man, actually juror number 8, is played by another great- Jack Lemmon. He's somewhat of the anti-hero as he's a hold out. Not that he's convinced of the defendant's innocence, or his guilt- (like the others), but he's of a cooler mind. He wants to slow down and discuss the case after the other 11 immediately vote to convict after beginning deliberations. Jack Lemmon also played Ens. Pulver in the movie Mr. Roberts, which many Navy types have probably seen. Henry Fonda played that title character as well as juror #8 in the 1957 version of 12 Angry Men. Jack Lemmon and Henry Fonda, and I'll add Jimmie Stewart to that group, were very good at playing average Joes who just have a common sense about them, smart, honorable, and unpretentious roles.
I sort of see myself as this type of guy. I'm not a forceful person that uses my size, strength or sheer volume to assert myself. I'm better suited for reason, logic and persuasiveness to get my way or convince someone to see things from my point of view
Throughout 12 Angry Men, juror #8 slowly, but surely changes the mind of one juror, then a few more, then over half the jury, by breaking down the arguments against the young man one by one. The men were originally angry with Lemmon's character, believing it to be an open and shut case, but each comes around as #8 discusses some irregularities with the evidence. He questions the angle of the stab wound- not right for a short man; the witness testimony- an infirm man couldn't have gotten out of bed in time to see the defendant run away, and several other logical fallacies that change the minds of each juror.
One man stood against the rest, not allowing himself to be bullied or swayed by the incorrect, or not well-thought-out arguments, including one who goes off on a racist rant before being told to just shut up and sit down.
So while I'm usually a calm, cool, and collected kind of guy, I'm getting kind of angry, unable to use logic, reason, and facts to have people see things my way. Not that I don't have facts to back up my assertions, but it seems more like others refuse to listen.
Over the past 7 years, I've lost so much faith in the rule of law in this country, with our elected officials not representing the people who elected them, with their votes changing out of political expediency, and much of it stemming from pressure from a very vocal minority, or at least one fueled by the 24 hour news stations. I'm disgusted by judges legislating from the bench, which courts being co-opted by those in power and those with agendas that are in opposition to our constitution.
Three years ago, we had the Supremes ruling that under the ACA a penalty is a tax, and that this was legal, despite the requirement in the constitution that all taxes originate in the House. Then just last week, they topped that momentously unconstitutional decision by declaring the law of the land to be what the framers intended, vice what they passed. The authors of Obamacare tried to force the states to set up health care exchanges by clearly and unapologetically stating that subsidies would only be available to states that had the exchanges. The intended effect of this language was that people would be left without health care tax credits, which states wouldn't (supposedly) allow, thus establishing their own. So the court essentially wrote their own law, not sending it back to Congress to fix as they should have.
In 12 Angry Men, the last juror to change his opinion held out because he admittedly felt bad for the murdered father. This is roughly equivalent to what occurred last week- that the Supreme Court felt bad for the citizens of states without exchanges. They voted to declare justice for them, even if the law and evidence didn't support it, just as the last juror did. The dissent declares as much:
"And the cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites."We've also recently seen Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina ordering the Confederate Flag be removed from Statehouse Grounds. While I can't say I'm disgusted by this particular decision, it's not necessarily the right decision. Several years ago, probably close to 20, there was certain political official or aide from Washington DC who was forced to resign after he used the term "niggardly." Not at all a racial slur, it means miserly or stingy, there were opponents who claimed that, despite the correct definition that they weren't originally aware of, he should have known not to use the term because of the demographics of DC.
I'm not insensitive to the racism that blacks face in this country, but life is much better here than elsewhere, and much better than it was even 40 or 50 years ago- the opportunities are there, through education, and yes, even affirmative action.
This decision however, while long in the making, came immediately on the heels of a tragic mass murder. Politicians and leaders of all types, including Navy leaders, have to do something - anything when tragedy, or something that has media interest, strikes. And in today's 24 hour news cycle, with nearly everyone having the ability to upload HD video instantaneously to YouTube, the bar for what interests the media is set pretty low, and this is a media that has an agenda. Leaders aren't allowed to be juror #8, calmly rationalizing all the facts before them, weighing heavily the gravity of the situation. Actually, they really are allowed to take a moment and analyze the evidence, they just don't. Knee-jerk reactions are the result.
Leaders need to have the wherewithal and strength to sit back and calmly make a decision. If they do this however, they must also immediately come out with a statement that they are taking some time, lest they be found unsympathetic to the issue, and thereby preempt the critics who will assail a leader for inaction, even if it's just to score headlines. As a nation, we need to contemplate not only the issue on the table, but the long-term implications of the various decisions available to us, and a true leader does this. Acting too quickly and making a hasty decision can often be worse for us all, even though the aggrieved party demands action now, and our guilt or compassion towards others helps drive the impatience. A leader that is driven by polls, white guilt, how something plays in the press, etc., is no leader at all.
Governor Haley made a decision (one that is now being batted around the State Legislature) that was driven by any number of concerns- a desire to rid the state and nation of racism, outrage over a racist and mentally disturbed murderer, and yes- that belief that something, anything- has to be done now. I'm not saying it's surely the wrong decision, but it's one based on feelings.
