Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cookie's Life Spared, But Not My Sadness

Sorry for the title. If it sounds like I'm trying to be really artsy, I'm not; I am just terrible at titles and this happened to come to mind. Who cares about titles, though! It's the content! Anyway...
My thoughts on today are kind of a jumbled mess at the moment, so I'll begin with the concrete stuff and see whether that can help me organize my thoughts.

Firstly, I stayed up very late (or early) last night. Unlike other nights, though, I did so not because of procrastination but because of my choosing. I was able to watch the sunrise, except rather than miss it by a few minutes I caught a photo just at the right time today.

The reason I stayed up so late is because of today's Debate. I had finished my 6-minute speech at about 4 AM; however, I felt there was room for improvement, which gave me reason to continue working. I have kind of a policy/principle that I follow when I work, a principle that I try to do the absolute best work I can do at everything I do. The goal I am trying to accomplish behind this, at least when it comes to academies, is that I always turn in work that I can be proud of. And I cannot be proud of my work when I know that, had I worked harder, I may have gotten a better result. Anyway, at 4 AM I felt pretty good about what I had written, but for two reasons, one of them being the reason explained above, I continued. The other reason was that I feel extremely passionately against the death penalty, and because I feel so strongly against it, I wanted to make sure I put out my absolute best arguments. This policy of doing more work than I have to can sometimes backfire, and sometimes pay off big time. Today, it was the latter (more on that later).

Actually, after researching for about 3 more hours and finding some more good quotes, I was able to go to sleep at 7 AM. Rather than wake up at 8:45, though, I was woken up by my suitemate at 9:52 as he was walking out the door. I threw on a t-shirt, a pair of shorts, and sprinted out the door to my first class, making it with less than a minute to spare. In class, we discussed the Supreme Court's rulings on Affirmative Action, and the role affirmative action plays in our society. Fascinating stuff, but my mind was on the debate.

I was extremely excited by this debate. I love to debate, but today I would be able to debate about one of society's issues that I feel most passionately about. In arguing against the death penalty, I made two main arguments as to why the death penalty was unconstitutional. Firstly, I argued that the death penalty served no penal purpose more effectively than a less severe punishment, such as a life sentence. I used a ton of legal opinions from certain courses after this to prove that because the death penalty was unnecessary, it was excessive punishment, and thus, cruel and unusual punishment.

Secondly, I argued that "the deliberate extinguishment of human life by the State is uniquely degrading to human dignity," and is therefore cruel and unusual punishment. I don't know if you buy my arguments, because I just tried to sum up a 6-minute speech in a few sentences, but the judges bought it and ruled in favor of Cookie Williamson on behalf of the fact that his 8th Amendment rights were violated. I don't want to sound like I am boasting, but Jeffrey said I gave "an excellent, excellent speech," and it felt pretty good to hear that from him. Additionally, he said that the law probably would rule in favor of the death penalty, meaning that while on moral grounds we may have been arguing the easier case, on legal grounds (the grounds that matter for this debate), we were at a disadvantage. Every single opinion I used in my opening statement was the case of a dissenting opinion or the case of a concurring opinion, just for different reasons. Also, the final thing I'd like to say is that I greatly honor Justices Brennan and Marshall (Thurgood) for their strong opposition to the death penalty.

An hour after class and some very sad goodbyes, our cohort and a friend of ours, Rowland, met in front of Carman Hall for night out in the city. Being our final day in New York City (hopefully until we all get accepted in a few years), we had determined that we wanted to spend it in the best way possible, seeing certain parts of New York, particularly Highline Park and the Brooklyn Bridge. Highline Park, located along the Hudson River around midtown Manhattan. The park used to the elevated tracks for the subway or train many years ago, but has since been turned into a magnificent park. At the park, we also happened to run into Mrs. L and her son, Jon!

After leaving Mrs. L, we got back onto the A train at Penn Station and went all the way down through lower Manhattan and into Brooklyn. In Brooklyn, we found some Italian restaurant under the Brooklyn Bridge and ate there before leaving to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. We had originally planned to cross the bridge at around sunset, but our plans changed with dinner and we ended up crossing at night, Crossing at night was still gorgeous, although for some reason the Brooklyn Bridge did not have lights today or just does not have lights at all, making it impossible to photograph at night. I took same photos of Lower Manhattan, though.

After reaching the other side of the bridge, we walked to the subway and went up to Times Square for one last walk through what is probably one of the most fascinating streets in the world.

We made it back about 10 minutes before curfew, and after getting back to my floor, I spent most of the next two hours packing , writing postcards and socializing with the kids in my floor. I knew that I had to blog, but I will have time to sleep on the plane tomorrow and no class to worry about. So who cares that it is 4 AM, I spent the day debating and exploring New York City.
Lastly, I have to discuss some of the emotions that I've had to deal with. It was very, very sad to walk down the stairs in Hamilton today after completing my final Constitutional Law class. The class has been far and away my favorite class of all I have ever taken. I'll discuss more what the class meant to me in the reflection-type blogs later on, but basically, today was a very sad day for me. My rommmate and I, and my suitemates as well, have all grown extrememly close, and we've adjusted to the routine of seeing eachother every day. Basically, it's all very, very sad. Goodbyes tomorrow (and the ones from today, already) will be very tough; I am not looking forward to them. I can still say, though, that while I may not see many of these friends for a long time, the experience was fun while it lasted and the memories are something I will always keep with me.

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