Reality Round-Up: Do Right Edition

If all people are connected, then why not help others as much as possible? (Barbara H)

If all people are connected, then why not help others as much as possible? (Barbara H)

It’s been awhile since I published an edition of the Reality Round-Up, but judging from some of the news headlines I’ve seen recently, it seems like an appropriate time to do so. My focus today will be on something we should all be doing, but that often falls by the wayside: doing right by others. We all know the media tends to focus more on the negativity in our increasingly dysfunctional world—wars, natural disasters, government bullshit and such—and I can’t promise that all the stories included here will be positive. However, I can tell you that a few of them provide something that is sorely lacking in our society: hope.

And we all know how important that can be—especially since it seems to be in such short supply these days.

SHERIDAN, ARKANSAS

Taylor Ellis is a 17-year-old junior at Sheridan High School in Arkansas. He is also openly gay, having “come out” more than a year ago. And in a small city like Sheridan—which is located deep in the Arkansas Timberlands and has a population of less than 5,000 people—coming out as gay certainly doesn’t make things easier.

Taylor’s most recent ordeal involves the school yearbook, The Yellowjacket. Despite being a good student and a good person, the administration just decided not to publish Taylor’s profile—along with the profiles of several other students—because it makes clear reference to his sexual orientation. Here’s how the yearbook’s assistant editor paraphrased a portion of Taylor’s profile:

“Although the thought of coming out and the repercussions of doing so frightened Ellis at first, he found that most of the student body, as well as the teachers, were very accepting of him.”

Taylor Ellis got a raw deal (KATV)

Taylor Ellis got a raw deal (KATV)

If you’re having trouble figuring out why something like this would be banned, then please get in line behind me. One school official claimed this was being done to protect Taylor’s “well-being,” but also mentioned that no threats had been received with regard to his profile. And despite a stink being made by a national civil rights organization—who staged a demonstration on the steps of the State Capitol to support the gay high school student—the school’s administration is sticking by their decision.

“We must make decisions that lead in the proper direction for all of our students and for our community. We must not make decisions based on demands by any special interest group. The seven profiles will not be published in the yearbook,” Sheridan Superintendent Brenda Hayes said recently. “We have reviewed state law, court cases, and our own policies. It is clear that the adults who have the responsibility for the operation of the District have the obligation to make decisions which are consistent with the mission of our school. We have done so.”

It sounds like a load of horse shit to me, but Taylor seems to have accepted it and now has something even more important to look forward to: graduation.

“When I’m done with Sheridan, I’m done with Sheridan,” the young man said after dealing with this nightmare. “I have one more year, and after that, I’ll thank God every day that I’m not there anymore. They’re history.”

Amen to that, my brother. I only hope the school’s administration will allow you to walk across the graduation stage when the time comes. Based on this situation, though, I don’t think anyone would be surprised if a second, gay-only ceremony was held instead. Doing right by their gay students certainly doesn’t seem to be a priority there.

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK

My second example of people not doing right by others actually happened last summer at the Empire State Building in NYC, but a lawsuit based on the incident was filed Tuesday in Manhattan District Court.

Just after 11 p.m. on July 2, 2013, Fahid Tirmizi, his wife Amina and their two young children—all Muslims—were on the observation deck of the Empire State Building when they realized it was time for them to pray. Islam requires that its believers recite their evening prayers regardless of where they are at the time, so Tirmizi found an isolated area—well out of the way of other visitors—and proceeded to do so.

Prayer is an important part of Islam and should be respected (Wikipedia Commons)

Prayer is an important part of Islam and should be respected (Wikipedia Commons)

Amina managed to complete her prayers, but sadly, the same couldn’t be said for her husband. As Tirmizi was praying, a security guard came over and interrupted him. Apparently, he “menacingly poked” Tirmizi “with his hands and feet several times in various parts of his body.” The guard told Tirmizi he was not allowed to pray there and “forcibly escorted” his family downstairs to the exit.

