My great grandfather called Franklin Roosevelt “old dog face.” Papaw didn’t like democrats and from what I have learned through the years he did not hesitate to let everyone know. I didn’t know my papaw, he died when I was a baby but I learn about him from my 92 year old grandmother. I suppose calling our elected officials names has gone on forever but I don’t recall it being this bad. I don’t recall our national dialogue being this nasty.
I have been in the process of writing this commentary several times and stopped because I wasn’t sure exactly how I wanted to approach the subject of the way we talk to each other about others. I am guilty of it myself but I am honestly not sure when it started or how it got as bad as it has. I have re-read some of my comments here on DMNEWSI and and on other message boards and I will be honest, I am ashamed of some of it. I mastered having a tongue that could cut my detractors to shreds at WIOD in Miami. As a shock-jock, I could come up with put downs and slams that had no recourse. I could get just as nasty as the next guy.
I got away from harsh commentary and name calling when I left WIOD’s “shock-talk” format. To be honest, I don’t miss it. It’s not me but somehow I got wrapped up in it and, for a time, enjoyed it. Something grabbed my soul this week in Indianapolis. It was a story about a cop killer and the storyline didn’t play out the way I thought it would. Why? The cop killer, Thomas X. Hardy expressed remorse for killing Officer David Moore. Wow, a killer expressed remorse, I thought. He probably was just saying that because he didn’t want to be executed and who could have blamed Spencer and Jo Moore, David’s parents who are also cops, if they had laughed in his face. But they didn’t.
They showed compassion. Spencer Moore said he and his wife were “duty bound” to show compassion to someone who expressed remorse and a plea deal for life in prison was struck. Wow! I was shocked these two cops didn’t cry out for Hardy’s head and who could have blamed them. Hell, I wanted Hardy to die and then I started to think. I remember Carla Faye Tucker who was facing death in Texas for a brutal murder that she committed. In an 11th hour appeal, that was rejected by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, then Texas Governor George W. Bush mocked tucker through pursed lips saying “please don’t kill me,” in a whining voice to his advisors. As much as I hated what Carla Faye Tucker did, I hated Bush’s crass comments worse.
We are all still hearing about Rush Limbaugh’s comments about a college student who testified before congress. Here was a young woman, not a public official but a citizen just like us who was marginalized as a “slut” and “prostitute” by Limbaugh who then opined she should share her sexual experiences via making movies and letting him and others see them. Honest to God…is this what we have become? The answer, sadly, is yes. We live in a world where everyone has an opinion and a comment and truthfully…both are overrated. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t think things through and form opinions but perhaps should choose our words better when expressing them.
The President of The United States has been called a “dick,” “Hitler,” a “communist”, the “n” word and more. It’s not an isolated attack on the President, these comments are out there everyday. I cannot imagine my young nephews asking what a “tar baby” is or even a “slut.” I think about how we communicate and share our thoughts. We post them on Facebook status updates and comment boards with little thought about how they are received. It’s tragic and it’s nasty and it truly is beneath us…every single one of us.
Opinions…comments are horribly overrated. Apologies, compassion, remorse and kindness are underrated and needed so badly. It’s one thing to live life and form decisions and opinions based on our understanding of events. It’s another one altogether to base them on the trash that is spewed forth with reckless abandon. I have taken a cue from Spencer and Jo Moore and hope to form my thoughts and opinions with a more human element in mind. We all make mistakes and fall short of the glory of God and regardless of your leanings, compassion, remorse and understanding have a lot more mileage that shotgun opinions and comments.
EAST BRUNSWICK, New Jersey — (DMN) – Dharun Ravi, a former Rutgers University student accused of spying on and intimidating his gay roommate, was found guilty Friday on charges of invasion of privacy, but jurors found him not guilty on several charges of bias intimidation. Ravi, 20, had been on trial on a 15-count indictment that included charges of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy, tampering with physical evidence, witness tampering and hindering apprehension. His roommate, Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman, killed himself in September 2010 by jumping off the George Washington Bridge, which spans the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey, after learning that Ravi had secretly spied on his sexual encounter with another man.
Clementi’s death stirred discussion about bullying, with Obama releasing a videotaped message less than a month later condemning it. A few months later, New Jersey legislators enacted stricter laws to better protect against bullying in schools. The most serious charges in the Rutgers case centered on whether Ravi’s actions had constituted bias intimidation, meaning that he was motivated to inspire fear in the Ridgewood, New Jersey, native because of his sexual orientation. Those charges carry jail time of up to 10 years and possible deportation back to his native India. Prosecutors have said that Ravi tried to embarrass Clementi because he was gay. “These acts were purposeful, they were intentional, and they were planned,” prosecutor Julia L. McClure told the jury on the first day of the trial. Ravi “was bothered by Tyler Clementi’s sexual orientation,” she later said more bluntly.
Ravi’s attorneys have argued that their client acted thoughtlessly, portraying him as an immature college student who made a mistake, and that his actions were not based on homophobia. “He hasn’t lived long enough to have any experience with homosexuality or gays,” said attorney Steven Altman in closing arguments earlier this week. “He doesn’t know anything about it. He just graduated high school.” Ravi and fellow student Molly Wei — who admitted joining Ravi to watch the surreptitious webcam encounter, which others were also alerted to via social media — were charged in the wake of Clementi’s suicide. They were not, however, charged directly with his death.
Facing two counts of invasion of privacy, Wei reached a plea deal in May 2011 that required her to testify against her friend and former high school classmate, as well as to complete a three-year program on cyberbullying and do 300 hours of community service. Ravi turned down a plea deal offered by Middlesex County prosecutors that would have allowed him to avoid jail time in exchange for undergoing counseling, doing 600 hours of community service and disposing of any information that could identify the man who appeared in the web video with Clementi.
