GUEST OPINION: The Mirkarimi case -- is this justice?

The media madness has overwhelmed the question of justice. Photo by Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal

I appreciate that everyone is doing his or her best to dialogue on the very complicated, nuanced and difficult issue of domestic violence in a context where the press and politicians are doing their best to use the issue for their own agenda and making it a very polarizing issue in the media.

I know that many of us confront this issue at work, and  most encounter it in our own personal lives, so it is a very emotionally charged issue.  My heart goes out to Eliana Lopez, their son Theo, and yes, Ross.  As a practicing Buddhist, I find that people are often unwilling to forgive others, like Ross, because they are unwilling to forgive themselves for their own challenging impulses. 

We live in an emotionally and physically violent world, and demonizing Ross only externalizes the story, externalizes our own pain, denies our own impulses.  Anyone who thinks that he or she is perfect or above this seriously needs a mirror.  Bringing mindfulness to that is all that we can do and hope that we can have compassion for ourselves.  Truly, our inability to have compassion for him only exposes our inability to have compassion for ourselves.

Myrna Melgar, a survivor of domestic violence, wrote a very thoughtful piece for the SF Bay Guardian on restorative justice as an alternative to the criminal justice response to domestic violence, and if you get a chance, take a moment to read it.

For me, the main question she poses is:   "How did it come to be that a system that was intended to empower women has evolved into a system that disempowers them so completely?"  In short, when Ross grabbed her arm, it became a media/political frenzy that destroyed Eliana's life.  Myrna posits that the increased criminalization on low-level, first offenses of domestic violence on this one immigrant woman, Eliana Lopez, meant that a long list of mostly men spent the next few months making decisions on her behalf without her input as she was treated as incompetent to make decisions.

Eliana never had a chance ever to find justice, to regain her power,  and Ross never really had the opportunity to take 100 percent responsibility for his actions, which is the goal of restorative justice.  For Ross to take 100 percent responsibility means not defending, not explaining, not evading.  Simply taking responsibility.  I haven't seen Ross do this -- but to be fair, he never had a chance.

I am a survivor of domestic violence as a child, and it has been painful to me to observe people using a family's pain for their own political agendas and missing this opportunity to do things differently, There could have been a path where the powers that be could have acted with integrity towards this family, our city, and to all the survivors of domestic violence.  Instead, the whole situation was manipulated from beginning to end.

Honestly, no "side" has been perfect.  Those that are loyal to Ross seem unwilling to hear anything beyond how people are out to "get" him, and those that are against him, well, most of the resources against Ross are from a "side" that has all the social capital, resources, media,  and political power at their disposal which leaves me frustrated with those who are supposedly holding him accountable. 

It's a disservice to survivors of domestic violence to be used a political pawns, and it's a disservice to survivors of domestic violence for the media and governmental powers to be misused like this. 

As it relates to Ross being sheriff, it's clear that the system for accountability has also broken down and no one trusts what is happening in the courts. And as one observer has written, “Are we considering the public punishment that has already been heaped on both Ross and Eliana? Was Mirkarimi’s act so vile that we don’t allow him a chance to attend domestic violence treatment and redeem himself before ruining his life?  I’m not defending domestic violence in any way, shape or form, but I do believe this situation has been badly politicized.”

It's unfortunate.  It leaves me with little hope that justice will be served. I have long been a proponent of restorative justice, and now more than ever in my life, I see the power of taking full responsibility for my actions, for our actions.  I’m so sorry the road to healing and restoration was not taken in this case.


Gabriel Haaland is a survivor of domestic violence, and a queer, transfeminist man who sits on the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee.


Yep, Lisa is back to shower us with quotes she find compelling, random articles she has stumbled upon, and now poems. I am sure the koch brothers will soon play a role in the RM conspiracy, too.

Posted by The Commish on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

Post that in a forum about the Trayvon Martin matter and see how far you get.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

That's the base justification of Gab's piece according to you?

This whole line of reasoning makes no sense. Whether our society is violent or not has nothing to do with the fact that Mirk used violence against his wife.

