Thursday, August 18, 2011

Update – Bahrami Pardons Attacker and Re-Scheduled Acid Eye Blinding Cancelled

If you have been keeping up with my blogs then you are aware I have been following the story of Ameneh Bahrami.  She is a young Iranian woman who was attacked by an ex-lover with acid permanently blinding her and disfiguring her face.  He was sentenced to 10-12 years in prison and under the Islamic practice of quesas, Bahrami chose to exercise her right to blind him in return.  You can visit my previous blogs, the first written May 16, 2011 to get the full story and my first update comprising of a letter written by Bahremi’s sister defending the right to exercise quesas amongst public outrage which I wrote on June 15, 2011. 
May 14, 2011 was the original date Bahrami was to carry out the blinding sentence, however, the Irani government postponed it due to the large controversy the incident was creating both locally in Iran and worldwide.  The sentencing was postponed to July 31, 2011.  With an eye specialist and judiciary representative present, the acid eye blinding was set to proceed and Bahrami's attacker seemed fated to meet his doom.   On that day as time stood still and the world watched, some in awe of a modern day eye for an eye punishment and some in disgust at the barbaric nature of the sentence, something in Bahrami changed.  In a last minute decision as her attacker sat his knees crying, she pardoned the man who altered her life forever.  There would be no blinding. 
                                                              Majid Movahedi - Bahremi's Attacker
Bahrami said she decided to pardon him for multiple reasons.  Mainly that the Quran gives quesas as an option and a right of the victim, yet also explicitly states that pardoning ones enemy is a greater more righteous resolution . Bahrami also believes that as much as it was her personal right to carry out the sentence it is also her personal right to choose not to.  She also cites the publicity she has gained throughout the entire ordeal as a deciding factor in the pardon.  Many civil rights groups worldwide have openly condemned Iran for allowing the punishment and have called the quesas cruel and inhumane. 
After almost a decade long battle against her ex-lover, her country, her own happiness, her moral values, her religion and her community I can’t help but smile a little for Bahrami.   The power to forgive is an amazing instrument and no doubt not an easy decision to arrive at.  Her very public struggle with her appearance, her family and her own inner battle between good and evil must have taken her on an emotional rollercoaster unlike any the majority of the world’s population could understand.  I’ve read numerous articles about this case and I know Bahrami was most concerned with making a public statement. A statement against the male dominated attitudes in Iran and other nations and she wanted to make her attacker an example.  She believed it would protect women.  Even though the acid blinding did not and will not take place, I don’t think she failed in setting a poignant example.  Had it not been for her decision this blinding would have happened.  After all of her struggles,  she, a middle aged, Iranian, female,  held all the power literally in her hands. That has not and will not go unnoticed by the male dominated population of Iran or the world for that matter.
I’ve often thought of this case and wondered what I would do given the same options.  If you had the power to inflict revenge on someone would you do it? If you had the power to inflict revenge on someone who hurt your child would you do it? Even if your religion allowed it, would revenge set free your mind, body, spirit and soul? Or is there a greater power in mercy and forgiveness? Imagine if you will the relief of fighting a 7-year long legal battle and emerging on top, you now have your attacker strapped on a table below you, you’re holding an acid filled dropper in your hands 3 inches from their face, their body trembles and you feel the fear in them.  A familiar fear. It is the fear you yourself felt the day they attacked you all those years ago.  In that moment is it revenge that will release the inner turmoil you’ve felt for so long? Are you enraged or do you pity them?  What a strong and merciful person that can  look them in the eyes as they tremble in fear and be able… turn around….and walk away.   Perhaps that is a greater way to be truly set free. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Miami to be Sentanced - Death Penalty Looms

