When 'sending a message' doesn't send intended one

June 1, 2014 

Why are people preoccupied with "sending a message"?

In February Willie Nell Lewis ran up a bill of less than $20 at the A&G Restaurant in Winter Haven. She and her daughter left without paying. Wille Nell was later arrested for skipping out on the check.

Those charges provoked a protest from Willie Nell's friends and fellow church members, who paraded outside the A&G Restaurant, holding up signs asking people not to dine in the eatery, which had the effrontery to have an elderly woman arrested.

The protest took time, organization, manpower -- all expensive.

"I just didn't understand why it had to go to all of this," Lewis was quoted as saying.

Lewis also said she hoped the protest sent a message to the community that she's not a criminal. Had she paid her bill, the protest would never have happened. No message would have been sent.

At Fort Bragg recently, Army Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair copped a plea. He agreed that he had "maltreated" a female officer.

What he had done, actually, was have sex with a female captain who served on his staff in Iraq and Afghanistan. The affair churned onward for three years, in two war zones and four countries.

I thought the Army gave medals for such assiduous behavior.

After several years of depositions and legal maneuvering, the case went to court. Judge Col. James Pohl said the military may have improperly pressed ahead with the trial to send a message about its determination to curb rape and other widespread misconduct.

The Army could have just issued a press release.

Sending messages this way reminds one of the Catch-22 observation that survives from the Vietnam war: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."

Morgan Stinemetz

Parrish

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