Monday, January 15, 2007

"They Look at the Mother"

"All quiet roads of life ran on to this;
When they were little for their mother’s kiss.
Little feet hastening, so soft, unworn,
To the vows and the vigil and the road of thorn."

Back in September I wrote an essay that I called "Thinking About The Moms." I liked it at the time, and I felt it deeply, ... but what I remember most about it tonight is NOT my own words, but the words of another poster called Texas Mom. In the comments underneath my post, she wrote:


"Thank you for your eloquent essay. I've no connection to Duke or the young men - only a son who is Dave's age and plays lacrosse. My children's father took his own life when my son was 9, my daughters 11 and 13. I frequently thought that I "couldn't go on" over the past thirteen years. I wondered how I would be able to raise "a good and honorable man"; I knew how to teach my girls how to be women, but what about teaching my son to be the kind of man his father and I had wanted him to become.

"An older friend to whom I posed my fears said, "Do you know how they pick fighting bulls?" I responded, "No." "They look at the mother," she said, "that's where they get their heart, their courage." Over the years, when I felt as though I couldn't go another step or that I was failing at my task, I remembered her words. There were a lot of things I couldn't teach my children because I didn't know how to do them myself, but I could teach them to be honorable, to be courageous, and that they were loved unequivocally."

Last night, I watched Kathy Seligmann, Mary Ellen Finnerty, and Rae Evans and I wished I were sitting beside Texas Mom. "Yes!" I'd say to her, "You were so right! Look at the Moms! There's your heart, and there's the courage! Reade and Collin and Dave are made of some pretty splendid stuff!" I think Texas Mom and I would have stomped our feet and yelled "Bravo!" at the close. They were all magnificent.

Last year, I hardly knew what a blog was, much less imagined myself writing poems and essays for one. I had heard a bit about the Duke case, and, of course, I saw Nifong on his magical media tour. I'm ashamed to say...I believed him. My life is busy and full...and I thought very little about it. One afternoon, I made a cup of tea and turned on the television for some distraction ... and sat, stunned, as a young man faced the cameras and spoke from his heart of "Fantastic Lies." I spent the next few hours reading everything I could the online N&O and the Herald-Sun. By midnight I was heartsick. The next morning, I discovered the N&O blog and, shortly thereafter, made my first post. I've been posting ever since.

Tonight, I could see in Dave's mom, just where he found the courage to stand so tall and speak so profoundly. I was equally as impressed watching Reade and Collin months later on the first 60 Minutes. "Good stock," Texas Mom might say.

Yes, Rae, Nifong chose the wrong families...for many reasons. He could not have imagined the formidable courage, the heart, the discernible strength of the Seligmanns, the Evans' and the Finnertys! Nor did he realize how their example would inspire and motivate so many of us to enter the blogs and push onto the posting boards and parse, and probe, and poke at his every word and action! We have your back, and we are in the face of any who enable or advance this Hoax! A man as self-involved as Mike Nifong could never understand the kind of unity of spirit that they and their sons have inspired through this ordeal.

I thought about Mike Nifong tonight too, as 60 Minutes showed a short clip of him after his swearing in...sitting beside his wife and his son. Yes, your sons' names will be "Googled," but the "Nifong" name will be "Googled" too. "Nifong" is a new action verb, synonymous with the sleaziest sort of frame-up. He is reviled in editorials from coast to coast. The talking heads, who once encouraged his pandering and posturing, have now turned their venom on him. He may ramble through the motions of his life, but this man will never again be respected. He is a pariah. Every case he tries for the state (should the Bar allow him to continue) will be undercut by the memory of this persecution. What juror can ever again rely on D.A. Nifong's credibility or countenance his version of events or the validity of his evidence? He is a detriment to the state of North Carolina, and a hindrance to any prosecution he might handle. Even those, who through their own agenda-blindness continue to buttress him, can never truly trust him again. He was willing to destroy three innocent young lives to win a political race and an improved pension. That was the sum total. That's the full measure of all we ever need to know about Mr. Nifong. That is his legacy. Let him be an anathema.

Nifong's magic bullet has ricocheted. We pledge that we will not be content until we've discovered everyone who helped supply his ammunition. Wherever that may lead. Yes, Kathy, every mom needs to care about this case. We have learned some frightening things about rogue prosecutors, North Carolina grand juries, and the power of the state in these situations.

Watching the show-trial of Mr. Elmostafa, so many of us stood...absolutely stunned! Our eyes are sadly open now. We need to look at and look out for...the sons of the neediest among us as well. We cannot allow them to be Nifonged, not in Durham, or Detroit, or Duluth or any downtown courthouse! We will honor the ordeal you all have been through, by going onward with the lessons of this case, demanding needed changes, and cleaning house!