With professional sports running rampant with steroid use, lock outs and disputes over million dollar contracts, sports lovers have always been able to retreat from that tainted world to a much more innocent one, that being the world of College Sports.  Young players with nothing but hopes and dreams play their hearts out governed by rules established by the NCAA to keep the game wholesome and legit.   But on occasion rules get broken, scandals emerge and the NCAA has to put the smack down on some unsuspecting 17 year olds who didn’t see it coming.
Examples of this can be noted with the SMU elaborate pay for play scandal and the 2003 Baylor scandal that involved a murder being used to attempt to cover up NCAA infractions.  In both cases the NCAA came and swung its gavel and swung it hard.  SMU received the first NCAA death penalty when a slush fund set up by boosters was discovered which resulted in the program completely shutting down for a year.  The consequence was so severe that the SMU athletics voluntarily shut down the second year cause they could not regroup. Fifteen years later the program still has not fully recovered.   Baylor received a partial death penalty in 2003 and was not allowed to participate in non-conference action costing the school millions and also resulting in reduced scholarship and recruiting funds as well as  a “show cause” system that basically barred the head coach Dave Bliss from working in the industry for about 10-years. 
Today talks of the NCAA Death Penalty arose when a former University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro brought forth self-incriminating allegations that he immersed himself in U of Miami culture and provided improper benefits to the Miami football team beginning in the 2001-2002 season.  Shapiro has given information to the NCAA and states that the information is" going to be so detailed and to the truth that it will be impossible for any former players or current players to go around it.” He alleges that staff members as well as players were involved and that he shelled out thousands on alcohol, dancers and parties.   Among other things he alleges he was given benefits such as running out of the tunnel with the players in exchange for the benefits he provided.  To him he felt included, like a father figure to the players.

Many are asking why believe Shapiro. He is a convicted felon and has been sentenced to 20-years in prison for running a Ponzi scheme.  Perhaps he is only looking for more attention? Perhaps, but the University of Miami is no stranger to NCAA violations.  Just 6 years ago they were in trouble for Pell Grant violations.  I think that Shapiro’s felony is not a hands down defense for Miami and that it should definitely go to the weight of his character and credibility but Miami has its own issues in those departments.  If the NCAA chooses to use the Death Penalty against Miami it will be a devastating hit.  Athletic recruitments, student enrollment, alumni donations and the caliber of incoming faculty will all suffer a blow.  It could, as it did SMU, totally wipe out the prestige and reputation that a star power school like Miami has. 

True or not I hate stories like this in college sports.  In an era where professional athletics has become so tainted it’s nice to just enjoy the innocence of “the game”.  The upcoming weeks will bring light to Shapiro and the truth of his allegations.  He promises that he will be “the tsunami” that wipes out the program and hopes going forward the effects of his revelations will help to procure better compliance and procedures at Miami.  Nonetheless I don’t see him winning any Mr. Congeniality awards in the near future.  Good Luck’s game time.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Number 43

“You’ll never make it Donnie” he heard from Philadelphia Phillies Manager Gene Mauch each inning as he walked to the mound.  He’s only 3 outs away from pitching the first no hitter in Astros/Colt 45 franchise history. It’s a cardinal rule in baseball that you don’t acknowledge a no-hitter for fear of jinxing it, but don’t think for a second no one knew it was happening.  Colt 45 catcher John Bateman later reported that he was looking at the scoreboard and shuttering, “A no hitter in the major leagues and I’m catching” was going through his mind the whole game he later told a radio anchor.  I listen to that game on an old CBS radio recording my family has frequently. I feel the chills when the last out is made and I smile widely hearing his thick Massachusetts accent during the post-game interview.  I’ve heard the game 1,000 times.  I can almost recite it.  It was the probably the proudest day my grandfather ever had.  When he passed three years ago I remember all the people who called, ex ball players, current ball players, hundreds of people he’d met along his road through life and many fans he’d never met.  It always makes me smile because I know how much he loved baseball. 

