I wanted to write a blog on an imam who was killed in Detroit, Michigan on October 28, 2009. In trying to find the best way to present the situation, I felt it necessary to first step back and address an important issue that needs to be addressed before this case is discussed.
Prejudice always obscures the truth.
One of my favorite movies is 12 Angry Men. One of my favorite books is Lord of the Flies by William Golding, not to be confused with Lord of the Rings.
Both the movie and the book show the dangers of group thinking and how we humans can easily be swayed to follow a leader. In Lord of the Flies, the most corrupt voice of the group seduces the boys one by one from their values and reason to the savage survivalism of primeval hunters.
But I want to focus on 12 Angry Men because, in this group, the voice of conscience wins. The movie reflects the voices of various groups. Henry Fonda, who plays juror #8, reflects the voice of conscience which is always a lone voice that seeks to lift society to a higher understanding. If this voice - which in my opinion is not the silent majority - does not speak, one can expect the group mentality to take hold and lead to human behaviors that are sadistic at worst, as in the book Lord of Flies.
The 1957 film takes us into the thoughts and minds of a diverse group of twelve jurors. In the movie, the 12 jurors are trying to reach a guilty or not-guilty verdict after hearing the 'facts' against a Hispanic boy accused of killing his father. The boy in question has a criminal past and has a public defender who could care less about the fate of the boy. A guilty verdict could result in the boy’s death.
I felt the movie was great in that it shows that the American judicial system with its purported sense of infallibility, fairness and lack of bias has flaws like every system if not held accountable to the values and ideals that brought it about. In fact, it is no different than religion: If voices of conscience do not speak to the group and hold the group accountable to their values and ideals, then the worst of human behaviors can emerge.
As in every group, there are men and women here who have deep-seated personal prejudices, perceptual biases and weaknesses; there is indifference, anger, personalities, unreliable judgments, cultural differences, ignorance and fears, and all these permutations threaten to taint their decision-making abilities, causing them to ignore their values, potentially leading to a miscarriage of justice. Worse, to taking a role in the suffering of others.
What I like about the film is that instead of it showing how sadistic humans are - or the bad side of human behavior - it shows a process of growth within the group as that voice of conscience--which is quiet yet independent--can overtime succeed in penetrating racist, ignorant and biased people, urging them to listen to their consciences and uphold their values.
I want to share a clip of a scene in this movie. At the end of this clip, the voice of conscience, juror #8, reminds the group of the values of the American justice system.
I leave you to reflect on this clip as I prepare to address an important human issue which requires us to listen, seek to understand and speak up and demand the values that we cherish are upheld in Detroit, Michigan.