Monday, April 30, 2007

Sleeping with Snakes

My son is the oldest, and he was the first to leave the nest ... off to a large university to try his wings on his own. He was ready. I was not. I fussed over details, fretted over my loss of control. Would he get enough sleep? Would he eat? Would he study? My husband enrolled him in a private dorm option, mainly, in retrospect, for my mental health. So off he went. He looked so young to me, and yet, all the early reports from him were glowing and positive.

On Parents Weekend, he met us in the lobby of his dorm. He looked uneasy. As we approached the door to his room, he faced me full on and warned, "Mom, promise me you won't say anything! Promise!" The door swung open.

He was living with a boa constrictor.

Oh, yes. This private dorm that I insisted on ... allowed his roommate to keep a pet. My son, the focus of eighteen years of close maternal oversight, was now sleeping in a room with his head inches away from a very big and powerful snake.

You cannot make this stuff up.

For weeks after our visit, ... out to lunch with friends, cooking dinner, drifting off to sleep ... I'd be jolted by the memory of The Snake in the Dorm Room. At one point, I did a little research, and I called my son and asked him the dimensions of the fish tank the creature was living in. He hung up.

So, I've been thinking about the Moms again. No, not Rae, Mary Ellen, and Kathy... though I still think of them often. No, I've been thinking about the Moms who are about to send their children off to school for the first time this fall... to Duke, to Durham. My Snake in the Dorm Room scenario is small potatoes compared to what they must be feeling if they've followed this Nifong-Mangum Hoax. The Herald Sun has this quote today from a George Washington University law professor:
"It's all very, very damning [to Nifong]," (Professor) Banzhaf said of the report. "He should be forced to step down, and there should be civil action. I think he presents a clear and present danger to students at Duke. He has clearly demonstrated a desire to violate their constitutional rights. I'd be a little frightened if I were a parent looking at my kid's acceptance letter from Duke."
So would I, Mr. Banzhof.

In Durham, although violent crime was up a stunning 32% in 2006, enormous resources were used to engage in a false prosecution of three Duke students. In Durham, gang violence is escalating out of control, but Durham police have been told to target Duke student partygoers. To add to the local atmosphere, Duke students can breathe in the pollution from the frequent waste dump fires (two in the last two years), drink the lead infused Durham tap water, and dodge the life threatening rock-droppers on the freeway.

Yes, all this, Duke parents, can be yours for around $45,000 a year! Why it's like sending your child on a four-year action adventure vacation! Consider the thrilling uncertainties! My child, can you achieve your Duke degree and still survive the toxic situation in the town outside the gate? Can you navigate the streets without a Gottlieb-grab? Can you complete four years without our family being nifonged into financial ruin? Can you pass classes taught by professors who despise you? Perfect for those seeking the "high" of extreme sports, matriculating at Duke also offers the survivors the thrill of a real life video game and the possibility of a prestigious degree to boot!

For that $45,000 price tag, just what "customer service" is the leadership of Duke University promising all the Moms and Dads who write the checks? Well, for insight, here is Duke's latest statement from John Burness:
"Duke senior vice president John F. Burness issued the following statement after the N.C. Attorney General's Office on Friday released its Summary of Conclusions in the Duke lacrosse case

Friday, April 27, 2007
Durham, NC -- “Attorney General Cooper’s Summary of Conclusions that was released today documents the absence of any credible evidence that would justify any conclusion in this case other than the one Mr. Cooper announced a few weeks ago -- that David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann are innocent of all charges brought against them last spring by District Attorney Nifong. We welcome this report as we welcomed the Attorney General’s announcement on April 11.

“We now await the N.C. State Bar’s review of the charges against Mr. Nifong for his conduct in this case.”
Got that, Duke freshmen parents? The current leadership of Duke University's response to Cooper's astounding findings is to meekly "now await" what might happen to the Snake in the Prosecutor's Office. I'm amused by that phrase "now await." Gee, last year, 88 Duke faculty members were lauding activists, who were publicly demanding castration, for "not waiting." Why the hesitancy and hand-wringing now? How about a little consistency? How about actually stepping out to make the very environment your students are paying $45,000 for you to provide, a reasonably safe place for them to reside? How about you, Mr. Brodhead, or you, Mr. Burness, or some member of the Law faculty, how about SOMEONE finally publicly recognizing the enormous wrong done to the Finnerty, Seligmann and Evans' families this past year? Now that it's safe to come out from hiding, how about the leadership of Duke University filing a 7A-66 affidavit to remove the viperous Mike Nifong, as the courageous Beth Brewer has done at great personal risk?