Tony Gradel said the recent tragedy at Emanuel AME Church "has nothing to do with that flag up there." "Just because nine people lost their lives in a church in Charleston, which I'm not downplaying at all, still a tragedy, has nothing to do with that flag standing up there," he said. CBS NewsI learned a new term recently, Hegelian Dialectic. A manufactured problem elicits a manufactured solution that leaves everyone satisfied and allows the originating issue to simply fall from the spotlight, wholly unresolved. Read about it here. Not that racism is a manufactured problem, but the flag coming down does little to solve racism. There will still be an underlying current, or even a bold expression of racism in the U.S., despite political decisions. I tend to believe that racism is actually perpetuated by both sides, as that helps maintain a divide and an aggrieved base with which politicians can pit one side against the other, but that's for another blog post on some other day.
|Robert E. Lee FreeRepublic|
As for the anger-du-jour about all sorts of similar issues, I am not at all in favor of rewriting history because we're angry today. So, no renaming Robert E. Lee Elementary schools, no renaming all sorts of Army bases named after Confederate Generals (Benning, Bragg, Hood, etc.) That's akin to ISIS fighters destroying symbols of pre-Islamic culture, including artifacts from the Assyrian Empire that are over 2000 years old. If you want to rewrite history, we need to go back to the birth of our country and eliminate George Washington as one of our Founding Fathers. He was a horrible racist slave owner after all. We must also cancel the naming of a Carrier John F. Kennedy, as he was an adulterer and against abortion since he was a Catholic. Remove Lindberg from the books too since he was a racist anti-Semite (but apparently that's almost an acceptable form of racism these days).
One of the arguments brought forth in the trial of the young man in 12 Angry Men, is that he was heard arguing with his father the night before, exclaiming "I'm going to kill you." Juror #8 counters this hyperbole stating that such a phrase cannot always be taken literally (or is it seriously?)
Like when a comedian veers from his standard funny monologue, dramatically declaring a torrent of overemotional woe:
"I honestly have nothing other than just sadness once again that we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other and the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn't exist. And I’m confident, though, that by acknowledging it, by staring into that and seeing it for what it is, we still won’t do jack s—. Yeah. That’s us."Yes, the murderer was a horrible racist, but he was also a very mentally unstable individual. He is not the fault of what Jon Stewart perceives to be some overt wave of racism in this country that hearkens back to slavery. He was one seriously effed-up individual. You want to talk about hyperbole? I will point to so many videos and stories about violent interactions between cops and black citizens. Are there more white cops than black ones in predominantly-black Ferguson Missouri? Yes, but it wasn't racism that led to Michael Brown getting shot, it was his own actions charging Officer Wilson after he robbed and assaulted a shop owner. Hyperbole is the overstating of all these individual issues. Hegelian Dialectic is the blaming these incidents on racist cops, calling for and achieving their punishment or removal, ignoring the underlying issues or what led to the confrontation in the first place. Almost seventy percent of all black children grow up in single parent households or aren't even raised by a natural parent. That terrible statistic leaves children without fathers and role models, so they repeat the cycle. That cycle won't be broken without black men stepping up and taking responsibility for their actions, and women respecting themselves enough to keep the men away in the first place. Strong families are the only effective preventative measure against a cycle of poverty, crime, drug-use, and child-abandonment. Taking a flag down won't help, and I'm not convinced that affirmative action is doing much to stem that tide either.
“Petitioners make strong arguments rooted in social policy and considerations of fairness. … But this Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be. … The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent.”We'll just conveniently ignore that he did the same when he voted in favor of the ACA earlier that week.
The implications of these decisions can be far reaching. Is this latest decision bad for families? Studies show that children living in a same-sex household fare worse than traditional ones, but these statistics are routinely lambasted and buried. Will this decision affect religious liberties? It already has, but now it's the law of the land, and the angry supporters are relentless in their attempt to make everyone succumb to their beliefs. Is the gay community feeling less marginalized now? Yes, but most states already granted all the rights of marriage via civil unions, and only through their vocal declarations of marginalization and victim-hood did they find this unsatisfactory, but we're again talking about feelings. No matter what anyone's opinion is on gay marriage, we should respect each other as individuals, while also protecting religious freedoms. As for racism, taking a flag down does little- serving mainly as a symbolic gesture, and ignores the root problems. The ACA ruling alleviates a legislature from getting it right, from writing laws with language that actually define the laws, setting a precedent that the Court can rule on intent, even if that wasn't the intent. But with both of their decisions last week, the Supremes don't seem to care about second or third order effects.
We now have a progressive court deciding what they want a law to be, vice whether or not it's constitutional. We have a Congress that hides its actions from the public and buries the truth about a piece of legislation within 20,000 pages of regulations and builds an army of IRS agents to enforce them. They are supported by a media industry that refuses to do its due diligence when reporting a story, which is followed by proponents of an issue that don't want to know the true facts regarding it, at least if these facts don't support their view.
With all this stacked up against us, how is juror #8- the anti-hero- going to convince others of the gravity of the situation, that a defendant is innocent, that the truth should be heard and considered? How are we going to stand behind a constitution when the interpreters of it, and the the legislators writing laws based on it, are practically working in collusion to ignore it?
In the movie, the defendant went free. I'm not so sure about us.