Friday, December 03, 2010

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Being self employed for, oh I guess the last 20 years or so has created a kind of barrier between me and the accumulated processes and machinations of the real labor world out there.  I have not had to deal with drug testing, background checks, or any of the other mandatory investigations most folks now take for granted.  Recently however I was faced with this reality.

I was approached by a nice woman who runs an out of school program for kids who don't handle the classroom environment so well.  My duties would be as a bike shop guy helping the kids develop skill sets handling tools, projects, etc with bikes as their focus.  It was to be a paid position and take up about 3 hours of my week.  Okay fine.  I was interested.  Not for the money so much as just to help out.

I received an email from her.  In it she insinuated my position was a lock and "oh, by the way, we need to know if you have had a background check recently and been fingerprinted."  This was mentioned as if it was no big thing, business as usual. 

I pondered her email.  The longer I sat there and thought about it, the angrier I became.  The notion that I have to prove I am of good enough character to work with children rubbed me the wrong way.   In a country that supposedly champions the idea of presumed innocence, background checks, drug tests, and fingerprinting for no legal reason makes this claim look rather silly and hypocritical.  And what is worse, the stigma attached to refusing to comply with these requests gives the impression one has something to hide.  We should change the slogan to "Guilty until proven innocent".

Some of us still believe in the idea that innocent until proven guilty is an important enough ideal that refusal to comply is not because we have something to hide, but that we just object to having to prove our innocence without having been charged with anything.  

Some ideals are worth taking a stand for.  Refusing to take drug tests and yielding my past to some investigators are two I feel strongly about.  So I emailed her back.  I filled her in on the drug stupidity that landed me on the wrong side of the law.  But then I told her I would not give her any information that would kick the background check into motion.  It was the principle, not what they might find out.  I flat out do not care if anyone knows about my few minor brushes with the law.  I was stupid when I was young.  I got caught being stupid.  I paid the price passed down from the bench and then moved on with my life.  Christ, it's been almost 30 years now.

And now I am sure she and whoever she answers to are wondering, "What does he have to hide?"  And you know what?  I could not care less what anyone thinks by my refusal.  I know why I did it.  I know and admitted what I did years ago.  If that is not enough, well, find someone else.

I often make fun of those folks who would have us return to the days of Ozzie and Harriet.  I know that the world has become a more dangerous and complex place.  But in my opinion, half of our problems stem from a mass paranoia that has ballooned out of control.   As a culture we now seem to assume the worst in people before we assume the best.  This may be the new reality, but it does not mean I have to cave to it.  I always try my best to give everyone I meet a fair shot before I cast them out of my life.  It's too bad our nation, our world has decided to take a different course.



Kulkuri said...

All of what you said is true, but it only applies to those on the lower end of the scale. You have to piss in a cup to be a greeter at Wal-Mart, but not if you are a Senator or Rep. Those that make the laws don't have to follow them. For curiosity's sake you should check to see how many elected officials have to piss in a cup or submit to other checks.

The days of Ozzie and Harriet,Leave It To Beaver, Father Knows Best, none of that ever existed except on TV. I like to think back to the 60s when if you got pissed at your job, quit and go down the street and find another job without having to piss in a cup. It was, can you do the job, if so you're hired.

Most people when they think about the 60s think Hippies. The Hippies were mostly rich kids pretending to be poor. I didn't have to pretend, I had lived it so being a Hippie didn't appeal to me. The free love yes, but never got any of that.

David Barber said...

Mike, it's just as bad in this country. We're not allowed to take photo's or video our kids in their nativity plays. Get caught with a camera and it's like you're almost accused of being a peadophile!!! It's all got out of hand. It's a pity they don't do the same in governments where politicians should have to prove that they are not raging lunatics with not a clue about running a country where their main focus should be on its people!!!

Have a great weekend, Mike.

muddleglum said...

For the record, I don't have a record, but feel the same as you do—you don't have to bring up your brushes with the law.

We used to foster children. No more. Same reason, but not quite the one you're thinking of. I could write a small book... but the main problem is that we don't want to take responsibility.

You have the police take that background check (they have plenty of extra time) and fingerprints. Now the lady is safe. She doesn't have to think about what kind of man you really are, just that you passed a test. If you strangle the kid, she doesn't have to take responsibility. She can't be sued.

We took a look at the agreement the foster parent agency wanted us to sign—we were responsible for the way the child turned out, but we were not allowed to discipline him. That way, no matter what, the agency was not responsible for anything. They can't be sued.

It ain't the laws, it's the lawyer weasle-out-of-responsibility mentality. Yeah, they make the laws, but the mentality came first.

You might be able to refine my thought better.

BTW, "Ozzie and Harriet" should be "Father Knows Best." Ozzie Nelson was not a typical dad.

Randal Graves said...


muddleglum said...

Oops! Forgot to add:

These thoughts are my personal thoughts and not to be construed to be those of my company, my family, my church, my state, or my dog.

Furthermore, these thoughts are copyrighted 2010 and any two words you string together that duplicates mine is liable to prosecuted for copyright violations.

Moreover, all references to any agencies, agents, person, place or thing in my comments are imaginary and any resemblances to any living, dead, or unborn is coincidental.

Lastly, this is not a sarcastic aside about laws, lawyers, politicians, political parties, or insurance companies.

Demeur said...

I agree with you 100%.
There in lies the problem just how do you weed out the Aqualungs before they get to our children?
Had a guy that worked for me for about a year and a half before his record caught up to him and I had to let him go. And I'll just say that it wasn't drugs either.

El Cerdo Ignatius said...

But in my opinion, half of our problems stem from a mass paranoia that has ballooned out of control.

And the fault lies entirely with the lawyers. Shakespeare was right.

All of these "background checks", etc. are not meant to keep the children safe, any more than having the TSA grope children and nuns at the airports is meant to keep us safe. It's meant to put on a show. It covers the ass of the party who has hired an employee or a volunteer, in the unlikely event something unfortunate happens later.

Another way of describing this is the word you used - paranoia.

Sorry it didn't work out, Mike, but darn good for you for telling them to stick their background check up their------ sorry. Shutting up now.