Maybe Mr. Nifong's most serious miscalculation was not consulting with Texas Mom. Had he heard her story...he might have looked at the Mothers before he launched his Hoax. The steel, the strength, the heart, the courage he would have seen there...that we ALL saw there tonight...might have kept him from the calamity that has ultimately caused his own ethical demise. He picked the wrong boys, the wrong families, the wrong his own everlasting regret.

God bless Rae, Mary Ellen, and Kathy.
Joan Foster


Tony Soprano said...

God bless them all, indeed.


That was beautiful,

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post again Joan.

I've said it before and I've said it again - since the despicable saga began the three young men have shown nothing but grace under pressure. Their truthfullness, lack of vindictiveness in the face of injustice, the loyalty shown to teammates - stand in stark contrast to the actions and qualities displayed by the so called mature "adults" in this nightmare.

Contrast their acceptance of their responsiblity for throwing the party with the shifting explanations of the group of 88s manifest by group members. Look at Broadhead pass along responsibility for Duke administrations shameful mistreatement of the students - to Nifong for claiming a rape was certain. Ditto the mayor - who excuses an atrocious rape investigation by blaming the victims transparent lies.

The strength of characte shown by these young men, is a direct testament and credit to the families they were raised in.

Anonymous said...

I am a Durham Duke Mom horrified by this hoax and many days just sickened with empathy for the boys and their families. Your posts have lifted my spirits many times.
To the Moms last night on 60 Minutes:
You could not have spoken more eloquently on behalf of your sons.
And 60 Minutes, thank you and, rest in peace Ed Bradley.

bill anderson said...

As I have written elsewhere, John Gotti himself could not have been as formidible a personal opponent as Rae Evans will prove to be to Michael B. Nifong. Yes, Gotti no doubt would have kidnapped and murdered the miscreant, or had him gunned down on a city street, but Rae Evans will be part of something that will bleed Nifong of that beloved pension of his. Every day, he will be reminded of what he did, and the lust for the very thing that drove him to do his evil deeds -- more money -- ultimately will be the thing that deprives him of what is his god.

This man had no idea of the character of the people he tried to destroy. And how could he? Nifong is not a man of good character, and the various cheerleaders that he had in Durham and elsewhere are not good characters. Wendy Murphy? Nancy Grace? Cash Michaels? David Addison? Houston Baker? Kim Curtis? And Crystal Gail Mangum?

The list goes on and on, but we see a pattern, do we not? These are not people with whom we associate the term "good character."

Look to the other side. James Coleman. K.C. Johnson. Joe Neff. The Seligmanns. The Finnertys. The Evanses. And, yes, Joan Foster.

Do you see the difference? Who are people of "good character" and who are not? It was there from the beginning, and as this whole drama continues to unfold, we see the lines drawn even more clearly.

This is something that Nifong and the ilk that has supported him can never understand. That is because none of them have the necessary character to know what is good and what is decent.

Thank you Joan Foster and all of the others in this blogosphere who have had the courage and character to stand up for something that is right.

Anonymous said...

Tears and thanks, Joan.
Texas Mom

Anonymous said...

I know these three families as well as the rest of the Duke Lax family. Yes we have become a family over all this.
The character of the three accused players is a representation of the entire team. They are , OK they made some do that...but they as a whole are the most polite, respectful and kind
group of boys you would be so proud to call your sons!!!
Why...because we as parents would have it NO other way...

bill anderson said...

There is something else I need to point out. Throughout this whole ordeal, there is one group of people who did not lie from day one: the lacrosse players.

The young men who were demonized in all of the major media and on the campus which their families were supporting by paying very high tuition turned out to be the ones who showed the most integrity.

On the other hand, we see the various groups of liars and spin doctors. I do not think I need to say any more about them.

Anonymous said...

Incredible Piece!

Couldn't agree more!

Howard said...

That is a post I wish I had the talent to write. I accidentally watched 60 Minutes last night and was almost moved to tears myself, wanted to write something, but felt empty. Great essay. Great and true.

Anonymous said...

I applaud the courage and brave faces displayed by Kathy Seligmann, Mary Ellen Finnerty, and Rae Evans on 60 min. last night.

My prayers go out to all of your family and hope this horrible injustice soon comes to an end.

Thank you Joan, for saying all the things we other moms feel and have wanted to say.

Krukker mom

Anonymous said...

