Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Bless the Broken Road

Sometimes there's a song that I listen to over and over and over and over again. Dozens of times in a row. Then I don't listen to the song for years. But every time I rediscover a song like this, it sets off waves where all I do is listen to the song. Songs from the past include Skid Row's "Wasted Youth," Juice Newton's "Angel of the Morning," and Garth's "Which One of Them." Just before Thanksgiving, I listened to "Which One of Them" dozens of times in Magenta. Dozens. Right now there's a Rascal Flatts song called "Bless the Broken Road" I can't seem to get enough of. There's a verse that says:

I think about the years I spent just passin' through
I'd like to have the time I lost and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You've been there, you understand
It's all part of a grander plan.

Yeah. If the decade of your twenties suck, I'm glad I'm here in this place where I am. Biker Boy really does sometimes just smile and take my hand and make me think everything is going to be all right.

I volunteer for an organization that does court monitoring. Yeah. Once or twice a month, I take an afternoon off from school and go to the county courthouse and watch proceedings. Setencings, pre-trial hearings, motions of all sorts, I've sat through them all. It's weird because anyone, ANYONE, can just walk in and watch court. I have this shield because I'm with this well-established organization, but any Joe Blow off the street can come in and hang out in the gallery. Yesterday I watched a jury trial for an hour, among other things. Some guy accused of CSC 1. Criminal sexual conduct first degree. Basically he was accused of raping his stepdaughter. It wasn't all that exciting. There were a couple of witnesses on the stand and the jury sat in the jury box, watching the attorneys fire questions at the witnesses. Some jury members were quite attentive and you could see their eyes bounce from person speaking to person speaking. Some were not quite so attentive. They stared at the ceiling. They doodled in their notebooks. They never looked at the witness stand. The defendant was in custody, so there were a couple of sheriff's deputies in the courtroom as well. So the jury watched them, too.

What does any of this mean? I have no idea. It bothered me that I know the name of the girl this man was accused of molesting. It bothered me that the jury got to go home and discuss the case over spaghetti with their spouses even through they're not supposed to. It bothered me that I assumed this man's guilt without thinking twice. It bothered me that stepdaughters are in danger. It made me even more angry about my roommate's somewhat strange obssession with defending Woody Allen's disgusting relationship with his mentally disabled stepdaughter. It made me angry that the one of the only two non-white faces in the courtroom was the defendant.

It bothers me that I can't stop thinking about this trial. The nurse who did the exam on the alleged victim was on the stand. She had the great job of opening the evidence bags and showing the jury the clothes the victim was wearing when she came in for the rape exam. It was an OJ-like moment when she held up the jeans, white tank top, and pink t-shirt. I keep picturing some girl in a pink t-shirt going upstairs with her stepfather and getting punched and raped. I keep picturing this girl getting no support from her mother (who had told the police officer that her daughter was a whore) and crying all alone in her room at night. I picture this man getting raped himself while in jail. I see it all in my head. More than that, I picture this happening again and again and again all over the world, in all sorts of families, in all sorts of towns and homes. I can't stop thinking about it. Over and over again, everywhere I look I see violence. Horrors at home and horrors overseas. And sometimes it gets to me.

Let's examine the statement Kobe Bryant made when he settled the criminal rape charge.

"First, I want to apologize directly to the young woman involved in this incident. I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year. Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure. I also want to apologize to her parents and family members, and to my family and friends and supporters, and to the citizens of Eagle, Colo.

"I also want to make it clear that I do not question the motives of this young woman. No money has been paid to this woman. She has agreed that this statement will not be used against me in the civil case. Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.

"I issue this statement today fully aware that while one part of this case ends today, another remains. I understand that the civil case against me will go forward. That part of this case will be decided by and between the parties directly involved in the incident and will no longer be a financial or emotional drain on the citizens of the state of Colorado."

Fuck you, Kobe. Yeah, I know. It's so hard to tell when people consent to sex. Fuck you. That statement is taped to my desk as a reminder of all the work we have to do. We can't keep dragging people's names through the mud. The girl who was raped in the trial I watched, I know her name. The girl in the Bryant case, everyone knows her name. Don't they have a right to not be victimized over and over and over again by the criminal justice system? Don't I have a right to know that if I were raped I could count on the police to protect me? And judges to not say my name in court? And my mom not to tell everyone I was a slut?

But I have to think that some higher power has this in order for a reason. I'm unclear about religion or god(s), but I know that there hasn't to be a reason for this madness. So, until I figure it out, I will do my best to survive and help those who aren't so good at surviving. Because there's always another song that will be listened to over and over and over again.

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