The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing

Saturday night I watched in horror as my beloved city of Reno was barraged with rioting, looting, burning, tagging, vandalizing, tear gas, rubber bullets, and rocks. In real time on social media, I witnessed the messages of shock, outrage, and extreme vehemence of this destruction by my fellow Renoites.  And I wondered, “Where was this virulent indignation when George Floyd (or so many others) died?” I was as guilty as my other white privileged friends.  I had intentionally let disturbing events from thousands of miles away be just a distant, hazy, impersonal piece of news, sterile and benign in my life. I had silently let evil triumph. NO MORE!

Here are my Thoughts:

  • What happened to George Floyd was murder. Not manslaughter.  Not something protected by qualified immunity! Murder. Plain and simple.
  • The violent and destructive actions of rioters and looters is also wrong! It’s criminal. It violates any rights bestowed in the 1st amendment.
  • Our feelings of grief, condemnation, and horror over the vandalism and destruction of property should NOT be MORE intense than what we feel towards murder. The purposeful loss of a living soul should create a much more visceral reaction within us than any purposeful loss of inanimate property. 
  • Just because one violent act hits our little Reno community directly, but a violent murder thousands of miles away doesn’t affect us directly, shouldn’t make one worse or more unjust than the other. 

My thoughts when I hear statements like these:

  • “Violence is not the answer.” Have we forgotten that our country’s origin was founded on peaceful protests turned violent against an oppressive government system resulting in unfairly distributed rights? How then can we help quell the violence?
    • We can step up and do our part to end the inequality and racism in our country.
    • We can vote for leaders who will lead and protect our most vulnerable.
    • We can teach our children tolerance and compassion by our words and actions. 
    • We can serve within our own communities.
    • We can seek to problem solve and compromise instead of seeking blame.  
    • We can listen to ALL and give a voice to ALL. 
  • “A few bad apples don’t represent ALL police officers.” As Martin Luther King, Jr boldly reminded us, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” Eighteen previous excessive force complaints were filed against Officer Derek Chauvin. EIGHTEEN!  In a just system, he wouldn’t have been an employed law enforcement officer.  He wouldn’t have been given the means and opportunity to murder George Floyd in the first place.
  • “There is a better way.” Where were we when peaceful protests and difficult conversations were attempted? We laugh, minimize, criticize, or outright ignore peaceful attempts to protest racism in this country.  How far have we come in almost 30 years since Rodney King?  Are we progressing or falling pitifully backwards in our quest for equal treatment of all? And yet again, we are allowing fringe extremist rioters to hijack the purest voice of protest.  Not only have unfair rights been distributed to many in this country, but now these marginalized groups are being robbed from delivering their message of social change because of violent anarchists.  Where does it end? 

Despite this past week filled with atrocities, there is much to be encouraged by.

  • Courageous Conversation Friday evening, May 29th, a heartening Courageous Conversation took place online. UNR Psychology professor, Dr. DuPree, facilitated a discussion with our interm Reno Police Chief, Tom Robinson, and a local diversity expert, Tiffany Young, and our Washoe County Sherriff, Darin Balaam. This conversation was a great starting point for our community where empathy, understanding, and compassion was shared.  It was pointed out that we have an independent internal affairs department in City Hall for us to submit any abuse of power by local law enforcement. Regrettably, this conversation was not picked up by local news stations or given much publicity except by our City Council member, Devon Reese. More publicized conversations like this would do much to heal our community and build back trust.
  • Peaceful Protest The following day, Saturday, May 30th, our local Black Lives Matter organization marched in peaceful protest to show solidarity for and raise awareness of George Floyd and other similar plights. Once this protest was finished, the crowd was asked by its organizers to disperse and return to their homes.
  • A Heroic Voice of Reason Unfortunately, a fringe group broke off from the protest and went to the police station. As I watched the live feed, I was stunned to hear the anti-police chants, shocked the taunting towards officers to come fight, horrified as the Police Badge sign was ripped off the wall and stomped on, saddened by the graffiti being splayed across the sidewalk and walls, and disgusted by the flag being burned. And then it happened. A lone young woman could be heard over the crowd, calling everyone to stop the vandalism. She pulled people back to the original message of solidarity they were trying to convey. THAT YOUNG WOMAN IS A HERO!  Even though events of violent vandalism continued later, for this moment the mob was quelled by one lone voice of reason.
  • Appropriate Law Enforcement Response
    • Empathy and De-escalation. As their building was under assault, law enforcement did not strike out. They stood ready should things turn violent, but did not escalate an already volatile situation. Interm Police Chief Tom Robinson gave a statement wherein he showed an understanding of the anger and frustration that the group felt. He agreed that we need openness, communication and change. He displayed empathy for the fallen and frustrated. He explained that while some of the actions were illegal, “tonight is not the night to deal with that.” His words were an attempt to defuse and de-escalate.
    • Balancing Act to Protect and Serve. Shortly afterward, Reno City Hall was attacked and set on fire. Police had to respond at this point, as did Reno Fire Department, and later our Reno National Guard. At this point, law enforcement had to do the difficult balancing act between their objectives of protecting and serving once the defacing turned to destruction. I was encouraged by the press release of Sheriff Darin Balaam who acknowledged the balancing act. He clearly stated that his first priority is the health and safety of the county. He followed that up with a call to action and an urging for communication.
  • A New Day of Hope I have been further encouraged by the community response this morning. It is my continuing hope that this “moment” of darkness will bring more openness, communication, and collaboration. There are many resources to help educate and guide allies in this cause for justice and equality for all.  Here are two examples:
  • Our Moral Compass Many religious leaders have taught love, forgiveness, compassion, and tolerance.  No matter our stance on religion, compassionate spiritual teachings from sacred texts are universal to all humankind and point us in a moral direction. We as a nation can only heal when we honor and embrace our diversity while unifying our common humanity.
    • Buddhism
      • “Radiate boundless love towards the entire world — above, below, and across — unhindered, without ill will, without enmity.” (The Buddha, from the Metta Sutta)
      • “Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.” (The Buddha, from the Dhammapada)
    • Christianity
      • “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” (Matthew 7:12)
      • “Charity suffereth long, and is kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4)
    • Hinduism
      • “When a person responds to the joys and sorrows of others as if they were his own, he has attained the highest state of spiritual union.” (Bhagavad Gita 6.32)
      • “The person who is always involved in good deeds experiences incessant divine happiness.” (The Rig Veda)
    • Judaism
      • “Be the first to hold out the hand of peace.”  (Talmud, Sota)
      • “Who acts from love is greater than who acts from fear.” (Talmud, Sota)
    • Muslim
      • “The reward of goodness is nothing but goodness.” (Al Quran 55:61)
      • “And good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with that which is best. And lo, he between whom and thyself was enmity will become as though he were a warm friend.  But none is granted it save those who are steadfast; and none is granted it save those who possess a large share of good.” (Al Quran 41:35-36)
    • Taoism
      • “Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” (Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching)
      • “Love is a decision – not an emotion!” (Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching)