This whole thing reminds me of the posters of Sarah Palin posted around SF when that crazy guy attempted to kill former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. This was after Palin gave her big "blood libel" speech blaming the press for making her feel bad. The posters showed a picture of Palin talking while pointing to herself and saying "But really - I'M the victim." Essentially that's the argument being made on behalf of Mirkarimi - HE'S the REAL victim here. Not Eliana or his son or Ivory Madison - it's ROSS who's being victimized.


Posted by Troll II on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

They are individuals who can see through all the static, but as a society we are all the same and equally guilty of certain things when it works out for them. Another example of their opportunist rhetoric.

The toe tapping Larry Greg is a hypocrite for blowing dudes at airports, Bob Packwood was a pig because he was so bad at getting laid, male feminist Mirkarimi is one of us all because society is so fucked.

These are the things progressives think about when really baked.

Posted by guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 8:09 pm

who still adheres to these stale PC arguments. There are other places in the world with vibrant left parties which don't adhere to this bullshit victimization narrative - Canada's ND comes to mind.

I guess the point of my comment was to illustrate how fucked up it is when Sarah Palin and Ross Mirkarimi, and their defenders, are essentially making the same argument to shield themselves from the consequences of their actions. It shows the complete bankruptcy of the extremist wings of the Republican and Democratic parties.

We'll see how hard Gabs has to crack his whip to keep the three amigos on the Board in line. Mar is facing a very competitive race and I highly doubt he will want to become the progressive's sacrificial lamb when Ross will prolly be recalled anyway. Campos and Avalos are true believers in safe seats but they need one additional vote - I don't think Mar is stupid enough to provide it.

Posted by Troll II on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 8:30 pm

This is insane and nonsensical. I assume written by Lisa.

Posted by The Commish on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 7:13 pm

Ross Mirkarimi grabbed his wife.

Makes perfect sense.

This up there with Marcos saying that we all are righteous targets for Muslim terrorists because we live in the USA.

Posted by guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 7:49 pm

Thanks, all. This has been interesting to follow. Actually, I am in favor of Ross taking 100% responsibility for his actions. That said, this badly politicized process has done nothing to ensure that.

As for Ross being a victim, I don't know where you gleaned that from. I do agree with the poster who quoted Peter Gabel and Kahil on how we are externalizing onto Ross. That does not make him a victim, but rather a projection.

As for identity politics, transfeminism is not about identity politics. Men can be feminists, and non trans people can be transfeminists. I appreciate the opportunity to hear from all of you, and have learned a lot about your perspectives.

Posted by Gabriel Haaland on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 7:18 pm

Words have general use meanings and they have meanings for progressives.

You go from

"That said, this badly politicized process has done nothing to ensure that."

"As for Ross being a victim, I don't know where you gleaned that from."

You say the process is politicized, meaning to most people that you think its a political attack, but then say, "I never said Ross is a victim" which you said one line above.

No one outside of the self help progressive world view really knows what you are talking about when you say that we are all externalising something or another. That just makes no sense to most people whatsoever. No one here made Ross and his trophy wife lawyer up or partake in any of their silly antics. Most of the world has not devolved into whatever post-modern, psychiatric couch meaningless newspeak you use here.

Identity politics, like mentioning that yuppie trophy wife of Mirkarimi is a immigrant. Why is that important? Who cares but you life victims?

so out of touch with the people that you progressives claim to speak for.

Posted by guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 7:37 pm

"Honestly, no 'side' has been perfect. Those that are loyal to Ross seem unwilling to hear anything beyond how people are out to 'get' him, and those that are against him... "

It is seen as commendable for a journalist or commentator to give some attention to representing both sides of a question and you are clearly writing a piece which differs from 95% of the psycho crap in -- say -- the San Francisco Chronicle by questioning the motivation of many of the Mirkarimi ousterers, but those loyal to Ross aren't characterized by being unwilling to hear anything. Period.