How about putting Judge "Not acting is acting" Hudson under some pressure from the largest employer in the area? How about publicly making it clear that Duke will not abide a corrupt prosecutor who targets its students without a scintilla of evidence? The state's attorney has laid out the scenario for you, Mr. Brodhead. Some presume you summarily fired Mike Pressler for "appearances" sake. Then, what explains your boundless tolerance of rogue prosecutor Mike Nifong ... faculty appeasement? You know, Dick... you don't have to wait for the Bar hearing. North Carolina's Attorney General has told you whatever Nifong did "was bad enough."

I also think about another group of ravaged Moms (and Dads) I read about recently... the Durham chapter of Parents of Murdered Children. I think of how it must feel to those families, who love their children no less than you or I, to have observed last year's legal farce play out. To see through their eyes the manpower and money squandered by Mike Nifong's self-interested pursuit of false rape charges against three Duke students! I invite any of these parents to contact LieStoppers and tell us if their children's murders were given that same zeal, that same expenditure of effort and intensity Nifong lavished on the Hoax. Not that any of them would sanction, nor do we, Nifong's illegal line-up lotteries, witness intimidations, invented or non-existent notes, and numerous lies both in and out of the courtroom ... but it does speak to the exceptional effort that Inspecteur D.A. put into this shameful debacle.

But what about these murdered children of Durham? Could it be that their cases fell into no fortuitous political "meta narrative" for Nifong to exploit? Could it be that these murdered children, these anguished families, these little known cases received minimal attention or respect? Could it be that these families are not "privileged" enough to be worthy of the excessive devotion Nifong gave to pushing a case HE KNEW HAD NO MERIT before he sought indictments? Though some of these cases involve Durham's gang violence, each victim is still someone's much loved child. Perhaps the tragedies of these Durham families, personally useless to Defendant Nifong, are simply deemed expendable.

There is a Snake in the Prosecutor's Office in Durham. His name is Michael B. Nifong. Nifong, the 27 yr. assistant DA, "shed his skin" as soon as he was given the reins of power. Like all snakes, Nifong depended on his sense of smell, and he immediately smelled the race-pandering opportunity in the Hoax. He cannot shed his scales at this late date and ask a nation to forget or these families to forgive. City Manager Baker could have been Saint Patrick and acted to rid Durham of this poisonous snake. Instead, Baker currently seems to have chosen to play Cleopatra and clutch the venomous asp to his city's bosom. This is unacceptable to decent people everywhere. We need, Mr. Brodhead, to "await" NOTHING. We demand some leadership.

Indeed, the Durham power structure is stalling, hoping to keep Nifong coiled at their collective feet, ready to rise to their music and strike at their will. We understand now, that's how the game works. In the days ahead, we will see who is most invested in retaining Durham's Snake in the Prosecutor's Office. We must watch and listen carefully. The official cover-up is about to begin. The leadership of Durham and Duke must again be judged by what they DO and do Not do in the weeks ahead. It will be a road map pointing to who is guilty... and who is fork-tongued, and who is exceedingly, institutionally gutless.

Joan Foster


duke09parent said...

Gee, Joan, thanks a lot for reminding me. It's still a good place, just gotta watch for the snakes. You forgot to mention that snake Solomon Burnette. It's no so much the snakes we see and know about that scare me, it's the ones hidden in the grass. Who will have read Burnette's call to arms and decide to do something?

DukeEgr93 said...

Hey - at least there's no mold in the dorms people must live in to satisfy the three year housing requirement! Oh, wait...durn...

Anonymous said...