How Does Intoxication Effect Consent?

I’ve been thinking about consent for quite some time. I want to start by saying I completely agree with the 10 state jurisdictions who have put into law that voluntary intoxication leads to an inability to consent to sex. A person who, for whatever reason, would be unable to stand before a judge and enter a plea, is not in a position to make a decision as important and potentially life altering as sexual activity. This seems a logical sentiment that justly protects the rights of all involved.

My question really comes about, not in terms of consent to sexual activity, but other forms of consent. I sat in my office, watching video of a client who was obviously intoxicated. During the night he had been provided bottle service and had become increasingly intoxicated as the night wore on. He was being accused of a serious crime and was in the holding area of a night club. As he sat there, he professed apologies to any who would listen. He tried to explain his thought process. Finally, a sheriff’s deputy came in with him and read to him his Miranda  rights. Of course, wanting to clear his name he started explaining his story. He was vague and somewhat evasive with his story, so the deputy continued to prod and pull before finally just asking “you did X, Y, and Z, didn’t you.” My client hung his head and said “yes.”

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence. While a subject is high, drunk (or both), officers will question them about their behavior, often even providing the parameters and terms they need for arrest. This same intoxicated individual would not have the legal cognitive capacity to enter a plea in court nor to consent to sex, but based on common practices, he is allowed to voluntarily waive their Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights. If a person is not legally sober enough to make important decisions about sexual conduct, why are they held legally liable to make decisions that could very well affect their liberty or possibly even their life? Why do we hold individuals accountable to two very different expectations of critical thinking when in the same intoxicated state?

This is not the first time this question has been raised, nor will it be the last. For police officers, priorities most often work toward closing cases. If an officer is called out on a specific charge, they will be looking for evidence to substantiate that charge. They may not automatically weigh the evidence before them and then decide on the case. For example, if they get a call about a suspected DUI case, they are going to be looking at all the clues that support a DUI prognosis, rather than ask the individual if their eyes are red from crying all night. They will just assume that red eyes equal intoxication. To this end, it is in the individual’s best interest to get a statement from all involved parties while limiting themselves in what they say.

As an American Citizen:

WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO KEEP OUR MOUTH SHUT!

WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO HAVE A LAWYER PRESENT FOR QUESTIONING! (Though not for field sobriety tests or evidentiary tests.)

WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO MAKE THE POLICE GET A WARRANT TO SEARCH OUR CAR OR SEIZE OUR BLOOD!

WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE TO DO FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS OR EVIDENTIARY TESTS. (There may be some consequences to deal with though).

WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO SHUT UP!

When we know our rights, especially when it comes to legal consent, we will be better advocates for ourselves and others. And unless the law changes the legality of verbal statements and evidence obtained while an individual is intoxicated, the best policy is to consult an attorney before anything is said.

I am happy to advocate for your rights.