FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

An Open Letter to Venango County Court

My friend and his family are people of color, innocent, American, and just a family. They were accosted on an excursion, and I offer my character and expert witness to the court in which charges have been filed against the assailant of this hate crime. This is my testimony:

Your Honors, I’m writing today about the most troubling criminal charges filed against 61-year-old Mark R. Rauenswinter. On the evening of Sunday July 28tha family of four adults and five children went to the Rockland Township bike trail. Rauenswinter proceeded to ruin that experience for my friend and his family. He shouted profane slurs to disparage them based upon their skin color. He openly mocked the way he believed they prayed and told them he would bury them all in the river. Finally, when his abhorrent behavior did not repel the family, the visibly intoxicated man drove his golf cart to retrieve a .357 Taurus Magnum revolver. He returned, pointed it in the direction of the family, and fired two shots over their heads. He confesses that his motivation was to scare the family into leaving.

Terrorism: the use or threat of violence against civilians in the pursuit of political, religious, ideological or social objectives.

I am just a concerned citizen, aghast at the horror my friend and his family experienced. They were out for a pleasant family outing but made to fear for their lives. I will not speculate on the origins of Rauenswinter’s hate; there is no justification for his prejudice, and there can be no mistaking the condemnation that is required of the court. I am also a doctor of conflict management with two decades of experience working with and researching ethnic conflict and hate on four continents. I offer my recommendations motivated by truth and healing, both sorely needed in this case.

You have the discretion to decide how much consideration, if any, will be given to “hate crime factors.” I urge you to take the two shots directed at my friend and his family, as well as the derogatory slurs directed at their peaceful family gathering, most seriously. Please let me tell you about the victims and the damages inflicted in Rauenswinter’s act of race-based-terrorism.

Dr. Jamil Al Wekhian and I have known each other since 2012. We were in the same Ph.D. program studying International Conflict Management. I first worked with him when we presented together on efforts for building peace in contexts of ethnic conflict and intractable conflict. I write today, in part, because I (we) do not merely have opinions on what such a derogatory act represents, but because of expertise and years of serious review and evidence-based analysis of bigoted rhetoric and the psychological harms of terrorism.

At that conference, I presented on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a germinal project synthesizing truth, healing, and consequences for race-based violence. Pumla Gobobo-Madikizela’s (a psychologist) encounter with Eugene de Cock (“Prime Evil”) who commanded a death squad during apartheid, showcased another clear example of the tension between a need to heal and a need to punish. Reconciliation was not easy; seven years were added to the already long process before the commission could be completed. Keys in the process were truth and healing.

In the case before you today, Rauenswinter is absolutely unashamed and unapologetic in the video of the events I watched. He casually drinks his beer before driving off—he clearly does not care about drinking and driving, nor does he care about public access to public places by peaceable and wholesome families. His views and his behavior are absolutely outrageous; a clear message must be sent that this terrorism will not be tolerated in America.

The U.S. presents sacred values in things like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We codify into law principles of equality—E pluribus unum—from many one. This should insulate us all from the kind of dehumanizing lawlessness reflected in the grotesque decision to ‘scare them off.’ You must live up to your oath of office and vigorously denounce the un-American insinuation that minorities or foreign-born Americans or people of other faiths do not belong.

I am in the middle of my move to Ohio. Jamil could not be more inviting in his hospitality with an absolute willingness to open his home or offer a hand with any assistance he can offer—because he and his family are truly good people. They may well have already forgiven the act of hateful ignorance; Jamil is the kind of person who will fight injustice but is diligent in removing all anger from his own heart. I don’t think anyone will suggest this old man should serve some lengthy jail sentence, this is a call for correction, not for vengeance or revenge.

I hope the court acknowledges the magnitude of the offense. I have only just written another piece about the extremist shooting event last weekend in Gilroy California, when a 19-year-old white-supremacist killed three people including a 6-year old child, a teen girl, and wounded 15 others. All violence is dangerous, but these events of terror and xenophobia have an increased trauma-driven psychological impact. The children will never forget the gunshots, it strips their innocence away, and it degrades the conditions of community. When I have completed my move to Ohio and have friends visit, the court’s statement—on this case—will influence whether or not I will be willing to take guests to public places like the trails.