Thank you Joan! Beautiful and so true. If someone were to ask me what i would do if my son (or husband, nephew, neighbor etc.) were involved in this scary hoax i would say: I want to be just like The Seligmanns. The Finnertys. The Evanses. I would want nifong and all of his enablers to pay. and i would especially want the support of all of you and the friends of duke university. what a formidable group!

Anonymous said...

What an impressive bunch the Mom's were! Thanks, Joan for your beautiful writing, your efforts have kept us all connected and motivated. It has been, and will continue to be a tough battle, but I'm beginning to believe some good will come from all this.


Anonymous said...

Excellent piece, Joan. Also, the letter from Texas Mom you included brought tears to my eyes.

Bill Anderson's comments on all blogs are wonderful, insightful, moving, informative, etc etc etc. Those he posted here are exceptional, also.

Why not publish a book featuring writings and comments of Bill Anderson, Joan Foster and other main contributors in the exposing of this hoax?

Brian said...

Bravo! I too have had my eyes opened up by this incident. I would describe myself as a Yankee Republican -- conservative on fiscal, national security and law and order matters; liberal on social issues.

If you had told me, nine months ago, that a District Attorney and police department in the United States would deliberately frame three men for political purposes, I would not have believed you.

Now, sadly, I know that I was wrong. I now approach any police officer statements or testimony with suspicion-- especially in cases where police brutality is being claimed; and will no longer take as fact statements by prosecutors.

Count me now also as an opponent of the death penalty. My investigation of this case led me, through Joe Cheshire's and Bradley Bannon's involvement, to the Alan Gell case. That was the clincher for me on the death penalty, and furthered my skepticism toward prosecutors and police.

To Roy Cooper, Jim Coman, Mary Winstead, and the North Carolina Bar Association Disciplinary Hearings Committee I say -- we will be watching. We will watch everything you do, don't do, say and write. We will watch who you talk to and what you ask them.

We're watching. We're waiting.

Anonymous said...

Alev said:

Joan said, "We need to look at and look out for...the sons of the neediest among us as well." If that is a legacy of this case, it will indeed have a silver lining. That the three indicted had the money to pay top notch attorneys could turn out to be a blessing not only to their own sons, but to the sons of the neediest among us as well. If the result of this case is that North Carolina law changes so that the Allan Gells of the world are also safer from unethical prosecution, that will be a legacy indeed.

If those of us who have been horrified at the prosecutorial misconduct and the abuse of power in this case, continue to monitor justice for any person of any race, but particularly for the poor, that will be a powerful force for good in our country. Bloggers do have power, and when this case if over, if we do not remember the likelihood that this happens all the time to those without power, it will be to our shame.

James Coleman is a hero because he loves Justice. I hope all those whose sense of justice has been aroused by this case follow in his footsteps and continue to advocate for justice for all--whether the accused looks like your own sons or not.

Anonymous said...

I do believe that Dave, Collin and Reade will turn out to be the ultimate heros. With the help of their attorneys, parents and bloggers alike, I worry not for their reputations...NO ONE CAN TAKE THAT FROM THEM!!! They have given JUSTICE not only for themselves but for EVERYONE. The AA community should be celebrating them not condeming them. How long was all this 'durham justice' going on. How many other Allen Gells are behind bars because they did not have the resources to fight back. The Duke 3 have liberated them as well. Will never understand how the AA community has not seen the big picture here.
This case will and should make all the DA's/PD across the country think twice before convicting/indiciting INNOCENT citizens!!

madder than a hornet said...

Joan you are gifted and we are grateful for your words that encourage and inspire. Thank you for taking time from a busy life to focus on this horrible hoax.

We are still in the battle and it won't be won under Collin, Reade and David have all charges dropped. Pray that it is soon.

Anonymous said...

Brian said it well!

"To Roy Cooper, Jim Coman, Mary Winstead, and the North Carolina Bar Association Disciplinary Hearings Committee I say -- we will be watching. We will watch everything you do, don't do, say and write. We will watch who you talk to and what you ask them.

We're watching. We're waiting."

Put Crystal under Oath. Put Nifong, Linwood, Gottlieb, Himan, Soucie, Baker, Victoria Peterson, Judge Stephens, Bell, Kim, Cpl Addison, Kammie Michaels, Major Russ, and the missing Chief of Police Chalmers!

Find out why Officer Shelton's report was three weeks late?

We are watching! Ask the questions! Then bring the charges against the Hoaxsters!

Anonymous said...

It was something to watch, because I've seen that look before from her.

Rae Evans tees up, takes a few practice swings, looks steelily at her target, and yells "fore!!" She's in the zone, thinking of her next shot when her ball is still in the air.

