The Uphill Slide

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Stress Can Be A Killer

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Stress. I’ve always been good at dealing with the balls life throws. It’s why people judge me as strong. Everyone gets judged. We all do it. Don’t judge me. Impossible. We all do it based on our own idea of right and wrong or how we think we would behave or hurt. But somewhere in there should come understanding, compassion, humanity. Not easy. It takes work, and people hate work. Especially work like that.

I worked in a stressful job. Responsibilities I wanted to reject and pass down the line. Burdened. I grew up having this sense of duty I’ll call it. I have no idea why. I felt the stings and shame of right and wrong. I grew up in a church I’ve rejected, but it still has a hold on me. I thought stress hadn’t caught up yet despite going to counseling, the very evidence of stress. My friend said health was most important. She said health was more important than fighting her abusive husband. She chose herself.

My grandson was screaming as my daughter squeezed eye drops into his infected eye. He has an ear infection to go with the eyes. He does not take kindly to medicine. It was 8 PM; I went to lie on the bed a bit. At 5 AM I finally got up. I’ve been tired lately. Is it stress? Will my hair begin to turn gray? Not just the stray grays but full-on gray.

I grabbed my phone to look at Facebook stories. Exonerees’ stories. Everyday¬†stories. Think about that. Stories of people who paid the price for someone else’s crime. Are they just generous people who take on another’s burden? Are they martyrs? They are martyrs to our need for someone to pay for a crime. They are martyrs to the police and justice system’s need to find someone to close a case. If you have been raped, should you feel safer and justice served if the wrong man goes to jail for the crime? Should other women feel safe considering that an innocent person is in jail and the unknown rapist or murder or burglar or sex offender is walking their neighborhood? How can you feel safe when the police and prosecutors secured a conviction of the wrong person? How can we feel safe if truth and true justice are victims to the system? Is it enough to know they get it right most of the time and the minority of innocent people who pay are just victims of humanity’s imperfection?

The cases today involved eyewitness identification, false confession, missing evidence. The names are Dennis Maher, Eddie Lowery, and Victor Burnette. There are many more names and stories on the Innocence Project website. There are names you don’t know and never will of innocent people. We have proof in these exonerated people that people confess to things they didn’t do. We have proof that people make mistakes in their eyewitness identification. We have proof that people lie and prosecutors circumvent justice. And yet we still ask how it is that someone confesses to something they didn’t do. We wonder why someone takes a plea agreement who didn’t do the crime. We wonder why a convicted felon who claims innocence can go before the parole board and act contrite for something he/she didn’t do. We wonder why advice might be to just make admissions in sex offender counseling to get a successful discharge. Because we choose the worst of two evils. Because we take the way out. Because no one believes them or in them.

I don’t feel safer because innocent people confess or take deals. I am not proud that false confessions are obtained and false convictions send innocent people to jail. I am not happy that people languish in jail and endure nothing short of torture without even the paper of conviction. I do not believe that the police and justice system do the best they can.

I should stop reading all these stories. Maybe it’s too stressful considering my son’s story. Those who accused my son and the court that convicted him will claim that he is not like any of these stories. Why is he different? Because someone accused him? He has continued to claim his innocence the entire time despite advice to just give them a little of what they want to make life easier. He was advised that a plea agreement might make life easier and livable. So why not make life easier?

I sat in that courtroom last week with him questioning how all this was helping that convicted person and me. I do not feel protected by the registration of these individuals. That is a subject of another post. The judge’s slip of the tongue was heartening. Of course, a few days later we felt the squeeze. Deliberate, meant to inflict stress and conflict.

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