During the end of the recall effort, there were a couple of stories in the news which piqued my interest but I guess I was simply too preoccupied to write about them. I have decided that with certain thoughts I have been having on a personal level, it seemed appropriate to revisit those stories and discuss them here.
Apparently, there was a woman, who at a younger time in her life, got into trouble with the law. In the woman’s most recent years, she has been gainfully employed as a school bus driver for the Milwaukee Public School District (yes, I am sure some of my readers have already commenced with the boos and hisses).
Of course, we have no idea about her circumstances; how she got into the unlawful situation; or anything about her character whatsoever. All we know is what WTMJ told us and that is that she was arrested for prostitution in 2005.
Is seven years enough time to rehabilitate from whatever lifestyle she had which caused her to make poor choices? I don’t know. Is she stable and reliable enough to be driving around students? I don’t know. But public humiliation and the witch hunt these news teams use to go after people for the sake of a story is truly tasteless and irresponsible.
She had been working for MPS as a driver for several years when WTMJ decided to out her on television (which subsequently, of course, led to an internet, radio and print outing as well).
They basically stepped onto the bus, stuck a picture of her mug shot in front of her unsuspecting face and asked her about her criminal history. They in turn approached parents with the woman’s background information and asked them what they thought about this “criminal” driving their children to and from school. Of course the parents were astonished and in sheer dismay that something like this could happen. I mean, at what – 8 bucks an hour (guessing) – who would ever think that someone with a record would be applying for these jobs (that is, indeed, sarcasm).
I wonder how ‘Joe’ in sales would like it if Mike McNewsypants accosted him with a microphone and asked him about those lines in he snorted in college. Or how would ‘Jennifer’ feel about a reporter intruding in on one of her staff meetings to inquire about that one drinking and driving ticket she received when she was 21.
In April, a 58 year old woman lost her job at Wells Fargo in Milwaukee as a Customer Service Representative. It turns out that in 1972 she had been caught shoplifting. 1972, people. Her position included no money handling and she was a highly recognized and awarded employee. But because of a stupid mistake when she was 18 years old – her life has been turned upside down…forty years later.
I am sure there are many out there who had a Pollyanna-like youth. Probably never sipped a beer, smoked a cigarette or certainly never stole a lipstick from Walgreens. And that’s great! Very honorable and should, no doubt, be commended. But guess what…most of us do not have perfectly innocent pasts. Some of us got caught and some of us didn’t. Some of us did big things; some of us had smaller offenses. And some of us may have been caught up in the legal system for reasons much outside of our own control.
There is story behind every CCAP page, every arrest, every conviction, every accusation…there are factors that no one will ever know by reading a few lines in a police report. How is it that we can expect people to improve upon their lives, pull themselves out of a bad situation and become contributing citizens if they are never allowed to move on? Why should every crime carry a social and economic life sentence?
Not only do we have CCAP out there for everyone to comb through and make decisions based upon its limited information; but we also now have investigative news teams whom are intent on harassing people trying to make an honest living and move beyond their indiscretions.
When I first read these stories, I so wanted to start looking up the names of reporters, editors and staff – surely they are not all free of past poor choices. But that would make me as tactless as them. I couldn’t sleep at night when I know full well the harm that could cause.
. The pain of that information being out there is very real. The pain of not being able to share the REAL story with each person who sees it is even more real.
Lately I have been considering one day running for a local political seat. It is a goal I have always dreamed about and something at which I could possibly thrive. But a single accusation years ago may very well permanently stand in the way of pursuing that dream. I cannot tell you how demoralizing (at best) that realization truly is.
I think we always need to remember to press pause before we go into an automatic judgment mode. We need to think before we react to stories we hear or tidbits we read. Because the person we are judging may be much like someone we love, know, care about…maybe even not too different than ourselves. And perhaps we can use a little more compassion and empathy instead of instant blame and persecution. Just a thought.