A PHONE CALL


A PHONE CALL

A mother’s anguished call for help brought a detailed description of her family’s struggle with the criminal justice system. She spoke of her 22 year old son who is currently in jail and an older brother who was beaten by the local police because of his history of drug use. The community newspaper had published a story about the younger son’s arrest and cited flagrant errors in reporting the “facts” of the case. Unconcerned with the consequences of yellow journalism, the newspaper recklessly pursued a sensational drive to draw readers with embellished crime reporting. Unknown to those invading the privacy rights of others, those providing the slanted story had no concern for the sisters of the individual charged with a crime. One daughter in middle school and another in high school had to bear the brunt of social criticism from their peers based upon the facts alleged in the newspaper. Do such community resources have a responsibility to honestly present the facts, or because of their unique reporting position, are they immune to the notion of truth in reporting. People have been wounded by the recklessness of those charged with a position of trust. Unfortunately there are no other papers in the area which can address such depraved practices. I wonder how many times this occurs regularly across the nation, leaving families improvrished in spirit and downtrodden in their communities as a result of an inherent bias. Families deserve the right to grieve in private and to redress wrongs in a court of law. It is fundamentally wrong to try those who are innocent in the arena of the public press and to undermine family boundaries which shield young and vulnerable children. Perhaps those who are quick to judge circumstances because they are written upon a throwaway piece of newsprint, should look beyond the causally written words and see the faces of those who suffer the aftermath of a criminal justice experience. See the mother who deeply understands the conflicts disturbing the life of a child going through public troubles. Consider the father who is overwhelmed and incapacitated at the evidence of a child being sucked into the quicksand of criminality. Instead of throwing stones of judgment at those saddled with such horrible burdens, we should be finding ways to strengthen them as they walk this lonely pathway. Are any of us above the same personal faults in our own lives? Have we become so calloused to the sufferings of others that we turn our backs as they struggle through streets of our communities? In the depravity of modern day life have we lost any conception of mercy and compassion for those who are struggling with shame and pain? Worst of all, in our rush to judge others are we willing to sacrifice the innocence and joy of siblings on the altar of community gossip? We claim to be a beacon of righteousness in a world of darkness and despair, but we throw the sweetness of innocents on the bonfires of public spectacle and prurient interests. Perhaps it is time to ask the question again, “Lord who is my neighbor?”

 
 

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