Archive for the ‘#presumptionofinnocence’ Tag

Pyrrhic Victory   4 comments

There’s a young man who attends our church (a student at the University of Alaska) who fled Malaysia after his parents were killed by a mob who insisted his mother had cast sorcery spells on a man who died in their village. After seeing his parents machetied to death, Daniel (yes, the name his Malaysian Christian parents gave him) had to flee Malaysia to save his own life.

Image result for image of violent Kavanaugh protestersThat’s just an example of the mob violence Western civilization crawled free of through the establishment of principles like the presumption of innocence.

To millions of Americans, Brett Kavanaugh seems just as guilty as Daniel’s family seemed to their accusers. They sincerely believe that Kavanaugh has all the signs of a abusive male — afterall, he’s an affluent, white, elite Catholic school attendee, conservative and nominated by the “serial rapist” Donald Trump. Millions of people have repeated this so often that it feels deeply true and who can deny the “corroborating” accusations? And, thus you see the power of groupthink on the human mind. It is possible they’re right and Kavanaugh is guilty as charged, but it is equally possible they are wrong and are unfairly attacking a man who is being lied about. Without corroboration of Ford’s statements, there’s really no way of knowing … but his children will grow up thinking Daddy’s might be a sex offender, regardless.

Daniel’s parents met the profile of “witches”, according to their accusers. When a missionary couple who came to Daniel’s aid went to the authorities, they were told charges of sorcery are fairly common against Christians in Malaysia and may seem absurd to third-party observers, but it is a near-universal belief in that part of Malaysia. Sorcery has power there because people believe it has power and so the accusation of sorcery is likely to result in death by machete-wielding mobs…especially if you’re so foolish as to call yourself a Christian.

Western society fought a long battle with ourselves to establish personhood. It’s a relatively new idea that an individual person has a right to their own life and liberty regardless of the passions of the collective. For most of history, the individual accused by a crowd or community had no ability to escape its destructive path.

When Potiphar’s wife accused her Hebrew slave Joseph of trying to rape her (it was she who tried to seduce him), Joseph was thrown into prison without any need for corroboration beyond the shirt she’d ripped off him.

“Believe our women!” was the slogan of lynching organizers during Jim Crow. The “justice” crowd felt as sure about their scapegoats’ guilt as new partisan crowds do about their conservative targets. To mobs, a person’s wealth (or poverty) or race, religion, gender or whatever makes them other is sufficient reason to ignore their humanity and cast shame or even kill. There’s a zeal that posses the minds of people who think that dressing out of fashion, having opposing political opinions, or bearing a “guilty” skin color makes one suspect for non-corroborated accusations.

Image result for image of a pyrrhic victoryVictim-garbed political stunts are growing. Yes, we should take the survivors of assault seriously, but allowing them to be used as props for political power is not how we go about that.

Daniel knows the dangerous of witch hunts because he’s a survivor of a witch hunt. Had he and his parents been afforded the presumption of innocents, his parents might still be alive and he might not have such horrific memories. The presumption of innocence should be a cultural norm practiced outside of the courts because winning in a court of law (or the Senate), but losing the court of public opinion is a Pyrrhic victory.

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