Kevin’s Conversations: When Is Social Advocacy Called For?
The stories manifestly grow stranger and more disturbing and the behavior and assertions and accusations from Saeed seemingly grow more and more bizarre and delusional and desperate. I have no personal contact to the situation, nor do I have any expertise to render a definitive judgment of any kind, but it would appear that there are some serious issues with Saeed. One way or another, there are some decidedly wrong and distressing circumstances happening around or involving the man.
Many of us here are more than aware of the public advocacy that took place for Saeed while he was imprisoned. Much advocacy that took place on this very blog. Plenty of us undertook what we believed to be a very just cause and were looking out for a man who we believed to be a brother suffering through a wrongful imprisonment and terrible maltreatment. While it is still wrong to imprison someone on the basis of their faith, I now wonder if Saeed deserved that imprisonment for so many of the other things he has reportedly done or been accused of doing.
The advocacy for Saeed hit national levels and could be partially, if not mainly credited for his ultimate release from prison and Iran. We now know that at least some of the items we were told and rallied about in his advocacy were lies and deceptions. I do not blame Michael or the other men here who were primarily involved in his advocacy through this blog as they have shown themselves over the years to be upstanding and trustworthy. I do not believe for a second that they knew of the lies and deceptions. I am not going to make an issue of Saeed’s now former wife, Naghmeh, as she was living in an abusive marriage and there needs to be much consideration for that.
However, there were those who were part of Saeed’s advocacy and were in positions of power and influence and knew of at least some of the lies and troubling accusations against Saeed and chose to either ignore them publicly or even helped to promote them. Others who may not have been involved in the advocacy, yet knew of at least some if not many of the lies and problems with Saeed, seemingly chose to stay silent. And so a great advocacy was built on a good many duplicities and falsehoods and many of us undertook this advocacy when we very well may not have if we had known the whole truth.
Last week I wrote on the topic of whether or not and how we give second chances to those with histories of domestic violence or animal abuse or the like, using the case of a football player as a jumping point. While my given choice of questions and/or analogies caused some dismay, I was attempting to generate thought and discussion around what we consider in determining how we act on these situations or how we think they should be handled. One of the thoughts in my mind that came up in discussion was if and when and how society should take action when they believe proper justice hasn’t taken place in the justice system or by the ruling authorities.
In the case of Joe Mixon, many think that justice wasn’t served in the courts and so society should step up to hold him further responsible. The rallying of public awareness in Mixon’s case is pretty easy to do because of the existence of his video. For the sake of a comparison, there have been plenty of other football players who have been convicted and/or accused of domestic violence who we don’t know nearly much about since we lack the same publicly available visual evidence. Some of them may have done things even worse than Mixon, but we’re just not as easily aware of them. And so, for the most part, the public advocacy to bring justice to their situations is significantly lesser.
In one case of great societal attention, Saeed’s, there was public and societal advocacy in support of a man. In another case of great societal attention, Mixon’s, there is public and societal advocacy against a man. In Saeed’s case we found out that many things weren’t as they were made to appear. In Mixon’s case, we have the video and so the potential for overwhelming deception would seem to be little to none.
What about all the other cases for which there has been great public advocacy for justice, whether for or against an individual or group or organization? Ostensibly, society has gotten it right many times. However, there are other times where society may have been wrong to some level of significance and/or went harmfully overboard in their advocacy. Cases where there was a misleading spirit or where not all the facts were known or where the momentum of a cause unwisely trumped the veracity or substance of itself. Cases such as something as old as the Salem Witch Trials to something more modern such as members of the 2006 Duke University lacrosse team who were accused of rape and along with university officials suffered much fallout due to public pressure, when in fact they were later proven to be innocent in the court of law.
By no means am I saying that society should not ever get involved in publicly advocating for justice for or against an individual or organization. But how do we make that decision as to when we get involved? Where do we draw the line? How do we know we’re getting the whole story and aren’t being deceived? To what degree are we willing to take risks to advocate for or against someone or some cause?
I know that if my wife or daughters or parents were ever to be wrongfully imprisoned in a foreign country and subjected to much abuse and seemingly not much of anything was being done about it, I would want the whole country to rally for the cause to gain their freedom and end their suffering. Or if some perpetrator who happened to be famous or powerful had committed a terrible crime against them and got off scot free or just a slap on the wrist in the justice system, I would want the world to know that the perp still deserved justice. But why should every Tom, Dick, and Harry believe me? Why should they trust me and advocate for my cause when they don’t know me and previously knew nothing about me or my family? With all the responsibilities they already have and everything else going on in their lives, why should they choose to get involved in my cause?
I think our biggest concerns and focus should be with those already in the circle of our lives in one form or fashion. More times than not we can have a bigger impact in our local situation and/or with those whom we already know. But can we then just ignore everything else? I don’t think so, but how do we make those decisions as to when and how much to get involved? From the lowest level of involvement such as simply expressing an opinion on a situation that may influence someone else’s thoughts or actions on it, to our own full-blown participation in an advocacy, we do often take actions on these situations.
So when is it right or just or wise for society to rise up in advocacy for or against an individual or organization? How do we decide what we are going to do about it individually, if anything at all? I don’t have nearly all the answers or acumen on the questions at hand. I am sure others have some good thoughts and insights, and so I ask.
Whenever and however we choose to act or not act in these situations, may God give us wisdom in doing so.