You are the guardians for our civil society. Do not accept a plea deal for “drunk and disorderly” while dismissing the other charges. That would be the legal equivalent of accepting that it was “just joking.” Take steps to help Mr. Rauenswinter get a handle on his clear substance use or abuse problem, as it is certainly a contributing factor. Take additional steps to restrict, at least temporarily, his access to firearms (hopefully they have already been surrendered). There is no place for arming a person who wants to use guns to endanger and terrify children in a civil society. Lastly, please direct him to one of the many resources which can address issues of hate and bias. The Kirwin Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University has been working to keep Charlottesville from happening in Ohio, and there are many other area programs as well. I know from personal experience teaching Introduction to Peace Studies in a maximum security prison in Georgia, education can soften hard hearts. Please take restorative steps, deliver us truth and healing, these attacks hurt us all—we are counting on you.

Sincerely,

Dr. Wim Laven

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
August 14, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Lights! Camera! Kill! Hollywood, the Pentagon and Imperial Ambitions.
Joseph Grosso
Bloody Chicken: Inside the American Poultry Industry During the Time of COVID
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: It Had to be You
H. Bruce Franklin
August 12-22, 1945: Washington Starts the Korean and Vietnam Wars
Pete Dolack
Business as Usual Equals Many Extra Deaths from Global Warming
Paul Street
Whispers in the Asylum (Seven Days in August)
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Predatory Capitalism and the Nuclear Threat in the Age of Trump
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
‘Magical Thinking’ has Always Guided the US Role in Afghanistan
Ramzy Baroud
The Politics of War: What is Israel’s Endgame in Lebanon and Syria?
Ron Jacobs
It’s a Sick Country
Eve Ottenberg
Trump’s Plan: Gut Social Security, Bankrupt the States
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s Fake News
Jonathan Cook
How the Guardian Betrayed Not Only Corbyn But the Last Vestiges of British Democracy
Joseph Natoli
What Trump and the Republican Party Teach Us
Robert Fisk
Can Lebanon be Saved?
Brian Cloughley
Will Biden be Less Belligerent Than Trump?
Kenn Orphan
We Do Not Live in the World of Before
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Compromise & the Status Quo
Andrew Bacevich
Biden Wins, Then What?
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
The Criminology of Global Warming
Michael Welton
Toppled Monuments and the Struggle For Symbolic Space
Prabir Purkayastha
Why 5G is the First Stage of a Tech War Between the U.S. and China
Daniel Beaumont
The Reign of Error
Adrian Treves – John Laundré
Science Does Not Support the Claims About Grizzly Hunting, Lethal Removal
David Rosen
A Moment of Social Crisis: Recalling the 1970s
Maximilian Werner
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf: Textual Manipulations in Anti-wolf Rhetoric
Pritha Chandra
Online Education and the Struggle over Disposable Time
Robert Koehler
Learning from the Hibakushas
Seth Sandronsky
Teaching in a Pandemic: an Interview With Mercedes K. Schneider
Dean Baker
Financing Drug Development: What the Pandemic Has Taught Us
Greta Anderson
Blaming Mexican Wolves for Livestock Kills
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Meaning of the Battle of Salamis
Mel Gurtov
The World Bank’s Poverty Illusion
Paul Gilk
The Great Question
Rev. Susan K. Williams Smith
Trump Doesn’t Want Law and Order
Martin Cherniack
Neo-conservatism: The Seductive Lure of Lying About History
Nicky Reid
Pick a Cold War, Any Cold War!
George Wuerthner
Zombie Legislation: the Latest Misguided Wildfire Bill
Lee Camp
The Execution of Elephants and Americans
Christopher Brauchli
I Read the News Today, Oh Boy…
Tony McKenna
The Truth About Prince Philip
Louis Proyect
MarxMail 2.0
Sidney Miralao
Get Military Recruiters Out of Our High Schools
Jon Hochschartner
Okra of Time
David Yearsley
Bringing Landscapes to Life: the Music of Johann Christian Bach
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail