By Delia Batdorff
Anthony Pappas is in his natural environment: in front of a whiteboard with a dry-erase marker in his right hand, his name and title written behind him. Pappas, an economics professor at St. John’s College in Queens, New York, doesn’t allow a valuable second to slip by: He immediately begins his presentation by saying, “We are living under a judicial dictatorship and you’re not aware of it.”
He doesn’t stay on this topic very long or try to explain himself. Instead, he jumps into a hypothetical situation. He tells us a story of people walking through a door and being sterilized; carefully, he goes into detail about sterilization and writes “fallopian tubes” and “testicles” on the board. He continues his speech, as if he is lecturing to his college students. Before long, he ties his situation into his argument as he explains a case where a teenage girl was forcefully sterilized. The judge was never punished for this. The woman carried around a blanket for the rest of her life to represent the baby she would never have, he said. He walks towards his bag and pulls out a pale pink towel before saying, “I don’t have a blanket, I have a towel.” Gently, he holds the towel in his arms like a mother would hold a baby, as his eyes start to glisten.
Next, he brings up Mary Kennedy, the ex-wife of Robert Kennedy Jr. After a difficult divorce in which she lost custody of her children, she committed suicide. Pappas argues that if even five immigrant mothers killed themselves, it would be a national story, yet women like Mary Kennedy are committing suicide and the judicial system doesn’t care. Pappas hands out an article about Mary Kennedy with his handwriting in the margins. It reads: “Suicides of mothers and fathers going through divorce are not investigated. Why? Judges are the only officials who have immunity.” It’s part of a pattern, Pappas said. “The parent first despairs and commits suicide.”
Despite his focus on mental health, he fails to mention anything other than suicide, mostly in regard to custody cases. Nor does he explain how he plans to prove that the judges influenced the suicides, or how, as he claims, this would fall under the category of murder or manslaughter. When asked what actions he has taken to prevent suicide, he said, “I have no power to do anything in my power. I’m just a professor.”
Next, the economic professor begins detailing his own divorce case. He offers a copy of one of the court documents to the journalists; he has annotated it himself. In the margins in careful handwriting, he has written “nonsense” and “did not happen” regarding his wife’s loss of income due to time spent in court and her allegations of domestic abuse. The judge presiding over him was “like a dictator” and the domestic abuse claims of his wife were “a total hallucination and it’s totally irrational,” he said. When a journalist asks him another question regarding the abuse, he replies, “You go to the police and tell them to arrest me.”
Pappas said he is unable to access any donations or funds for his campaign because they have been “frozen because of the divorce. People donate, but I can’t access them,” he said. In November, voters from the 14th district of New York will decide whether to send him to Congress. His opponent, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is heavily favored to win.