Welcome to National ‘Security’ Crime Victims’ Rights Week

By: Lee Kent Hempfling

Once again, National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is upon us (April 13 – April 19, 2008). In his annual proclamation granting the week such standing, President George W. Bush stated, “My Administration is committed to providing services and resources for victims of crime so that they can find justice, hope, and healing in their lives.” His statement then proceeded to define what victims he is talking about, “…to expand the National Sex Offender Registry, increase Federal penalties for crimes against children, and protect our children while on the Internet…” His proclamation recognized, “the advocates, counselors, and others who assist victims in their time of need, and the law enforcement personnel who work to bring offenders to justice.”

Last year, I wrote a piece entitled, “National Crime Victims’ Rights Week” and published it on April 17, 2007 for the April 22-28, 2007 commerative week. I opened that piece with this, “As we begin the 27th observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 22-28, 2007, without equal protection for victims as guaranteed by our Constitution, it is a good time to pause, and a fitting time to reflect on what that fundamental right means. The Department of Justice says: “This year’s theme “Victims’ Rights: Every Victim. Every Time.” embodies the work of the individuals, networks and partnerships to forge a national commitment to help victims rebuild their lives.” I wonder about any theme where victims might actually enjoy justice: every victim, every time. Ever since 1868 the right to equal protection has been guaranteed in our Bill of Rights as the 14th Amendment, Section 1. ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.’”

This year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week seems to be themed, “Justice for Victims, Justice for All.” Excuse me? In just one year we have moved from, “Every Victim. Every Time,” to “Justice for Victims, Justice for All,” but have we? Has a victim received justice when the victim does not know it? Have civil rights been restored if the victim does not know it? Has a witness who was scorned for political gain been given justice if nothing has publicly exonerated him? Isn’t a victim who has not received justice still a victim? Isn’t the person or persons responsible for keeping that person a victim, just as guilty as the original perpetrator, regardless of their motives? Doesn’t the Constitution protect individual civil rights?

In last year’s piece I stated, “When the scales of justice are balanced, the victim is no longer the victim. The victim becomes the vindicated and it is supposed to be that the perpetrator becomes the incarcerated. Tilt that toward the incarcerated and they’ll be back for another dose real soon. Tilt that back to equal and the victim’s rights week the Department of Justice wants to celebrate by patting themselves on the back for pretending to care about victims will be all smoke and mirrors and I’ll change my mind about the ‘who can you trust’ thing.”

This year, I once again wonder: why are perpetrators keeping their jobs and remaining free, while justice is not served for the victim? Why are politicians with diverted loyalties permitted to keep pretending? Why is my country suffering at the hands of deeds unknown to most? Why haven’t zealous prosecutors, prosecuted? Who can be trusted? Who can’t? Why is a great man demonized for political gain when he has served his country in the highest honor?

Responding to the New York Times, “Robert H. Bork Jr., a corporate communications specialist,” and the spokesman for Alberto R. Gonzales stated, “Mr. Gonzales ‘looks forward to the conclusion of the department’s inquiries and getting on with his life.’” So do I. It would be a nice thing, after all these years. People have a right to know the truth. The former great Attorney General has a right to have his name cleared. Our country needs it. Our country needs it now. This week. Not after the election. This week, where some frame of symbolism still matters.

On February 7, 2008, John McCain told the gathering at this year’s CPAC: “I know in this country our liberty will not be seized in a political revolution or by a totalitarian government. But, rather, as Burke warned, it can be ‘nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts.’ I am alert to that risk and will defend against it, and take comfort from the knowledge that I will be encouraged in that defense by my fellow conservatives.”

On March 27th of this year Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey spoke at The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco. In part, he stated, “In the midst of San Francisco’s Graft Prosecutions, when this city’s effort to combat corruption seemed hopeless, President Theodore Roosevelt sent a lengthy letter to the civic leaders who were championing the anti-corruption cause. The letter concludes with this rousing admonition: ‘Do not be discouraged; do not flinch. You are in a fight for plain decency, for the plain democracy of the plain people, who believe in honesty and in fair dealing as between man and man. Do not become disheartened. Keep up the fight.’ This city and our country have come a long way since the turn of the last century. We have a system of representative democracy that, despite its flaws, remains a model to countries that aspire to be democracies and countries undergoing the pangs of being born as democracies the world over. Even now, however – especially now – we should keep up the fight against public corruption, at home and abroad. And I am here to tell you, we will.”

I know there are many who are not discouraged and will never flinch. Being disheartened is not about self. It is about country. The AG says he will. But when?

As National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is upon us once again, for the sixth time: will “Justice for Victims, Justice for All,” and “Every Victim. Every Time,” be nothing but a marketing ploy? Prove that wrong, Judge Mukasey, prove that wrong. For the good of our union, prove that wrong!

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