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The legal and decent thing to do

By Glenda Buya-ao claborne
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 31, 1998
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Glenda Buya-ao claborne

Last week at UC-Berkeley, hundreds of protesters demanded the expulsion of sophomore David Cash for doing nothing while his friend, Jeremy Strohmeyer, raped and strangled 7-year-old Sherrice Iverson in a Nevada casino bathroom in May 1997.

In newspaper and radio interviews, Cash admitted seeing Strohmeyer struggle with Iverson in one of the bathroom stalls but said he walked out and did not witness the actual rape and murder of the girl. However, Cash also admitted that Strohmeyer told him of the crime as they walked out of the casino.

Cash never reported the crime to authorities.

"I'm not going to be upset over someone else's life. I just worry about myself first. I'm not going to lose sleep over somebody else's problem," Cash was quoted saying in a July 19 article in The Los Angeles Times.

Cash's self-absorption is not unlike President Clinton's impulse to save his skin without regard for friends, colleagues and other supporters making a fool of themselves while defending him.

It is a narcissistic ethic that simply cannot make the distinction between love for self which enables one to reach out to others, and the darker side of that same love whose only mooring is its own image and reflection.

Without legal charges against him, Cash cannot be expelled from Berkeley regardless of the outrage of the hundreds of protesters.

Similarly, Clinton cannot be impeached without the law taking its course.

Nevada has no applicable law with which to charge Cash so the organizers of the protest for his expulsion are now collecting signatures to petition Nevada lawmakers to adopt a "Good Samaritan" law which would require witnesses to a sexual attack on a minor to report it to authorities.

Must the American public petition their lawmakers to adopt a law, which would require U.S. presidents to make the distinction between resignation as a matter of honor and impeachment as a matter of the law?

It is truly a heart-sinking, stomach-churning time to be raising kids when legality must be used to compel us to do what simple decency requires of us.

I have three very smart sons but I have been thinking lately how intelligence and an amiable personality can be nothing without character or principle.

I am not sure now whether in my diligence to raise my sons to be open-minded yet sure of themselves that I may have neglected to anchor their beliefs and self-confidence in the moral foundations that have defined and shaped their civilization.

I am not sure now whether the balance that I want my sons to achieve is no more than a teeter-tottering train on a broken bridge over murky waters.

Just like Clinton's centrist position, which I supported for years because I believed it to bring balance between bleeding-heart liberalism and hard-hearted conservatism. The muddy waters of Clinton's narcissism, if not schizophrenia, disappointingly corrupted that centrism's promise of balance and reason.

Recently, I read Clinton's 1969 draft letter to Col. Eugene Holmes. (I missed reading the letter when it was released to the media during the 1992 presidential campaign but it is included in Andrew Carroll's Letters of a Nation.) The letter shows a man struggling with the ideal and the practical.

"I decided to accept the draft in spite of my beliefs for one reason: to maintain my political viability within the system. For years I have worked to prepare myself for a political life characterized by both practical political ability and concern for rapid social progress," wrote Clinton.

It didn't take much for the practical to prevail.

"To many of us, it is no longer clear what is service and what is disservice, or if it is clear, the conclusion is likely to be illegal," Clinton wrote further.

Must we strain legality to make our ideals clear to us?

Glenda Buya-ao Claborne is a graduate student in the process of proving her commitment to communication. She can be reached via e-mail at Her column, Sitting on the Fulcrum, appears every Monday.

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