By Michael Benjamin
Everyone appearing before a magistrate or judge in the law courts is deemed innocent until a trial by their peers determines differently. Contrastingly, the court of public opinion draws conclusions even before any evidence is presented.
The unacceptable state of affairs has seen far too many people who have employed the ad hominem fallacy and pronounce on cases outside the confines of the courts.
How often have innocent persons been detained, based on associational preferences? How often, also, has what appeared to be iron clad evidence pointing to guilt of someone proved to be unsubstantial in the courts thus vindicating the accused individual?
For many, a court appearance spells guilt and irrespective of exoneration, they hold fast to the notion that the accused was just lucky and not innocent.
While human beings are far from perfect, this is the yardstick by which most people measure the actions of their fellow man. Someone once told me that an honest man is someone that is so slick that he has not yet been caught in his discretions.
Another rationale is that many persons refuse to take the speck from their eyes but look past it to see the one in their friend’s eye.
Almost everyone is familiar with the biblical narration of the woman caught in an adulterous act. The Scribes and Pharisees brought her before the Lord and demanded that she be punished for her sin. Punishment, in those days, meant stoning the perpetrator to death.
After writing in the clay Jesus looked up and said, “Let him that has no sin cast the first stone.” The good Lord then bent his head and continued writing on the ground. When he eventually looked up, all of the woman’s accusers had disappeared without throwing a stone.
“Where are thine accusers?” the lord asked of the woman. “Lord I have none!” she responded.
“Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more!”
I often wonder why Guyanese fail history. It’s remarkable that people who remember in minute detail, an infraction committed by a fellow citizen more than twenty-five years prior, cannot remember the name of the person that raised the Golden Arrowhead on the night Guyana attained Independence.
How does someone explain the many sordid stories that make the news yet an act of kindness is overlooked as the norm and hardly deserving of cursory attention?
I recently read a story of an American, Robert Adams, who craved an ice-cold drink after finishing his shift on a sweltering workday, but not having enough money to buy it. On his way home he stopped at an ATM and saw a bag lying on the ground. Upon closer examination he discovered that the bag contained mostly $20 and $100 bills bound by a rubber band that when added amounted to more than US$17,000 in cash.
Adams said he never had the urge to keep any of the money. “It’s not my money. I shouldn’t take it. I don’t care if you put another zero on there, I wasn’t raised to take money that isn’t mine,” said Adams, a 54-year-old single man who lives in Arlington Heights and credits his deceased parents for teaching him right from wrong.
“If I saw you drop it, I’d say, `Excuse me, sir. I think you dropped something.”
The word ‘Chase’ was printed on the bag, so Adams carried it inside the nearby branch.
“I walk up to the teller and say, `I think you might have left this outside,” said Adams, figuring an employee left it behind after restocking the ATM. But employees told him the machine is filled from inside and the money didn’t belong to the bank.
Adams then called police, who along with bank officials later determined the money was meant for an ATM in Midlothian and had been under the care of Loomis, an armored truck company. Rolling Meadows police took the money to the station, where it was picked up by a Loomis official.
By now, the principals would have forgotten Adams’s act and many people might not have even read the story. Conversely, if Mr. Adams had snatched a bag containing the same amount of money and was caught, the media would have latched onto that story and years later discussions would still be centered around the ‘unscrupulous’ deed.
Less than two years ago, while servicing a loan from the bank I deposited fifty thousand dollars into the ATM of a city bank. Shortly before, a young lady had exited after completing her transaction.
I am still to understand just what transpired but after making the deposit, a receipt for nearly $300,000 popped out. There was no record of my transaction. The bank was already closed for the day. I became worried and called up to my loan officer who checked and informed me that the aforementioned sum of $300,000 had been deposited into my account. I explained to her that there must have been a mistake since I had only deposited $50,000.
She remained adamant that I had credited the larger sum to my account but advised that I visit the bank on the following day. I did and after some amount of haggling officials of the financial institution agreed to extract the larger amount and replace it with the smaller pending investigations.
That was the last I heard of that issue. In retrospect, it would have been so nice if the bank’s administrators had acknowledged such honesty in a tangible way (not with money but a simple acknowledgement).
That never happened but the ATM scam where employees of a city bank were accused of malfeasance and dragged before the courts made headlines and is still being discussed. We are living in a society where honesty is the exception rather than the norm. White collar crime abounds; poor people are conned of their hard earned cash after con artistes prey on their vulnerabilities.
Citizens desirous of constructing their homes are fleeced of their investments and it seems as though there is nowhere to seek redress. One is no longer safe in the privacy of one’s home as gunmen smash their way in and relieve the occupants of property, and sometimes their lives.
Rather than finding solutions the naysayer is pointing the accusing finger. Amidst it all are those who are throwing stones but while being smart enough to stay out of the courts and by extension, jail, appear nationalistic and even pious, the real test of honesty occurs when one is faced with a similar situation like Robert Adams.
Would your response be of a similar nature or are we satisfied to be just imperfect perfectionists?
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