Freedom for Christmas
Republicans of the Religious Right — which is most Republicans these days — are feeling the sting of ingratitude. Both former Gov. Mike Huckabee and federal Judge Susan Webber Wright let them down this week.
Huckabee served 10 years as governor, gained serious consideration as a Republican presidential candidate, and landed a highly paid TV job, all with support from fundamentalist Republicans. But he said Monday at Little Rock that he granted his now-notorious clemency to a young felon subsequently charged with murdering four police officers because the offender was black, and blacks had been systematically denied justice in Arkansas. He couldn't have made an excuse less acceptable to his base, unless he said the prisoner deserved mercy because he was a black atheist.
It was Judge Wright who was being soft on atheists. She ruled that even nonbelievers are entitled to free speech in America, permitting a non-religious display on the state Capitol grounds in addition to the Nativity scene that's been there for years. That her decision was correct is irrelevant to the zealots. They'll have no presents for her or Huckabee this year. Huckabee shouldn't expect much in 2012 either.
Should ponies be allowed to serve on juries? In Drew County, it might help. Couldn't hurt.
Jurors at Monticello this month acquitted a defendant who was charged under Arkansas's new felony animal-cruelty law. The all-biped jury found that beating a Shetland pony to death with a baseball bat was not cruel, or at least not sufficiently cruel for conviction. They seemed impressed by evidence suggesting the pony's 20-year-old executioner was not highly intelligent. The evidence was that he'd been in special education classes when he attended school. How can you punish someone who's been in special ed? Maybe he should be complimented instead: “He certainly holds the bat well.”
Our chief concern about the new animal-cruelty law has been that prosecutors wouldn't prosecute, because of opposition from agricultural interests and the FSA (Future Serial Killers of America), whose members always seem to launch their careers by torturing animals. We haven't been worrying big enough, it seems. The prosecutor in the Monticello case did his duty. It was the jury that lacked resolve.
Animal lovers' labors didn't end with enactment of the new law. They still must educate their neighbors, report violators, demand justice. Keep the heat on, and eventually an offender will go to prison. The work will get easier after that.