Thursday, March 8, 2018

On Nick Gage, Rich Swann, and Second Chances

Gage paid his debt to society, which is more than Swann can say
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Rich Swann, recently released from WWE after an incident where he was witnessed to be violently kidnapping his wife, made waves again yesterday. Despite the fact that his wife, Su Yung, never pressed charges against him, thus clearing him of any wrongdoing vis a vis the law, he wondered aloud on Twitter why people wouldn't book him but book someone else who ran afoul of the law...

It's not a new sentiment. People who either want to defend abusers, accused or otherwise, or who want to puff out the woke feathers on their chest and point out the utter hypocrisy of left-leaning wrestling fans often bring up Nick Gage and his well-documented history of bank robbery. Swann didn't mention him by name, but he's the only guy in wrestling right now who robbed a bank and who's notable enough to be referred by his crime. Gage himself responded to the tweet (although the quickness with which he did leave some to wonder if it was a work...), so it's not like he's not aware of his past or his actions.

In fact, Gage has never been unaware of his actions or the circumstances that led him to rob that bank. He turned himself in in short order after the jig was up. He went to prison for about five years, and by all accounts, he has had a sterling record since being released outside of a parole violation. That violation, by the way, was for failing urinalysis. That's right, he pissed hot for drugs, which say what you want about whatever drugs one uses or whatever, but the only victim, if any, was himself. He's doing all the right things that people expect those released from prison to do, and yet he still gets static for robbing a bank.

Americans have a throbbing desire, a fetish almost, for seeing people punished for their crimes. Prison is a way to exact justice rather than rehabilitate people who aren't so much evil as they are victims of circumstance. Again, Gage has talked at length about the circumstances that led him to his decision, his action to rob that bank. He was battling drug addiction and destitution. His earning power wasn't commensurate with even his modest name in the wrestling world at the time of his arrest. Punishment alone does someone in that situation no good. Rehabilitation, however, is what keeps that person out of prison again. Isn't that what the goal should be anyway?

Of course, according to so many people in this country, that's not the goal. You can see it in the verbiage describing these people. They're "ex-convicts," as if their sentence defines them. You can see it in the reactions to their participation in society after release from prison. Gage is one example, but he's in almost the right industry to dampen the blowback. He's also White, which helps a lot as well. If you want another awful example of resistance to someone who did his time, look at Michael Vick, who still gets outrage for even deigning to be near football despite the fact that he did his time and came out of prison to become an advocate for dogs and their care.

Most heinously, it's codified in laws. Many states have passed statutes banning people who have served time for felonies from voting. Political discourse prizes the vote higher than anything, and yet if you go to prison, you don't get to participate in that rite. It's duplicitous rhetoric to say the least; you have a prison system to rehabilitate those who run afoul of the law, but you don't trust that prison system to rehabilitate those people enough to engage in democracy. It's almost like the system is designed to keep an entire class of people from engaging in it and to profit those who administer said system. Hmmm...

Regardless of how the attitudes of people towards those who have served their time for their offenses are, if someone shows they have rehabilitated, they deserve a second chance. The problem with attitudes like Swann's are well-documented, but they are exacerbated by how much defense people who will lambaste Gage will give to him or Michael Elgin or Adam Rose or Sami Callihan or Aaron Epic or Bram or *insert abuser here* for their transgressions. Compare the crimes. While I won't go as far as some of my leftist comrades that bank robbery is a victimless crime (tellers and bystanders don't deserve that static in the least), but the act of stealing money from such a monolithic institution whose funds are federally insured is far less heinous than inflicting violence on someone with whose safety you've been entrusted. However, if you want statistics on which crime is better prosecuted, it's a squash match. You rob a bank, you aren't getting away with it. If you abuse a domestic partner, however, it'll be a miracle if it even goes to trial.

The fact that Swann didn't even face charges for his incident is something that fans and promotions will make equivalent to him not committing the act at all. That's false. People saw him strike and imprison Yung in his car. That doesn't go away from reality. IT can go away legally, however, when Yung doesn't press charges. The victim oftentimes doesn't pursue prosecution of their abuser for so many different reasons. The abuser intimidates them. The victim loves them too much to press charges. The victim can't afford legal representation. The authorities don't believe the victim. Abuse victims have to jump through so many hoops to get justice for their grievances that many times, they are powerless to do anything. In many cases, that may lead to their demise, which will lead the same people who want to absolve abusers to moan "HOW COULD THIS HAVE HAPPENED?" Not every case of abuse ends like this, but even if none of them did, no person should be made to live life in temerity of someone they were led to believe loved them in a way that didn't involve toxic exertion of control.

The fact that someone accused of such violence against his wife and not faced a quarter of the consequences that he should have has the gall to cast aspersions on someone who didn't even bring a gun to his bank robbery and paid a commensurate debt to society for his crime is what's so disgusting about the whole thing, and it's why it compels me to write about it. People are too willing to give "second chances" to those who don't own up to their transgressions and thus don't exhaust the goodwill from their first chances. They're far too eager to keep punishing those who actually deserve second chances for their initial mistakes. The balance is out of whack, and as long as society continues to weight the scales against victims, a huge majority of whom present femme, it won't get much better. However, you can act locally. You don't have to like Gage or support him or whatever, but you do have to recognize that he's more than his conviction. He paid his debt, and he's seemingly rehabilitated. If you think that he's somehow less worthy of defense than abusers who lost a couple of bookings but still get to work and still get to function while their victims have to live in fear, then it's you who have the problem.