As you might imagine, Tirmizi was not happy about this and immediately sought counsel in defense of his constitutional rights, most notably those pertaining to the 1st and 14th Amendments. The lawsuit claims that state and city laws were violated as well, primarily those related to discrimination. And if you ask me, Tirmizi and his family have a good chance of winning their case—and I am not alone. Bill Donahue, the president of the Catholic League, released the following statement on Wednesday—and he couldn’t be more “right on,” in my opinion:

“Muslims who pray in public, including in public accommodations, are simply exercising their constitutional rights. In play are two First Amendment rights: freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We hope that Hines [the family’s attorney] investigates the extent to which security guards are expected to censor religious speech. We wish him, and this innocent Muslim couple, well.”

Again, doing right by these people—who are U.S. citizens, by the way—could have prevented all of this. Since this never happened, though, I hope the courts will do right by the Tirmizis instead.

MIAMI, FLORIDA

Now it’s time to switch gears and to focus on people who seem to be doing right by others. Our first “hero” is Richard Masten, head of the Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers.

Masten enjoys his lunch (ABC Local-10)

Masten enjoys his lunch (ABC Local-10)

Last Friday, Masten was in court and was asked to divulge details about an anonymous tip he received in a cocaine possession case. Sharing this information—which he had written down on a piece of paper—would have revealed his source. And since Masten takes the protection of his sources very seriously—as anyone in his position should—he refused and went one step further: he ate the piece of paper!

As a result of his actions, Masten received a contempt of court charge and was sentenced to two weeks in jail. Fortunately, in a hearing yesterday, Judge Victoria Brennan decided not to send this former police chief to jail. No immediate decisions about his punishment were made, but Masten was definitely pleased to remain free.

“I was afraid that I was going to be taken into custody and [the paper] would be part of the property and there it goes, so I had a little lunch,” Masten said recently of his “pretty dry” and unexpected meal. “We promised the people that give us information to solve murders, serious violent crimes in this community, that they can call us with an assurance that they will remain anonymous.”

And thanks to Masten, that assurance remains strong. I commend him on taking the steps necessary to protect his source—despite them being rather extreme—but sometimes that’s what it takes. In its twenty year history, Crime Stoppers has helped solve roughly 34,000 crimes. Kudos to Masten for ensuring this trend will continue—and for doing his part to help the people of Miami feel a little safer.

MORRISTOWN, NEW JERSEY

My final example of someone doing right by others involves 18-year-old Rachel Canning, the high school senior who recently sued her parents for college tuition and financial support.

In her lawsuit, Canning claimed that her parents threw her out of the house and refused to help support her financially; her parents claimed she was ejected because she wouldn’t obey their rules. It all stemmed from Canning’s suspension from school last October for truancy. After this happened, her parents asked that she no longer see her boyfriend, who was also suspended. Rather than doing what they asked, however, Canning skipped school again and eventually ran away from home… and she didn’t stop there.

Canning dropped her lawsuit and now seems far less spoiled and entitled (Reuters)

Canning dropped her lawsuit and now seems far less spoiled and entitled (Reuters)

A short time later, New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency received allegations that Canning was being abused. They interviewed the distraught student—as well as her parents and siblings—and “determined that the allegation of emotional abuse was unfounded.” The judge in her preliminary case must have agreed because Canning’s requests for living expenses and high school tuition were denied. A second court date was set for April to review the other issues in the case, but thankfully, it now looks as if this won’t be necessary.

In other words, Canning finally came to her senses.

This past Tuesday, the estranged daughter finally did right by her parents and dropped her lawsuit, according to a Superior Court judge in Morristown. Her decision was both “knowing and voluntary” and, from what I understand, she reconciled with her parents and returned home last week.

Way to go, Rachel. Now stay in school and, with any luck, your future decisions will be much more logical—and successful—than this one!

Well, that’s all I have for this edition of the Reality Round-Up. Until next time, be good to each other and, by all means, do right by each other, too. We are one people, and it’s about time we started acting like it!

Posted on March 20, 2014, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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