She's locked on. Nifong has made a determined and bitter enemy. That definitely came out, and it serves him right.


Anonymous said...

Thank You Joan..and Texas Mom. Your words touch the heart of every Mom who reads them.

What Mom can't help but see the hurt in these young men's eyes and not feel that gnawing pain one feels when she's trying to protect her child from the inevitable? From the simple loss on the field to the college rejection notice or the first breakup, we do our best to protect them and lessen the blow.

Watching these three Moms have hold it together so courageously, with the stakes higher than anything any of us could imagine, has been an inspiration to us all and I hope they come to know that.

Thank you,
NJ Mom

sceptical said...

Another marvelous piece of writing!

Anonymous said...

Joan, how incredibly brilliant. And Texas Mom, very moving, and I hope every day you find grace, hope, and courage in your children.

Great piece.

Anonymous said...

a heartfelt thank you from one of the moms. please know that without your support we would not be able to fight the fight. we know we do not stand alone and are so comforted by your words.

Anonymous said...

Joan, you are an inspiration. You give words to the feelings many of us have but lack the literary facility to express.

Texas Mom, I will never forget your story. What truth!

Mrs. Finnerty, Mrs. Seligman and Mrs. Evans, you have raised wonderful young men who will be fine in the long run. You are role models for all of us.

duke09parent said...

Another great essay.

By the time of Dave Evans' courthouse steps speech I of course knew the allegations to be a hoax. But somehow I still thought the lacrosse team guys were lunkhead athletes who misbehaved in an archetypal way. Just like strippers don't deserve to be raped, lunkhead athletes don't deserve to be falsely accused.

Dave's speech turned my perception around even more than the Coleman report did. Angry and indignant yet poised and articulate, he put a real and top character face on the team. He was saying that no one should be charged, but if anyone was to have to carry that burden he felt it should be him as team captain and as one of the party organizers. Ladies and gentlemen, that is leadership.

TC said...

Most Excellent!

As well we have learned of other nifonging within our country due to the spotlight this case has been shining.

Another element that citizens have to alter is the rampant use of SWAT teams for service of warrants! They are causing our deaths with zero due process!
Radley Balko is leading the fight, we all can help though.


Anonymous said...

"When Mom's unhappy, everyone's unhappy."

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs. Seligmann,

I know it could have been my son. From the first moment I saw Reade, I saw my son. I know it could be me living with this horror. I know it could be my son. My family will continue to help in any way we can for we know it could be us.

Coreen Costello

Anonymous said...

Joan, you have been a pillar of morality and conscience throughout this sordid nightmare. Keep up the good work! Bob Hyde Duke '67

Anonymous said...

Gosh all this about the moms (and it's all true) makes me feel for the dads. The moment that put a lump in my throat and brought tears to my eyes last night we when Phil Seligmann said that he collapsed to the floor (thought he was suffering from heart failure) when he received the news.

I can't even imagine the pain that these families have faced for the past 10 months.

It could have been my son too.

Anonymous said...

Ruth Sheehan calls one of the Moms arrogant. I heartily disagree. The Moms have steely resolve. (But Ruth has been wrong before, by her own admissions.) ALOT less could have been done to my children and I would have said the same thing to the perpetrator.

bill anderson said...

I would not be surprised if at least some of the parents develop health problems due to the stress this has brought on. Stress is a huge cause of heart disease, and it would not surprise me to see at least one of the parents (or more) develop such problems in the future. Also, stress can help bring on other illnesses.

Nifong truly is a one-man wrecking crew, and he and his advisor-wife, Cy Gurney, deserve whatever bad things come to them. I can only hope that one day Nifong and his cronies realize the harm they have done, although these people are so self-righteous and so arrogant that I doubt they every will understand.

That being the case, someone needs to throw the book at all of them. To the crowbar motel!!!

Anonymous said...

I shudder at the arrogance of Nifong, Durham PD, leaders of Duke and Durham Community. I'm an avid Duke fan, but I have to agree with the families - Do I really want my son subjected to this? No.

I looked at my son last night and told him plainly - "You're liable the minute you take a girl out. Son, you better know what you're getting in to." Surprisingly, he looked at me like a man (only 16) and agreed. This case has taken us all off our ladders. I admire the fight in Rae Evans eyes and words. Go for it. Sue Nifong. But don't stop there. Duke and Durham deserve to be punished as well.

Simzee said...

After seeing the original 60 Minutes segment on the Duke Case, I can safely say, Reid Seligman was so convincing of his innocence. If anyone watching thought he was guilty after that interview, they would have to be blind. No one could have that much determination to clear himself and his fellow lacrosse players, unless they were truly innocent.

