A Crime and Justice Wish List for 2014

BY DIANE DIMOND

At the top of my Crime and Justice wish list this year is the sincere hope that America finds a way to become a better functioning and more tolerant country. I wish for the lethargy of the electorate and the deterioration of trust and respect — in our government and in each other — to magically evaporate.

It is a tall order, I know. We live in an ugly era of perpetual backbiting that serves no real purpose but to distract us from finding solutions to very real problems.

Democrats routinely ridicule Republicans and vice versa. Various ethnic groups point to those who are different and declare their problems are the other groups’ fault; both heterosexuals and homosexuals complain their lifestyle is under attack; the unemployed and under-employed label business people and corporations as greedy devils without acknowledging they are the very entities providing the most jobs. Our children grow up hearing our viciousness toward one another and are likely to continue the corrosive tradition of intolerance.

I wish for an America where people can enjoy their right to freedom of speech unencumbered by political correctness. I cling to the idea expressed by author Evelyn Beatrice Hall, who wrote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

A recent example of our intolerance is the case of TV personality and proud Christian, Phil Robertson, of “Duck Dynasty.” Asked by a magazine reporter what he viewed as sinful he answered, “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there — bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he said. Not a politically correct answer, but his opinion, nonetheless.

Paraphrasing Corinthians, Robertson added, “Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers … they won’t inherit the kingdom of God.”

Now, whether you agree with Robertson’s beliefs or not, that is his constitutionally protected opinion, and in my America, he is entitled to express it.

The reaction to Robertson’s comments, however, was swift and vicious. One leader of a gay and lesbian group attacked the 67-year-old patriarch, saying if people wanted to know why gay teenagers commit suicide they need look no further than Robertson’s, “hate that shames them into doing so.” The A&E cable network capitulated to the criticism and suspended Robertson from their top-rated program. The reaction was decidedly un-American, in my view.

Moving on, I wish for the NSA to stop all unwarranted surveillance of citizens’ activities — forever. Stay away from my emails and phone calls unless there’s proof I committed a crime.

I wish for more oversight of the billions being spent by the Department of Homeland Security. I hope that all law enforcement can band together to create a trustworthy, centralized anti-terrorist tracking system to thwart tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing.

About the gun violence that continues to plague us: I’m heartened to see a renewed discussion about helping the mentally ill who have access to guns. As law-abiding gun owners would tell you, it’s a long overdue conversation. I hope we never again hear of a troubled kid shooting up a school, but steel yourself, because it is almost certain to happen.

I wish young people would be required to take conflict management courses so they learn early on how to manage conflict before gun shots, road rage or fist fights break out.

On one hand, I hope I never have to cover another Jerry Sandusky-type child sex abuse trial, but, on second thought, I hope I do. I hope Sandusky’s conviction gives strength to all child sex abuse victims to come forward with the truth — no matter what their age is today.

Same with the story about the three missing girls held for so long by the late Ariel Castro in Cleveland. These stories are so hard to hear, but I surely hope more missing people are found alive and reunited with their families.

I wish for a year with a lot fewer frivolous lawsuits (Come on, figure out amongst yourselves who gets the dog in the divorce!) so there is room in our overloaded court system for the truly important cases. And, I hope fewer judges make foolish decisions like the one who decided a drunk kid who caused a fatal car crash should do easy time because he suffers from “Affluenza.” That makes about as much sense as a judge accepting a defense attorney’s claim of “Poorfluenza.”

In preparing this year’s list, I looked back through my past New Year’s columns and realized many of the things I had wished for are still outstanding. That doesn’t curb my hope for solutions to issues like the immigration mess, better border patrol activities, prison over-crowding and reworking our National Sex Registry so that career pedophiles are no longer lumped in with amorous teenagers and drunks who urinate in public.

Happily, some of my past wishes are in the process of coming true. New Mexico, for example, became the 17th state to allow people who love each other to get married no matter what their gender. Several states have moved to decriminalize marijuana as a way to ease prison overcrowding and raise tax dollars. And, dormant DNA rape kits are finally being processed, with the results being included in the national criminal database. Cold cases are being solved because we’re finally catching up.

But none of our issues can truly be resolved without my first wish coming true. We have to stop picking fights with each other and start finding common ground to reach common sense solutions. We need a revolution in thinking and behaving that throws off the idea that we should automatically attack someone who thinks differently. It gets us nowhere. And even worse, it weakens the social fabric that has, for nearly 240 years, held this nation together.

We can do better.

Rockland resident Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist, author, regular guest on TV news programs, and correspondent for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Visit her at www.DianeDimond.net or reach her via email Diane@DianeDimond.net