Hominy & Hash: HIGH PROFILE CASES SHINE A LIGHT, CAST SHADOWS =
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- This isn't about voting, right and wrong -- al= though at the time that was the big story. It's about what we knownow beca= use we listened then.
We listened carefully to the proceedings discerning the validity of a ba= llot by determining whether dimples, pin pricks and hanging chads would mak= e it all right. We discovered the whole process was all wrong and now we f= inally understand how the Electoral College really works.
We learned about States' Rights and then listened to the United States S= upreme Court in action as they deliberated -- questioning the rights of a s= tate. Just by being within earshot of any radio or television set, we lea= rned a valuable civics lesson we probably missed the first time around.
During the O.J. Simpson trial, we learned about DNA,(deoxyribonucleic ac= id) a method of identification superior tofingerprints, and now a science s= o precise it is factoring in therelease from jail of long-term incarcerated= but innocent persons.Because of DNA, if the possibility of identificatio= n lies in the personof one already dead, exhumation orders are freely execu= ted to determinea match.
Remember Anya Miller? For decades after being rescued from a drowning s= uicide attempt, she claimed to be Anastasia, daughter of Nicholas II, Czar = of Russia.
Nicholas and his entire family had been executed by the Bolsheviks in= 1918 but this Anya Miller concocted stories of escape, insisting until her= death she told the truth, thus creating a shadow of a doubt and leaving us= wondering even today. It could have happened. Did it happen? With DNA t= here would be no doubt and Anya Miller would be given either short shrift o= r the $10,000,000 in trust.
Thomas Jefferson's descendants are being identified through DNAcompariso= ns. We would eventually learn all this but because of O.J.Simpson's high p= rofile trial, DNA quickly became a household word beforewe knew what we wer= e talking about.
Because of Anita Hill's testimony before the Senate Judi= ciaryCommittee, we now know less about Justice Clarence Thomas' decisions o= nthe Supreme Court than we do about Sexual Harassment in the work place.Aga= in, this is not about right and wrong, who or what. It's about whatsocieta= l changes took place as a result of very highly profiled cases.With just on= e pat on the fanny, an impowered secretary can have theChairman of the Boar= d out on the street for sexual harassment.
Lurena Bobbit's trial certainl= y opened conversations bothcautiously at home and amusingly around the wate= r cooler. Until shehad to testify as to what exactly she had done, the male append= age wasmost commonly referred to his "thing." Peter Jennings, with the apl= ombof a Prime Minister, spoke the word for the first time and opened theflo= odgates.
Newspaper headlines proclaimed what she had done, radio andtelevision = reported what she had done -- and even then, they had troublewith exactly w= hat she had done. Did she lob it off, cut it off, sliceit off or chop it o= ff? We only knew she took it off with a knife, thentook off herself and to= ssed it out the window. Although I can never goback to calling male genit= alia "his thing," I still can't make dinnertable conversation over the "P" = word.
Lurena's defense was rape, spousal rape, and from this came thewoman's m= oral and constitutional right to say "No." Women came forwardto defend the= ir rights and crisis centers and shelters grew.
Sadly, it took the death = of popular screen idol Rock Hudson tolend dignity to homosexuality where it= had brought disgust to theuninformed regarding gender identification -- an= d those uninformednumbered in the millions. When Elizabeth Taylor embraced= haggard-looking Rock Hudson, she took away the fear of closeness.
Her campaign to raise funds and eradicate the dreadful disease put thi= ngs in perspective for the rest of us. That high profile shone light in th= e dark corners of our own imaginations, and now AID's Foundations rank ashi= ghly as The Heart Association and The Cancer Society in receiving ashare of= our personal contributions.
With such open dialogue about sexual harassment, sexualbehavior, sexuall= y transmitted diseases, it would follow that words fromthe headlines would = lead discussions.
The words "date rape" triggeredstories and opened dialogue leading to = arrests on college campuses."Don't ask, don't tell," was the weak response = to gays in the militaryand "zero-tolerance" for hate crimes based on race o= r gender preference.
High profile role models emerge and we find ourselve= s betterable to understand what might happen to any one of us. We see Vice= President Cheney check himself into the hospital at the first sign ofchest = discomfort -- as per his doctor's orders. When he bounces back tohealth in= two days we learn that's what we will do, rather than sit itout in case th= e pain goes away.
The Nanny case told us daily and for months, if you sha= ke ababy, for whatever reason, that baby will die or be brain-damaged.Regar= dless of the outcome of that case, I know hundreds of babies liveshave been= saved because a warning is louder and clearer in a courtroomthan on a labe= l.
High profile cases tend to give us glimpses of something thatcould happe= n to any one of us -- including Lurena's rage. Sadly, it'sFormer President= Ronald Reagan who gives us a glimpse of Alzheimer'sdisease. Here is a man= so healthy, handsome, robust, debonair,charming, eloquent, beloved -- and,= not to mention, rich -- yet todayit's all reduced to well-groomed and hand= some. A candid picture showsus what we would like to see: smiling, carefre= e, waving. But, it's hiswife, Nancy who sees the towel she holds to his ch= in as he dribbles hissoup.
Some high profiles merely open a Pandora's box= , as with Roe V.Wade, and we're never quite the same again.
While others, like RodneyKing (was it because he was black?) or Regin= ald Denny (was it because he was white?) leave us with questions, knowing l= ess than we did before, despite listening intently to what is said. We stil= lponder, and wonder what he meant by that.