Being the mother of a female middle class college student is no different than being the mother of a male middle class college student. People make assumptions based on where these students grew up, their parents success and the color of their skin. It is reverse racial descrimination and it is unacceptable. Are we only protected from such descrimination if we are of a minority group? This country has gone so far the other way that we have BECOME the MINORITY.

I live on Long Island not that far from the Finnerty family and have many friends that know them. These are people that just want what is fair and as the interview last night showed, their is nothing fair about this case. The only thing that would be fair is if Nifong was disbarred and the boys were exonerated from crimes they never committed. Whatever happened to "Innocent til proven guilty"???

Anonymous said...

I agree 6:05. What Mrs. Evans showed last night was not arrogance, rather it was strength combined with confidence in her son's innocence.

How arrogant of Ruth Sheehan to assume otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Nifong had no idea how strong a mothers love is.....but he is going to soon find out and find out and find out! Keep up your strength- you are all in our prayers! Chaminade P97 & 99

don t. said...

How incredibly beautiful....almost inspirational. I will be greatly disappointed if the three families do not take brodhead, Duke, nifong, et al for everything they're worth. If by some freak they do not recover legal expenses, let us know and we will work on it.


Anonymous said...

The News&Observer, Sheehan's newspaper, played a pivotal role in late March with its disingenuous, agenda-driven and inflammatory coverage of the false accuser and the lacrosse team.

Anonymous said...

Alot of people thought she was an arrogant bitch who obviously thinks her son is above the law. It was all over talk radio here in the Triangle area today. Many many callers talked about those comments to the exclusion of the rest of the show. The "wrong families" bit hit a nerve. Ruth Sheehan was not alone in her asssessment of Mrs. Evans.

Anonymous said...

Re: 3:51
Those calling about the "wrong families" comment are just frustrated over the fact that Collin, Reade and Dave are INNOCENT. All your hatred has been exposed; how you wanted them to be guilty. And now to find out they have parents who are still together, who had and raised these three young men, who love and support them unequivocally, and who will defend them against a criminal DA and that criminl DA's enablers and supporters in the media, in the Duke U. administration/faculty, and in the community-----wow, that makes you sick. Maybe next time.

duke09parent said...

3:51 am:

Thanks for that report. I wondered after I saw the segment whether there would be a class prejudice reaction. Attractive middle aged white couples, dressed well, sitting in someone's nice living room. It was not an image of wealth, but it was an image of comfort and affluence.

So the "wrong families" comment, although undoubtedly meant to convey resolve and deterimination to seek redress for these wrongs, could be seen by some as saying, "We're the privileged elite. You toyed with us, Nifong and we're going to use our power to crush you." Those folk who already have a resentment toward white well-to-do families would likely see the latter interpretation.

Anonymous said...

As Kathy Seligmann said in the interview, you can never change those people's minds of innocene. They are almost disappointed nothing really did happen. These families just want to see fair justice and an impartial eye to veiw the evidence. Those who have condemed these boys all along, and support Nifong, his actions and Crystal, want to see not justice but want to see that a crime was committed, they want to exact their twisted revenge on the innocent for whatever their agendas are and they have sunk their savage teeth into these boys and just will not let go no matter what evidence is proven to show innocence. You just can't get through to them. Hate, racism, prejudice and jealously all drive these types of people. They are not worth anyones time.

Anonymous said...

I agree. No reaction would have been acceptable.
Anyone who stil believes something happened must now look to pick and poke at anything they can to feed their own predjudice.To justify their own hatred and envy of these families.
In the end they are no materially richer, but VERY spiritually poorer. It's sad to see.

This will backfire because their reverse racist agenda has now become evident to the mainstream public.

DDP said...

I just need to say that once I heard Reade's mom say, "We'll be okay." made me feel that the end of this hoax was in site.

Joan, as usual, you captured how lots of us feel. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

This morning on the internet I saw an interview with Jakki, Crystal's cousin. Jakki said that the Black community in Durham feels duped by Nifong.

In my thinking the transparent deal was my imagination, Nifong speaking to the black community leaders, "I have a black woman accusing rich white guys of rape. I'll get the conviction for you, but you have to elect me so I can stay on the case. When I get the conviction then you guys can bring the piece of cake civil cases."

Nifong puts on the super hero cape, gets elected and gets his pension. Whoa! That cape is transparent and a naked Nifong stands before the world with his hiney exposed.

He's going down, way down and taking the "fooligans" that have clutched onto that cape with him.

I also think that there are a lot of people that don't want this to go to trial. The corrupt way of life for many in the Durham community will be exposed.