Prosecutors also offered to help Ravi avoid deportation, though they said they could not guarantee it. Ravi, who had been studying on a visa at the New Jersey university, did not testify on his own behalf. During the prosecution’s phase of the trial, the man whom Clementi was intimate with, identified only as “M.B.,” told jurors that he had noticed a web camera aimed directly at Clementi’s bed. The 32-year-old man testified that he first met Clementi on an Internet social networking site for gay men and that they eventually met three times in the student’s dorm room. The two conversed online, exchanged text messages and later had sex, he said.
Wei testified that she watched a sexual liaison involving M.B. and Clementi after Ravi had secretly set up the webcam in his and Clementi’s dormitory room. Ravi’s lawyer, Altman, has argued that his client had initially switched on the webcam to monitor his personal items because he did not trust his roommate’s visitor. In Twitter messages from that day, Ravi wrote that he’d gone into a friend’s room, “turned on my webcam” and saw his roommate “making out with a dude.”
On September 22, 2010, Clementi took a train to New York and posted a mobile status update on his Facebook page that read, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry,” before killing himself. Ravi had apparently tried to make amends with his estranged roommate that same night, according to text messages revealed in court. “I’ve known you were gay and I have no problem with it,” Ravi wrote said in messages sent after he apparently learned his roommate had requested a dormitory room change. It is not clear if Clementi ever viewed the messages.
LANSING, Michigan — (DMN) – Searchers were going door-to-door in southeast Michigan Friday after tornadoes ripped through. There were no initial reports of serious injuries. The small town of Dexter was hardest hit. Thirteen homes were destroyed and more than 100 damaged. “Initially,” said Dexter resident Brittany Keller, “it’s just kind of the shock value. I think when people say, you know, ‘Oh my God, my house is destroyed,’ that’s just your initial concept of how bad it really was.” Dexter residents were assessing the damage Friday. One said, “I thought it only hit on (one) side of the house, from what I was listening to, until I walked out and saw the garage was missing.”
The slow-moving, large funnel cloud of wind, hail, and rain touched the ground in Dexter for 30 minutes, tracking 10 miles of devastation. “You don’t even have enough time to pray or kiss yourself goodbye,” one resident said. “I mean, you just sit there and wait and just hope you’re going to be there at the end.” Minutes later, a second funnel cloud was spotted southeast, in the town of Ida, where the storm tore through a home as lightning strobed the skies. Thursday, a 77 degree high tied the record for the warmest Ides of March in Southeast Michigan history. When a Canadian cold front blew in, the weather system was ripe for the violent weather that turned lives upside-down. Derrick Jackson of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office said, “It’s devastating. Mother Nature can be devastating. There’s nothing, really, that can be said to that, to lose your home or have it significantly damaged.”
Seven people were injured Thursday when heavy rains caused a partial roof collapse at a Barbourville, Kentucky, business, officials said. Initial reports from the scene were that the drainage system at Tru-Seal Manufacturing was clogged and caused water to pool on the roof, causing a partial collapse, said Kentucky Emergency Management spokesman Buddy Rogers. Three people were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Rogers said. Several others walked over to the hospital on their own with minor injuries, he said. A total of seven people, all adults, were checked into the Knox County Hospital, said hospital spokesman Shawn Gentry. Barbourville is about 100 miles southeast of Lexington, Kentucky.
SEYMOUR, Indiana — (DMN) – An Indiana teenager is in good condition this morning at an Indianapolis hospital after being stuck by lightning during high school softball practice. Emily Bobb, a freshman at Seymour High School was struck by lightning yesterday afternoon. Three other girls were injured, not seriously, and were treated and released from a Seymour hospital. Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott said in talking to witnesses at the scene it appears most if not all the teens on the field felt the lightning strike.
Although there was a weather advisory from the National Weather Service that there was a possibility for thunderstorms popping up across southern Indiana on Thursday and into today, Jackson County had not fallen under any thunderstorm warnings Thursday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service’s warnings and advisories website. Abbott said skies over Seymour were clear at the time of the incident. Duane Davis of Jackson County Emergency Management Agency was surprised to hear of the lightning strike. “I was not aware of anything (warnings) at that time,” Davis said. “I was watching the weather radar at that time, and everything was pretty well south of us,” although a thunderstorm did eventually rumble through Brownstown afterward.
An Indiana High School Athletic Association rule recommends coaches keep their teams sheltered from the weather for at least 30 minutes after they hear the last thunderclap. Seymour schools officials said they follow the rules. Seymour Community Schools Superintendent Teran Armstrong said the athletic department follows that policy closely. “Our coaches did nothing wrong,” Armstrong said. “Those coaches stayed until the three were released, and now they’re in Indianapolis. They are very dedicated to the welfare of those girls on their teams.” The IHSAA website includes a number of recommendations about lightning and student athletes. It states that to “prevent lightning-related injuries, it is important to formulate and implement a proactive, comprehensive lightning emergency plan.”
That plan, the IHSAA states, should include advance planning, a systematic approach for monitoring local weather conditions, education of staff to recognize signs of nearby lightning activity, criteria for suspension and resumption of play, an evacuation plan including nearby safe shelters and periodic review and practice of the plan by appropriate high school personnel. According to the IHSAA, “lightning is one of the most consistent and underrated causes of weather-related deaths or injury in the United States” and “lightning-related injuries are of particular concern during the late spring and summer months, and during daytime hours,” noting that the “risk of lightning-related injuries appears to be of greatest concern during some of the most active periods of outdoor scholastic activities.”