There is, on the other hand, good reason to separate the topic of the sheriff's transgression with the topic of naked and anti-democratic power politics.

We can and must act to solve all problems.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 11:02 pm

I see three core issues to be worked out from this story: Ross Mirkarimi's future; the progressive community's path forward perhaps even without a newspaper and what can be done to draw a line under a destructive criminal justice system.

The politics of where things stand for Mirkarimi are depressing. He is now in the court of public opinion, and how the case was resolved combined with public expectations for those who hold public office do not work in this case. He's a suspended elected official with a plea arrangement that resolved three dv cases from the 12/31 incident. Yes, daily press coverage poisoned initial impressions of the jury pool but there was effective counsel. When jurors are presented two alternative explanations of the facts in jury instructions, they must choose the one that exonerates. A guilty verdict was no certainty. Every possible juror except perhaps a monk has been in a relationship where there was conflict, and would possibly be able to empathize with the core dynamics of this case. That's harder for defendants facing robbery, assault or DUIs to do. It would have been ugly and a fight but the rewards politically of going to trial and winning or even hung decisions meant a path for political survival. The tradeoff is that guilty verdicts would have come with the certain end to the political career, and the liability of more punishment. However, to survive now requires miracles, random generous acts from narrow political actors who are not given to that. Would be allies must also risk their own families' futures. Brighter minds have to come up with a better Plan B.

There are many reasons, often good, why Mirkarimi supporters think this should be fought until David Chiu's gavel drops at the Board of Supervisors sometime this summer. There are two limiting factors in play that could be at work here. Progressives continue to suffer from being positioned to win the Mayor's office in 2010 only see that slip away. The more present factor is the future of the SFBG itself. It's been the sole progressive newspaper. In recent political history even David Binder credited the Guardian's endorsement for being worth up to 25,000 citywide votes. The concept of trying to do a critical or reform politics without a newspaper capable of public education is hard to conceive of without a messianic grade candidate stock. So in the wake of losing the Mayor's office, witnessing the Willie Brown restoration, reading those salt in the wound encyclicals now published weekly in the SF Chronicle and the uncertain future of this paper, the desire to hold onto what remains of the familiar is overwhelming. Accepting such loss and embracing uncertainty is hard. It's also the only viable path forward.

The Mirkarimi case, the untold experiences of other families whose "incidents" were processed through specialized domestic violence courts, is a cause future progressive politicians need the courage to take up. Families that need interventions deserve a different model of justice that can end abusive patterns, do not mirror a cruel society, and correct problems so challenged families have the shot at a future together.

In short, progressives have to let the past go and not fear the new -- as uncertain as that now is.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2012 @ 2:24 am

it would be nice if the people who are all in the air about Mirkarimi who bruised his wife's arm would be as upset and interested in the 8 people whose lives were destroyed by PG&E's negligence. Funny, but the only person at PG&E to suffer got a $35 million severance pay to take the fall. People, get your priorities in order. Demand a prosecuction of PG&E executives for manslaughter at the very least. Also, while you are worried about Mirkarimi we are on the edge of destruction of the pacific due to Fukushima and the gulf has already been destroyed by the BP oil spill. But of course, the Mikarimi thing is so much more important than our survival as a species.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

"As a practicing Buddhist, I find that people are often unwilling to forgive others, like Ross, because they are unwilling to forgive themselves for their own challenging impulses."

I started to read this opinion piece, then came to this sentence (above) and couldn't continue. The introductory phrase makes no sense in relation to the rest of the sentence. How does being a practicing Buddhist cause him to find that people are often unwilling to forgive others, etc.? Couldn't a practicing Hindu or Catholic or Muslim or Baptist "find" the exact same thing?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2012 @ 9:20 pm

I for one might find it easier to begin to forgive Ross Mirkarimi if he'd stop lying in new and creative ways.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2012 @ 1:30 pm

Call Mayor Lee and ask him to put an end to this non-sense! I want my Sheriff back!!!

Posted by Erika McDonald on May. 01, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

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