The West urgently needs to compete with the jihadis, the proponents of a holy war, for the hearts and minds of its own Muslim immigrant populations. It needs to provide education directed at breaking the spell of the infallible Prophet, to protect women from the oppressive dictates of the Quran, and to promote alternative sources of spirituality.
[The quotation heading today's post has nothing to do with today's headlined topic. I'm thoroughly enjoying -- and deriving great intellectual value from -- Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations. I've decided to add quotations from the book as lead-ins to some future posts. I'll speak more about the book when I've finished.]
Purely by chance history from the 1930s intruded on my life only two days before I passed close to the town where the events took place. And only a couple days after articles in The NY Times detailed more recent tragic denials of justice. As this posts two sisters-in-law, my mother-in-law and I are enroute north from Mobile, me driving a 15′ Penske’s truck filled with my sister-in-law’s household goods. On Interstate 65 we will pass 65 miles west of Scottsboro, Alabama, where in 1931 nine young black men were falsely accused of raping two white women and sentenced to death. (East of Huntsville on the following map.)
This is poignantly of interest because Friday night we saw the Guthrie Theater’s production of The Scottsboro Boys, a new musical — actually, a new musical black comedy — by the talented team of Kander and Ebb (Cabaret, Chicago, etc.), a show scheduled to open on Broadway in previews in October. The story itself is painfully known to all students of American race relations, and the events, arrests, trials, appeals, retrials, additional appeals, aftermath, and other events relating to this exercise in Jim Crow justice are well documented in a Wikipedia article. For those to whom this is all unfamiliar, I recommend you read it.
I’ve styled the Kander and Ebb musical as a musical black comedy as a double-entendre. First, because with one exception (the actor playing the judge and the Alabama governor at the time), all characters in the musical are black — including characters that in history were unmistakably white — like Sheriff Matt Wann. But it is also clearly of the genre we’d call “black comedy,” since how else would you describe a highly entertaining musical dealing with such a tragic event with wonderful music and often funny lyrics or stage action? To top it all off, the entire musical was set in the style of an early 20th century minstrel show including, for the final number, all of the black characters donning black face — under any other circumstances something most would consider highly offensive.
By the end, I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry, but applaud we all did, strongly and on our feet. I give standing ovations grudgingly, but for this one without reservation.
This is thrown then sharply into high relief by Thurday’s NY Times story of Michael Green, a black man wrongly convicted of raping a white woman on the basis of faulty (and possibly improperly coached) eyewitness testimony. Twenty-seven years ago! Through the lucky retention of evidence from the original arrest and trial, DNA tests not only proved Mr. Green innocent, but identified the real perpetrators. Aside from the story’s tragic nature and now fortunate outcome, and in addition to Mr. Green’s quandary — whether to sue the State of Texas — the incident points up the frequently questioned value of eyewitness identifications. Just consider:
More than three-quarters of the 258 people exonerated by DNA tests in the last decade were convicted on the strength of eyewitness identifications, according to the Innocence Project, the Manhattan-based organization dedicated to freeing innocent prisoners.
In Texas, the problem is even more acute: identifications by eyewitnesses played a pivotal role in 80 percent of the 40 people who have been exonerated with DNA evidence.
“[T]he new evidence was enough to persuade a judge to release Mr. Green on $500 bond while the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals considers a final ruling on his innocence. ‘It’s what you go to law school for,’ Ms. O’Neill [the assistant district attorney who found the evidence] said of the moment Mr. Green walked out of jail.”
(Alternate sub-title: Better late than never.)
Finally, also in Thursday’s NY Times, the story of Thomas Lee Goldstein who recently received $7.95 million as a settlement from the city of Long Beach, California, for having been convicted in 1980 of murdering a drug dealer, based on the police-engineered concocted testimony of a jailhouse informant.
It Could Be Worse (As Usual) Department
News from the Coming Caliphate Department
In Iran (why do we almost always cringe these days when an article starts out, “In Iran ….”?).
In Iran, the woman previously sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, has now been shown in one of Iran’s infamous taped “confessions” as admitting to murder as well.
The British government on Thursday condemned the video, saying Iran appeared to be inventing new murder charges against the woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, to justify her execution. Amnesty International and other human rights groups compared the videotaped statement to forced confessions made by Iranian political dissidents, who in some cases recanted afterward and said they had confessed under torture.
Lawyers for Ms. Ashtiani said that she had agreed to the interview only after being tortured in prison, and that her family members had been put under great pressure.
Javid Kian, a lawyer for Ms. Ashtiani, confirmed the authenticity of the video in a telephone conversation and said she had suffered “insults and degradation and physical torture in order to force her to read the notes they gave her for the television interview.” Mr. Kian said he had been summoned to appear on Saturday for interrogation by the Iranian authorities.
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up Department
[Cedar Rapids, Iowa.] Police in SWAT gear busted through a door and searched a Cedar Rapids home for drugs Thursday morning, but came up empty.
No one was taken to jail, but the tenants of the house, Justin Davis, 28, and his girlfriend, Erica Lewis, 26, were charged with disorderly house and signed a promise to appear in court, police said. No one was injured during the raid.
Disorderly House? “Disorderly house is described as a building or room where someone ‘resorted to for’ illegal activity involving drugs, alcohol, gambling or prostitution, according to a city ordinance.”
Meanwhile, the couple’s five year-old daughter was inside the so-called “disorderly house.” Thankfully, she wasn’t mistaken for a dog, since SWAT teams have a rather nasty and fatal history with dogs.
It Only Hurts When I Laugh Department
In 1977, when I was recovering from a laparotomy used to stage my Hodgkin’s Disease (fortunately found to be Stage 1 and therefore treatable with only radiation therapy), I made the mistake of watching on TV a “Best of Johnny Carson” segment. You’ve not experienced pain until your stitches almost tear apart from laughing — you know the expression, “side-splitting laughter.” Well, now it appears we can experience those days once more, at will: johnnycarson.com. Read about this and more.
From the very successful series.