The Ravi verdict – no one Is happy

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editorial.

The verdict handed down on Monday, May 21, in the highly controversial case of Dharun Ravi seems to have satisfied no one – the usual effect of compromise. Dispassionate consideration however should reveal the decision to be, in fact, an eminently fair one. 30 days in the workhouse followed by community service and a judicial recommendation against subsequent deportation should come as an enormous relief to Ravi and his family, considering what the other options available to the court were.

The prosecution, on the other hand, has gained a conviction with jail time. When added to the other penalties of this affair – the destruction of Ravi’s college career, undoubtedly huge legal costs and the stress and terror this drawn-out process has inevitably imposed, no reasonable person can claim that the legal system has failed to make and underscore the point. That point is that there has been a sea change in how such matters will be viewed. The old “boys will be boys” or “it’s just a college prank” mode no longer works when questions of bias intimidation or bullying arise.

Our concern now is that this sea change not become a tidal wave that engulfs and destroys the merely thoughtless, the tactless and the innocently  impulsive – qualities that distinguish humans in their formative years all too often.  Ravi’s case points to this danger. He texted the phrase “keep the gays away” and this has been interpreted as homophobia. It is, in and of itself, not homophobia. “I hate gays” would be homophobia, but he never said that. Not wanting to be around gays could have many reasons not necessarily based in hatred. For example, a straight boy might say that because gay boys are generally more attractive, polished, well dressed and amusing and hence, many girls prefer to hang out with them. You might say “oh that’s far-fetched. We KNOW what Ravi meant by that text.” Well…no…we don’t know and the legal system must proceed on the basis of established fact – not intuitive supposition.

The problem with so many well intentioned laws is that in actual enforcement they tendsometimes to quickly descend to the absurd. Tragic school shootings produced a “zero tolerance” policy regarding weapons widely enforced throughout the nation. Overnight we then had sixth graders being arrested and taken away in handcuffs for having a nail file in their pocket. A lack of a sense of proportion seems to distinguish the bureaucratic minds of those in authority, especially in schools.

We have certainly seen this to be the case in the application of Megan’s Law – a notorious piece of legislation that many New Jersey law makers have privately admitted to this writer was hastily and poorly written and which has ruined the lives of many unintended victims – such as high school kids who had an ill-advised love affair. Megan’s Law has however become a sacred cow and so far, no lawmaker has had the political courage to suggest it be brought back to the table for a do-over.

The case against Dahrun Ravi, flimsy and suppositional as much of it is, points to a similar danger in this new area of hate crimes law. It also points out a few other problems. Among the laundry list of charges was obstruction of justice for lying to the police. It is an anomaly of our present system that the law allows the police to lie to civilians but not vice-versa  On the whole, we see more of warning signs and danger in the prosecution of Dahrun Ravi than we see of security and protection for minorities

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editorial.

The verdict handed down on Monday, May 21, in the highly controversial case of Dharun Ravi seems to have satisfied no one – the usual effect of compromise. Dispassionate consideration however should reveal the decision to be, in fact, an eminently fair one. 30 days in the workhouse followed by community service and a judicial recommendation against subsequent deportation should come as an enormous relief to Ravi and his family, considering what the other options available to the court were.