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Thursday, June 19, 2008

In The News Today...

It is essential that justice be done, and it is equally vital that justice not be confused with revenge, for the two are wholly different. –Oscar Aria

A couple stories today got me thinking about a few things...

Seattle Police Officer Hospitalized After Assaulted By Teens
Ok, for those who don't read this site enough to know, we're not "anti-police" and we don't condone violence against police officers. (hence why I'm disliked by both sides of the police/anti-police positions, thus is the fate of the moderates). The officer involved in this situation had witnessed a fight between two groups of teens and as he was arresting one assailant the others started to punch and kick him while he was prone. Another, reportedly, attempted to get his weapon while the beating took place.

Certainly a frightening situation, I know how it feels to be beaten by several people and not being able to do anything about it, so I have a good degree of empathy for this officer. I'm glad he had backup that came quickly and arrested the attackers, I'm also glad he's getting treatment in a hospital...

Now, sure, this was far more than was done to help me last year when I was attacked by that gang of neonazis (not figuratively, they had swazi tattoos and all) and the police refused to let me get treatment and they didn't try to stop the beating or even bother figuring out who attacked me, but that wouldn't justify any of them being harmed in kind like this... so I hope this officer gets well soon and isn't too traumatized by the event.

...but, at the same time, we certainly hope the police officers who responded didn't decided to allow themselves a shot at some "frontier justice" by way of any unnecessary force. We also hope the department doesn't use this as an excuse to ratchet up the aggressiveness and brutality of their officers, which often happens. Two wrongs really don't make anything right after all, which is the whole point of my not wishing harm on any of them. (see how that works?)

That, I suppose, leads to this...

Suspect in killing freed after 1 1/2 years in jail
Victim's mom: 'System has failed me'

So, prosecutors took 18 months to decide to drop charges against a man they admitted that they could not prove had committed any crime, stating that witnesses are now more confused over who did what and when then they were in the first place concerning the stabbing death of 23 year old Jessie Drungo during a scuffle that may have had racial overtones.

Now, the young man who died was said to be an inspiration, an ex-gang member who straightened himself out and spoke out against gang violence, and I have no doubt of that whatsoever. I certainly feel badly for the mother who now has little hope for justice... she said of the decision "I'm totally disturbed that someone could kill my son and walk away from it... The system has failed me."

Yes, it did fail you... it fails a lot of us, and I'm terribly sorry that the person who killed your son is walking free. But, from the sounds of the story, there's a good chance that the person they set free wasn't the one who killed her son, and we are talking about blind justice, not blind vengeance... the two must be kept separate, different, not intertwined to the point that we just punish anyone for something they might not have done just to say that someone paid a price for some wrong done.

Again, though, another empathy moment for me though, because of all the things that bother me about what happened to me last year, one of my biggest problems is that the person who committed a crime for which I was wrongfully punished is still out there, still free, and the police have said they will not go after him. I don't want him in jail to punish him, I want him in jail to make sure he doesn't stab other people and so other people don't learn that it's excusable to commit a crime and then let someone else get tortured for it.

So... we all mourn another lost chance at justice for yet another person. but it does happen quite often, and that loss does not justify risking the destruction of a potentially innocent life in the process... after all, how does destroying a second life really bring any justice or restitution for the loss of the first life?

But, that leads me to wonder about something else... This poor woman lost her son, tragically and senselessly, and I'm deeply saddened when I read stories like that. Yet... I always wonder, is it really easier to lose a child when there is someone to blame for it and that person is punished for it? Is there peace and restitution in revenge?

I understand that kind of loss to a degree, I held my own son in my arms as he slowly died in a hospital a few years ago. It was deeply painful and I still cry sometimes at the memory... yet there was nobody to blame, he died of a congenital defect, nature killed him, not another person... would my grief had been diminished, though, if there was someone to blame instead of some thing, some illness? Would I have healed better if another life had been destroyed in payment for our loss?

Somehow... I don't think so... so, I guess that's the reason why the idea of justice being about punishment gets lost on me at times. Maybe I'm simple minded in that regard, but I just don't see the connection. Sure, I don't want people who harm others left on the street to freely harm others, but removing someone from society and rehabilitating them or treating their mental illnesses solves that, torturing them only seems to make them less human and more sadistic.

Ah, well, my thoughts are likely just more fuel for people to hate and despise me with though. So I'll stop there for now.


Mark said...

I, for one, don't despise or hate you. I rather respect you for standing up for what is right in the face of adversity. Not everyone is able or willing to do the same.

Extremism of any flavor is bad, stay moderate.

I'm no one special, so perhaps my words mean little, but I think you're doing a good job, a necessary job.

I hope you'll continue to do so.

Packratt said...

Thanks Mark, it means a lot for you to say that, I appreciate it. And I don't plan on giving up, so don't worry about that.

Thank you for sticking around and reading, no matter who you are, it means a lot to me that you care enough about these kinds of issues to read about it here and elsewhere.


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