Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Contradiction and Passion

One of the many fears that all students have is sitting in the front of the class, where the chances of the teacher calling on you will be high. However, for this summer college course, I believe that sitting in the front is very advantageous in clearly hearing the lectures and allowing for the professor to see you. For this reason, before class started, I decided to sit in the second row in the middle of the lecture hall. Now that all the introductions are out of the way, the course has officially begun. Since our homework last night was to read passages from the New Testaments, Professor Kramnicks's lecture thoroughly described justice in Christian thought in terms of the Old and New Testaments. While he was providing background information on both texts, he revealed to us the many contradictions between the two.

The Old Testament asserts that there is a political relationship between man and God and a just person is one who obeys God's law. The New Testament, however, portrays God as less of a political figure and states that man should establish a caring and communal relationship between one another to maintain a lateral, or loving, relationship with God. It was so interesting that despite these differences, the Bible's themes are still very powerful and its varying conceptions continue to shape the modern political world. With our minds filled with an hour and a half's worth of lecture, we diverted to our discussion groups.

Our T.A. Nolan began the discussion by introducing the four different types of justice: formal (consistent and unbiased), retributive (punishment and deterrence), distributive (fair allocation of goods), and restorative (healing and reconciliation). To apply these concepts of justice with the New Testament, the students broke off into smaller groups of 5 and 6, were assigned specific passages, and answered questions regarding their central themes and political implications. Fortunately, everyone in my group all shared insightful ideas and I was happy to equally contribute to our discussion. I never would have thought that the Bible was such a political text with underlying judicious themes. After each group explained their answers and interpretations of their passage, we departed for lunch.

By 1:10 PM, I returned to the lecture hall for the first of four guest lectures, which was held by downtown Ithaca attorney Ray Schlather. The very first topic he discussed was the importance of the US Constitution and the government's role to uphold a citizen's rights to invoke the fourth and fifth amendments. Afterwards, he recounted three cases he tried during his career as an attorney, ranging from censorship to civil rights. Out of the three, the case that so powerful to me was the Epiphany case. A young, African American middle school girl was subjected to horrific racist comments, physical abuse, and death threats from four male, caucasian students. Surprisingly, the previously school board did virtually nothing to support Epiphany and enforce stricter punishment onto the boys. After legal action was taken by Mr. Schlather, all school board members were dismissed, the four boys were expelled, and Epiphany received one million dollars in reparations. Fortunately, retributive justice prevailed that day. Tears filled the corners of his eyes while telling this story, which showed me how dedicated he was to his occupation. 
Ray Schlather answering several questions after the lecture
Once the lecture ended, I was able to ask Mr. Schlather about how he determined what type of law he wanted to pursue. He graciously answered my question by explicating that I should discover what I care about, and then the decision will follow. Once I choose my field of law, I hope to be just as passionate about my work as Mr. Schlather. 

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