Carolyn says:

Joan, when it comes time to nail Brodhead and the Gang of 88 to the wall for what they did and - more importantly - did NOT do, I will deem it an honor to hold the ladder as you climb up to its top rung and begin swinging that hammer!

Anonymous said...

...because Duke is afraid of Durham?

Anonymous said...

You mean it's not over, there's still something to worry about?

Does Beth rent rooms?


Anonymous said...

This makes the second time I have heard an outside party calling for a North Carolina interest to join themselves in Beth Brewer's 7a-66 affidavit.

I am guilty as well. I have had a brief e-mail conversation with Ms. Brewer regarding this topic. She was steadfast in her opinion, and offered to supply me with documenting materials, should I care to join her in her quest.

I responded to her that I would really love to accompany her on this journey, but my relationship with such an action, would reflect on my employer. And being somewhat of a public figure (that is my identity is directly tied to my employer), I could not take a stand because it would affect my employer.

My own standing in the community is not so strong that I can divorce myself from my securities. For this I appologize. I should sign such an affidavit because I know it to be the right thing to do. I cannot, becausee if I do, my public stature will be so loud, that my employer will not be able to continue employing me.

Perhaps this is why the Governor and Attorney general have not filed affidavits as well (or publicly supported Ms. Brewer's affidavit).

My hat is off to Beth Brewer. I wish that I had the balls to do what she has done (twice). Apparently, the entire community is bound by thier commitment to thier employers, because nobody else is as free to speak as Beth. Not the Governor, not the A.G. or Any of the Duke administration.

For the record, my last message to her was to ask her what it feels like to do what what I always wanted to do? Knowing that some of your friends and family would distance themselves from you for standing up for what is right. Does it feel as good as I want it to? Or does it really hurt because these people are supposed to support you no matter what.

Beth, I truly admire your courage. I wish that I could say that I were cut from the same cloth as you. Unfortunately, I have very high morals, but I am a chicken shit.

My prayers are with you. I will watch and wish and live vicariously through you. Thanks for all of us wannabees, (and without offense intended)

May the farce be with you.

purps said...

Anonymous at 1:02am, I hear you. It's not an easy thing to risk your livelihood. If only the numbers were there, it would be safer for all.

With respect I don't believe the Governor and Attorney general have the same excuse. They are in public office, servants of the people of NC. It is their duty to act when the integrity of the justice system is in peril.


Gráinne O'Donovan said...

Ooops. I forgot to express my appreciation for you, Joan. Truly an inspirational article.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 1:02am
Perhaps if you all spoke up and demanded justice this could have been over long ago. Sometimes just getting up and looking in the mirror and knowing you are on the right side of the truth is the only way to go. Your NAME should be more important than your "securities" & "standings in the community". I can't agree with you that your morals are "very high" or you truly would have come out on the right side of this instead of being a "chicken shit".

Anonymous said...

Joan, I must protest your comparison of Mike Nifong to a snake. This is the worst kind of defamation and you are guilty of stereotyping that is completely unwarranted.

I had a pet king snake in college. They are honest, unambitious, and eat only when they are hungry. They are clean, quiet, undemanding, and certainly do not fit the common perception of being slimy. While they can be defensive when threatened, they are definitely not malicious.

I am certain that most snakes would feel falsely maligned by being compared to Nifong.

Mike in Nevada

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

11:03, what's the old saying? "Don't judge a man until you walk a mile in their shoes." You have no idea what's going on in 1:02's life, what other responsibilities he has, what other problems he's facing. Having lost everything once, I don't begrudge anyone who does their best to avoid that fate. Besides, maybe he'll remember how this felt the next time this occurs in Durham and do something about it. So, in short, 11:03, I'm sorry you're a self-righteous prick who feels the need to hammer away at others with your wittle cloaca (word choice intentional) of anonymity.

Anonymous said...

My family has been directly affected by this entire HOAX! My only brother was murdered, yet nobody cares!

I have evidence to prove murder, yet we cannot get Sheriff Hill, or the DA to investigate!

Joan, if you are looking for a perfect example of just how deep the corruption penetrates, just ask and I will send proof!
Rhonda Fleming
Cleveland, Ohio