Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wingers Playing Nasty

Tough games -- think rugby and lacrosse -- lack dainty politeness. The rough play of the wingers in recent months and years suggests that they would rather win than concur or cooperate.

We've heard their incivility in discourse, both in legislatures and on the street. More recently we see a one-two of escalation to the physical with an unwillingness to make responsibility, much less apologize. This blog covered and linked to a couple of these cases, such as here.

A consistent theme in such assaults (once they stop pretending that it never happened) is that the victims made them do it, as in deserved violence because they held an opposing view. That put me in Mr. Peabody's WABAC machine, to my water polo days.

On swimming teams in high school and college, we'd play and as a breaststroker with powerful legs, I'd usually be the deep-end goalie. Water polo seems to have rules well suited to an Ann Coulter or Larry Cirignano. When you get the ball, the other team can pretty much do what they want to get it, like force you under the water and hold you there. There's even a devilish twist in that it is a foul to put the ball under the surface at any time; even if you are tackled from behind and the tackler pushes your arm, if the ball goes under, the foul is on you.

Such as it was last week as a likely preview of what will happen in the Cirignano case if he does not cop a plea. His lawyer said that the victim had no business being there, with the implication that she got what was coming when she got shoved to the ground from behind.

To his credit, Worcester District Court Judge John Riccardione said free speech and the right to assemble trumped that inane claim. He rejected the motion to dismiss the civil-rights portion of the charges against Cirignano, which tried to say it was the same case as when Wacko Hurley and chums won the right to exclude gay groups from the South Boston St. Patrick's Day parade.

As the judge wrote in his opinion:
In holding her sign at the rally here, the complainant was simply expressing a view contrary to that being generally supported. This is speech which is clearly and unassailably protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and by the Massachusetts Bill of Rights,. To conclude otherwise would allow the group that arrives at the city licensing office first to censor the free expression of speech in a particular area of the city at any given time. This is an unsupportable proposition under constitutional law.
The rights of others and the commonweal seem far too difficult concepts for the current crop of righty activists. Yet, we can hope that Judge Ricciardone's views let us all and each have a say without being intimidated by bullies and thugs.

This particular case is not due to set a date for a trial until an August 20th hearing. In addition, this is only at the district court level. Yet, Ricciardone seems to have a keen respect both for law and for our shared liberties.

In an ideal world, Cirignano would have seen the inside of a jail quickly as some punk who starts a bar brawl is likely to. That's been his level. In addition, he likely would have had to apologize and admit his errors. That often works for little kids as well as bullies.

We can follow this and see whether slippery Larry can ooze his way out of this. Stopping such abuse of others is long overdue here. This is one trend that must come to an abrupt halt.


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