Thursday, December 13, 2007

and now, for the depressing post of the week...

I read two things this week that made me sad.

The first one was a reminder on a women engineers' mailing list, that December 6th was the anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre. What massacre, you ask? I'd never heard of it, so I checked on Wikipedia:

The École Polytechnique Massacre, also known as the Montreal Massacre, occurred on December 6, 1989 at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Twenty-five year-old Marc Lépine, armed with a legally obtained semi-automatic rifle and a hunting knife, shot twenty-eight people, killing fourteen (all of them women) and injuring the other fourteen before killing himself. He began his attack by entering a classroom at the university, where he separated the male and female students. After claiming that he was "fighting feminism", he shot all nine women in the room, killing six. He then moved through corridors, the cafeteria, and another classroom, specifically targetting women to shoot. He killed fourteen women and injured four men and ten women in just under twenty minutes before turning the gun on himself.

I had to look twice at that date. 1989 is the same year as the Loma Prieta quake, so I would have been in sixth grade, and I definitely would have been reading the news by then. How did I not hear about this before? Maybe the US news media doesn't care about Canada? And, how, in North America in the late 20th century, does someone grow up hating women? Ugh.

The second item was an article in the NYTimes, sent to me by a friend who is a lawyer in New York City. It seems that for about a year now, the elevators at the Bronx Family Court have been so bad that people wait for hours outside the courthouse, in lines that go all the way down the block:

In some cases, warrants have even been issued for people who are downstairs waiting for an elevator; judges know only that they are not in the courtroom, said Bill Nicholas, the assistant attorney in charge of the Legal Aid Society’s office at the court.

The judges have less trouble getting upstairs because they use a bank of elevators reserved for court personnel. The public is not allowed on those, and may not use the stairs because of security concerns. Among them, there are no cameras in the stairwells, and the narrow stairwells are impractical for small children or people pushing strollers. So they must wait.

I usually hate personal stories from random people in news articles (abuse of ad hominem!), but this one kind of broke my heart:

Bernard Wilkerson, a construction flagger for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said his custody and child support case against his wife had been dismissed three times because each time he was delayed in line and missed a hearing. Each time he had to petition again to restart the case.

Now he carries the court clerk’s number with him, so he can phone in when he is downstairs. Even with the steady rain beating down on his coat, he said this morning wasn’t that bad.

He was standing only 20 yards from the entrance of the building. Even with the long line inside, he would probably be upstairs in about an hour, certainly less than two. The thought cheered him.

“Sometimes I arrive here and I am standing outside Law and Government High School,” he said, referring to the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice several hundred yards away.

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