Thursday, June 21, 2007

Up In Arms

DCVB is the film office for Durham and our office received an email this week from an individual in Arizona who claimed to be associated with film and tourism. He chastised Durham for not “rising up in arms” about Mike Nifong. At one point he wrote that he didn’t envy the job DCVB will have to do “as the nation looks down on Durham County and says, What’s wrong with you people in North Carolina…don’t you have any rules or values?”

It was far too easy to point out in response that in 2004 when a prosecutor in the Tucson/Pima County jurisdiction was disbarred for soliciting false testimony in a capital murder case that the headlines in Arizona hardly called for people to “rise up in arms” nor did the nation blame the entire state of Arizona. People do love to be self-righteous but who lets a little hypocrisy get in the way when you can pile on?

Contrary to the writer’s opinion, this isn’t as easy as assigning evil to one person and sainthood to others. It is sad, and Durham is deeply saddened that people make false accusations, that attorneys spar to the point of pushing each other to forget why they are there, that activists too quick to move to outrage can forget to wait for the facts, and that some of the news media was all too willing to fuel hyperbole instead of letting the justice system work. It is sad for three young men, their families, and an entire university, as well as for a community that was stigmatized, for a coach who lost his career, for the team that lost it chance at a national championship, and yes, for Mike Nifong and his family. Mike might have been stubborn and na├»ve, and these acts may be unconscionable, but the Mike many of us have known was definitely not an evil person.

Yes, Durham is indeed saddened. Angry too. Someone once told me that if you draw a circle with the continuum of emotions, “sad” and “mad” are right next to each other. Sad is mad and mad is sad.

But fortunately, our world has an increasingly short attention span. Once the piling on, finger pointing, and blame game are exhausted, people will move on. Reputations restored. Souls redeemed. Hopefully lessons learned.

With what we all knew or know now as the case went along, everyone without an agenda felt the system should have worked much more swiftly. But in the end the system worked and hats off to all those people who argued for patience to let it work.

But the system is indeed imperfect and this case should result not in over reaction but serious, thoughtful improvements to a system that in the end, worked.

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