Romanian Grace

The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon. -- St. Cyril of Jerusalem

09 June, 2007

comings and goings

Here is what I have been doing lately.

I spent 3 hours in the North Carolina criminal court on Wednesday. If you have never done that, I would recommend it, at least once. I think you can go there without actually being a criminal, which is what I would recommend, but either way...

I was there for a traffic ticket I got a year ago that required a court appearance, a requirement of which I was unaware until two days before I left the country. So I ignored it. This is the point at which my friend Steve would say: "Hmm, so you ignored a problem and it didn't go away." Yes. That's right. But the fact is that I was sitting there in the back corner of the courtroom, and the thought occurred to me, as the riff-raff from all over the state slumped in, "I am one of these." It is the undeniable fact that I deny daily. I am guilty. I am the riff-raff, and worse. I stand condemned by law and am subject to the penalty of justice.

Then I had the opportunity to answer when my name was called off the docket. I had to state whether I was representing myself or had an attorney and what my plea was. I stood and said: "Representing myself...guilty." How happy I am that I will not have to repeat those words at the eternal judgment before a righteous judge. How thankful I am (and not thankful enough) that I do have a representative, and he is worthy to plea "innocent" on my behalf.

As for North Carolina, the DA saw fit to extend mercy to me. She didn't send me to jail for fleeing the country and list of other legal technicalities. I escaped with a manageable fine and court fees.

And then there is the feeling you walk out of there with, once freed. Oh, to have a cleared name. What joy! When you know that you are a criminal, you live under fear and guilt. I have never been more nervous than my illegal drive from Chattanooga to NC. I still refrained from speeding for the rest of my travels afterward.

I would also like to comment on how nice it was, at least, to be in court in my home country, in my home language, in a system where you can count on normal proceedings and a general rule of honesty and fairness. I do not think it would be the same for me in Romania, where dishonesty and corruption are the generally accepted rule, and I would most likely be coerced out of hundreds of dollars.

This is also true with medical care in Romania. Anyone, Romanian or no, who spends time in a hospital, in bad need of treatment, can expect to pay at least one hundred euros ($130) in bribes to the doctor, just for him to provide care. Unbelievable. I do not remember if I shared this in the last or not, but a prime example is one man who had a leg taken off a year or two ago, then the other became life-threateningly infected, so he went to have it taken off. This man and his wife life in one of the worst blocks in our town. They have virtually no regular income. The doctor demanded that they pay him 100 euros before he would treat the man. They begged him to go ahead with the surgery to remove the leg, promising to pay when the surgery was done. The doctor consented, but refused to check up on his patient until they put the money in his hands. Unbelievable.

One update on that story: the man who is now a double amputee has received some assistance recently and will be getting prosthetics to enable him to get around without depending on a wheelchair. Praise be to God.


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