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Christopher Happ

Crime & Punishment

By Christopher C. Happ ©2004, all rights reserved

It has always fascinated me how, we are so willing to tear down, destroy, besmirch and humiliate; the highly successful in our society.  We seem to gain some morbid satisfaction from seeing the successful among us suffer.   We look upon it with the psycho-sexual thrill of an arsonist. Our latest target would seem to be Martha Stewart.

Martha had the drive and determination to open a catering business to satiate her love for cooking and entertaining. Catering, I might add is one of the most difficult businesses in which to be successful.   Then she wrote a book or two, then three, four and five; this a feat that most of us will only dream about. Then she gathered  these less than stellar beginnings and created a multi-million dollar enterprise, in less than fifteen years.  Unfortunately for her, the country is experiencing the aftermath of a recession caused in great measure by the actions of those who would choose to kill us. 

To add to this,  Enron and Worldcom, filed bankruptcy; which caused another ripple-effect on our economy.  Many jobs and pensions were lost.  There were allegations of impropriety at the highest levels of management; supposedly engineered to strengthen their own positions and finances, at the expense of the common man.  Indictments have been levied and trials will begin in the near future. 

I have no idea who is guilty at Enron and WorldCom; nor do I care. This fiasco severely affected our economy and destroyed many a family in the process. Those at fault should be punished. 

Since we feel slighted as a group by the poor economy; we take aim on the successful; because if they have what we do not; they must be guilty of something and perhaps some are. I really could  not care less if Martha’s broker heard that one of Imclone’s cancer drugs was not going to get FDA approval, and told her to dump her stock. That is what a broker is supposed to do!

But, Martha dumped her stock at the right time; while others may not have.  Martha was friends with Imclone; CEO, Sam Wachtel, further burgeoning suspicion. Martha has friends the world over and many in positions of power and prestige. I can hardly imagine that a woman who has dedicated her life to her dream and became a billionaire, could really be that concerned about a mere four thousand shares of any company stock. She was simply taking care of business as always.

It is said that she has been hounded because she lied about the sale. Can you imagine how someone so high-profile must watch every word, and action for fear of being maligned in the rags?   We know for sure that the FBI  ink expert lied on the stand, but we overlook this.   . 

This whole thing  is a case of class envy; pure and simple.  Now, many are  drooling over the prospect of Martha doing hard time.  A judge, much wiser than the general population chose to sentence Martha to five months at a female correctional facility, five months house arrest and two years probation, in addition to a $30,000 fine.  Most of this due to our medieval system of mandatory sentencing created by politicians to make it look like they are conquering crime. Mandatory sentencing ties the judges’ hands. 

Manys the envious pauper among us are calling this sentence a slap on the wrist.  They are thrilled that Martha will be in a cell, away from all things creative and beautiful.  They receive some sadistic orgasmic thrill; salivating and shivering with glee. 

As much as I think the judge’s sentence was reasonable, I cannot help but think about the humiliation Martha has endured over the last year, not to mention the 200 people who lost their jobs at Omnimedia.

The press is intoxicated with the idea that Martha will be assigned to a work detail at the correctional facility.  They mention this flippantly, again panting with  anticipation that she will have to do common labor.  Believe me, Martha knows more about hard work than ninety-nine percent of the population.  You do not start a catering business, write a book, or build an empire without hard work and lots of it.    

Had I been the judge, I may have simply had Martha donate one million dollars, as seed money for a foundation  to teach other women how to be successful in business.  What purpose is served by Martha being behind bars?  It only serves to feed our macabre jealousy and anger that, one of such humble beginnings has really arrived, and surpassed us exponentially.   A repast of sour grapes!

And all of this from people who only know her from her shows and books and most unfortunately from trash rags like the Star and Enquirer.  I am proud to say that I have met Martha, in the early days of her book career; and worked side-by-side with her for a period of a few days, when promoting her  book in Phoenix, Arizona; she was warm, cordial, creative and charming.  Her success is our success; if only we cast aside our pettiness.  I was a young chef then; this prior to opening my own catering business a few years later, inspired by Martha.

No one seems upset that Kobe Bryant just inked a seven year, $136,000,000 contract with the Lakers while under indictment for an alleged rape. In fact some sports fanatics have focused their venom on the accuser, in that case. There was great outrage when Clinton perjured himself and was impeached, many, saying that his private life was off-limits.  Bill received a $12,000,000 advance for his autobiography, “My Life:” which may better have been entitled, “My Lies.”

In Arizona, a police officer Dan Lovelace was just acquitted of murder.  He was called to a Walgreen’s drug store because a middle-class woman, wife and mother,  Dawn Rae Nelson was trying to pass a forged prescription for pain medication.  She was parked at the drive- through with her young child.  Lovelace parked his motorcycle in front of the car and walked to the driver’s side window to confront Nelson.  Nelson panicked and tried to drive off.  Lovelace was beside and behind the vehicle at this point. 

Lovelace shot her in the back from behind; knowing that a child was in the car.  He was charged with second-degree murder, but because he convinced the jury that he felt his life was in danger, he was acquitted.  Then he had the nerve to tell the press, “She would still be alive if she had gotten help for her drug problem.”

It shocks me that we can support a murderer, and rapist, but feel the need to mete out harsh punishment to Martha Stewart, who may have lied to investigators, while Clinton lied on the stand. 

I could go on and on about the flaws of mandatory sentencing and the fact that as many as 70 % of those in our penal system are in for drug related, non-violent  crimes, but I would rather you put yourself in Martha’s shoes and try to understand how it must feel to be maligned, and attacked daily because you are successful. 

After her sentencing, Martha spoke to the press from the courthouse steps.  She asked us to support her products and magazines, which she described as great.  They must be, because we bought millions of them.  I was struck with how eloquently she spoke after such venomous personal attacks.  Then she said with finger in air, “I’ll be back, I will be back.”

My Dear, you are already back.  In fact you never left.  Thank you for showing us that passion and hard work are still rewarded.  Thank you for showing us quiet strength in the face of adversity and those whom would choose to destroy us all, under the right circumstances. 

Christopher Happ

Sunday, July 18, 2004
Phoenix, Arizona

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