By PJ Puryear, LR 32
Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton LLP
Today was Law Enforcement Day for Leadership Raleigh 32. The day included presentations by Paul Gessner, a former police officer, district attorney, and judge (and current counsel to the Sheriff’s Department), as well as by an undercover DEA agent. Then our class traveled to Central Prison for an amazing tour. For me, the day contained an array of emotions, from laughing about DEA busts, to the weight of drinking from the water fountain on Death Row. I’ve decided the best way to summarize is to say this:
Society is a fabric, woven by each of us
Our prescribed pattern is the rule of law, the golden rule, the norms that invisibly govern our standard for everyday living. For the most part, the fabric is sound. It cloaks us day in and day out, and allows us to live relatively peaceful, organized lives. There are exceptions, however. For instance, the edges of this fabric are torn and frayed; here, its weave does not hold. In response, we are required to give power to certain people to make the hard decisions about what is acceptable and what is not. People like Paul Gessner, who have walked the beat, watched their friends die in an effort to keep our fabric from further unraveling, made decisions about where to lay blame, about what price must be paid. Such decisions do not occur in a vacuum. Often there are winners and losers, and the story we hear can be one-sided.
Sometimes it is the thread itself that is bad
Like the thread of destructive drugs that runs rampantly through our community. It takes multiple organizations to try and remove it from the fabric that keeps us together. Their efforts are metrically impressive, but will likely never be enough to fully remove the thread from the weave. Addiction, wealth, poverty, and opportunity hold it steadily in place. Yet their efforts are not in vain. To the contrary, they are necessary to ensure our society is not torn apart by our human impulse to escape the cold that reality can sometimes bring.
Sometimes, that coldness is but a moment away
Most of us in Leadership Raleigh are wrapped snugly in a normal life. But not all are so lucky. For some, the difficulties of life can lead to a chain reaction that rips the cloak of freedom from off their shoulders. Just ask those at Central Prison. For Michael, all it took was idle hands, and suggestive friends. For William, all it took was a fight his wife, and a friend with an escape. For others, it may have been the lack of education, the lack of opportunity, the lack of a family upbringing. After all, “no child is bad from the beginning; they just imitate their atmosphere.” The edge of our fabric can be but a decision away, and the consequences can be dire. Concurrent sentences that will keep you in concrete walls for the rest of your life. Passing through the place I stood today, where men have died for their crimes.
Our experience begs several questions
What causes our fabric to fray? What causes some to cut it away, to try and rip it apart? To think that it does not extend to them? These are the tough questions we face, to which it seems there are no easy answers. It may be the problems are so woven into our fabric—or so a part of us—they cannot be removed. These imperfections, however, can and must be diminished. And that is the challenge today’s leaders must rise to meet.
Learn More About Leadership Raleigh
Applications for the 2016/17 program year are currently being accepted. Learn more at www.leadershipraleigh.org.