But in all actuality, that man was a stranger to me.  I never identified my grandfather with a baseball player.  I never knew him to be one.  My grandfather retired from major league baseball after 9 years with various teams fourteen years before I was ever born.   While I loved re-living his baseball days with him and hearing all about Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax none of it seemed real. It was like a magical story.  I still from time to time get asked about my last name by strangers and it’s neat to hear then tell me stories about my grandfather but none of that has ever been very important to me.  The guy I knew wasn’t an athlete. He was a grumpy old guy who was nonjudgmental, outspoken and had a temper if he was ever told no, but quite frankly, with all that and even without all the baseball, he was one of the best men to ever walk this earth. 
From the day I was born my Grampy, as I called him, was one of the closest people to me in the world.  As a child my natural obsession with him began because he gave me anything I wanted, anytime I wanted it. Candy, money, ice cream, toys.  I spent every weekend with him and my Nana.  He would grill hot dogs and the thickest steaks you’ve ever seen.  It was a child’s paradise.  As I got older and began to unravel the evils of the world and began to understand the word “character” I discovered there was so much more to him.  Baseball players didn’t make millions of dollars in the 60’s so I watched my grandfather work.  He was a hard worker. A provider. A true patriarch.  There was nothing that he would not do for his family.  He was a man of morals and good character.  He owned service stations and a successful carpet business. When he decided to get out of the carpet business as he was aging, he sold his company to his sales clerk for $1.  That was the man I knew.  Never motivated by money nor greedy or ill spirited. Just an honest hard working person.  I am not sure they make men like that anymore…men that truly take care of their families and work really hard without complaining.  At least I haven’t found one.
My family has a summer home on a lake in New Hampshire. I remember spending hours upon hours as a child and even teenager fishing with him.  I was afraid of worms and fish and I never stopped talking or banging the edge of the tin metal boat that undoubtedly sent fish fleeing. Yet I loved going fishing with him.  Looking back I now realize that we were never really fishing. What the heck were we gonna catch making all that noise. And he knew that.  He was simply spending time with me. 
I saw him 2 days before he died.  He was bedridden and uncomfortable.  My daughter was only one at the time and I remember she crawled up on the bed to be by his side and stared at him with a puzzled look on her face. How scary he must have looked to her. He was wrinkled from age and his skin was gray with death looming.  Somehow he mustered a smile at her.  Something no one had seen in weeks.  He slowly lifted his arm patted her rear end lovingly. She giggled.  My heart smiled though my face couldn’t.  He was in pain and in and out of sleep.  I’d never watched someone dying before.  To this day I am not sure how my Nana and my Aunt found the strength to care for him in those final days. He was stubborn as a mule and refused to die in a hospital so for weeks they were his 24 hour nurses.  It’s hard to watch someone who’s always been so strong resigned to being dependent on others.  However, even as he approached deaths door, unable to speak without suffering in pain, he offered me reassurance.  That day as I sat by his bedside feeling helpless and afraid for him, he began talking in his sleep…talking to people who had long been dead.  It was as though he was seeing them.  I’ve never felt quite the same way about heaven after that. Seems less mythical and much more tangible to me now.    
I knew when I left that day I would never see him again but until today I have never been able to cry about it.  Primarily because he would kill me if he thought I was shedding tears for him or for anyone else for that matter and secondly because I knew he was happy where he was going.  His road was ending but his life had been so full of magnificent things there was really not much to cry about.  Even at his memorial service I could not shed a tear, but for some reason sitting here now and writing about my love for him has tears streaming down my face for the first time since he passed almost four years ago.  They are tears filled with joy and pride that I get to share the story of this wonderful man with those who read my blog.  He always taught me to have high standards and he was right about that.  They may leave you isolated and sometimes lonely, but they will never leave you unhappy.  They say that Jesus is the first person you’ll see when you get to heaven.  I hope that standing right beside him will be my grandfather with a fishing pole and a bag of fake purple worms.

I don’t tend to write personal blogs, but I’m very happy to share this one.