Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Quality of Mercy

Last month, Barack Obama became the first American President to visit a federal prison. That matters, especially to many prisoners who, at times in their exile, begin to wonder if they are Americans anymore. Still, we must ask:  How futile will that visit be if he and other leaders - governors, senators, representatives - refuse to acknowledge that in America money is the standard, not justice?

"Justice" is a word, an ideal. We use that word to justify our actions (and inactions). We hope, in the course of the judicial process (and throughout the criminal justice system), that justice is, somewhere, achieved.

Justice is a nebulous concept. We barely understand the law (because it varies depending on the people and the amount of money involved). Money is the constant. The more money you have, the more malleable the law; the more merciful is American justice.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Girl's Fight Out

At the same time we are teaching boys that all violence against women is wrong, more women than ever before are boxing, fighting, and otherwise stomping whomever they can, especially each other.

Witness Rhonda Rousey, UFC bantamweight champion and winner of her last four fights by first-round knockouts. She is arguably the most popular fighter in America. She is the finished product. But what of the young girls who watch these female beatings, see the wealth and fame that follows, and aspire to do the same?

The fight game does not exist in a vacuum. The skills needed to excel are honed over generations - on playgrounds and ball fields, behind school buildings, and in tavern parking lots. It starts with wrestling matches between brothers (and sisters), and fistfights with the boy (or girl) next door. Most of the nations greatest fighters - Ali, Foreman, Tyson, et al - began their careers as bullies, or as boys who fought off bullies.

Prizefighting has always been a long, bloody, and brutal climb to the top. Now America's girls want to do it. In the last Olympics (in Athens) a woman from Flint, Michigan won America's only medal in boxing. It was the most abysmal showing in the history of American Olympic competition, especially in a sport that American men had dominated for a century.

The proliferation of guns in our communities, and the willingness of our young men to use them to settle their differences - rather than use their fists - has ended the long era of great American fighters. When the girls tire of beating each other up - and more specifically, of getting beat up - will they, too, turn to guns to settle their disputes, and thereby end another era of American fighters; this one before it has barely gotten off the canvas?