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Month: November 2007

like regular tv, only browner

The Writers Guild strike wears on, and American television networks and broadcasters will soon be scrambling for content to fill airtime. Unless everyone gets back to work soon or they find some other compelling way to substitute programming (please no more gameshows), they’ll likely begin losing audiences to online-based video content, or even worse, real-life activities.

It’s now being reported that Canadian content may be the answer to their show woes. Alors, if this means an end to crap like this, no one could be more excited than this little hater.

Lucky Americans, let me introduce you to a brighter, browner small screen: Little Mosque On the Prairie, where Michael Landon is Lebanese and his mixed-race daughter wears a hijab. It premiered on CBC last winter amidst much anticipation, and I’m happy to see that the show has come back for a second season. Here’s the first episode ever, complete with low-budget Canadian charm:


guilty on all counts

(Chapter Something.)

I was in the room three days ago when a man had his fate sealed. Triple rape trial. I watched him—head down, eyes wide and red—as the jury’s young foreman read their collective verdict, count by count. One count of attempted rape in the first degree. Two counts of rape in the first degree. Two counts of sexual abuse in the first degree. Four counts of criminal sex acts in the first degree.

Guilty.
Guilty.
Guilty.
Guilty.
Guilty.
Guilty.
Guilty.
Guilty.
Guilty.

He shook his head softly, looking up at the twelve member jury only every so often. Over a year since his arrest, a week since the trial’s start. It took the jury about a day of deliberating to reach a verdict, but only about five minutes to read.

Aside from the jury, the judge, the defense and prosecution team, the bailiff, and handful of court officers and staff, the room was empty. There were no family members present to hear this verdict, no friends, no enemies. I was the only other person there.

I had been following this trial for a few days, and some deep-rooted stubbornness made me want to see it through to the end. I had made eye contact with this man, had studied his body language, had come to know the awful personalities of his state-appointed lawyers, the rigid poker faces of the prosecuting attorneys. I was hooked in to this drama—common and run-of-the-mill to anyone who works in law enforcement or in the courts or who watches Law & Order or whatever—but I couldn’t help getting pulled in.

I was nervous in the moments leading up to the verdict. As I would find out later, this was not the first time this man had come before the courts. A robbery and kidnapping conviction in 1995 put him in a state prison for nearly a decade, and before that, in 1992 another sex crime lead to a one year jail sentencing. A misdemeanor. He maybe only got parole for that one.

I scrawled notes furiously as the jury took their places. Tried to capture everything I saw—their clothes, the lighting, the blue skies peeking through windows that were placed too high out of reach. Mostly, my eyes were glued to him. Six-foot-two, neat gray cardigan, broad strong back, fresh brown Adidas. The same outfit every day. I wondered how he was feeling, knowing that he would likely soon be going back upstate for another big chunk of his life. I wondered if he felt any remorse. I wondered what lead him to rape those three women. Was it worth it? Was it worth it to menace them, to brutalize them in that way? I wondered about the other women that hadn’t even come forward. Was there really no other way for him? Was this the only way to live? Was this hateful act the only way he could feel any sort of realness? What had happened to him, I wanted to know, to account for such fucked up ideas of women and sex and intimacy and power. Had he had lovers? Did he have a family? Did he have friends? Where were they now? Where were they two years ago?

How does this all start?

My hands were shaking, making it hard to write. The rest of my body was tense. My eyes, wide and red, were still fixated on this man, this broad-shouldered man sitting to my left before the judge’s bench. Hunched over, his head down, moving it slowly from side to side. He was weighed down low.

I had no idea I would feel so distraught following that five minute reading of the verdict. I couldn’t write anymore, but I couldn’t stand up, so I just sat there and waited until everyone else had left the courtroom. I collected my things very slowly and put on my coat. To the elevator and down fifteen floors. I felt weighed down too, but with a grief I couldn’t understand and couldn’t immediately explain.

Grief for those women, for all women who had suffered such brutality. Grief for hateful environments and people immersed in vile clouds of negativity. Grief for legacies of violence. Grief for the broken prisons, the broken courts, the broken cops. Grief for lives wasted. Grief for the intensity of choices, for how we all treat one another, for how we treat ourselves. Grief. Grief. Grief. Grief on all counts.

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