Sunday, March 18, 2012

The End of Mindless "Justice"

For quite some time, I have been pondering the way justice is handled in our society, and I have become ever more convinced that what is often viewed as "justice" has more to do with mindless vengeance and fear than what could truly be considered just.

It is ironic that as I was about to express my thoughts on what I really feel is one of the most important topics impacting the world today, the following article just happened to be highlighted on Yahoo: Many willing to cut Afghan shooting suspect slack.

People are apparently concerned that the mental state of Robert Bales, shell-shocked from seemingly endless deployments, questionably "recovered" from a severe head injury and potentially suffering PTSD from the shock of a comrade's brutal dismemberment, may have resulted in a situation that spiraled beyond his behavioral control. This particular case is of course exceedingly complex because an entire war may depend upon the outcome, yet that alone exemplifies why justice is often skewed by circumstance, in this case no doubt to the extreme.

This is not about questioning that a brutal, horrendous act was committed. And the real question we find before us is not just what happened to the mental state of Robert Bales. The real question is if we should be highlighting the state of impairment of the accused in every single case before the courts, no matter what results from such impairment. Is it ever truly just to convict someone based on behavior they could not control? Or is that more a matter of vengeance and fear than true justice? If a shell-shocked soldier from another country had done the same to us, could we feel the same empathy?

An acquaintance a while back told me a very sad story of a relative in prison for speeding and accidentally hitting another car, resulting in a tragedy. Was this person any more guilty than the countless people who speed every day, yet happen to hit no one? Yet vengeance demands "justice" because "somebody has to pay".

Age-old traditions have taught us paths of vengeance and fear, of culpability and punishment far more severe than the intent of the offense. Perhaps the time has come for more people to have the moral courage to clearly convey what justice is and what it is not.

I believe it's time to rid ourselves of "somebody has to pay". Almost all human tragedy and strife has resulted from that mindless statement. More and more of us believe "somebody has to understand", "somebody has to heal" and "somebody has to forgive" are the statements a higher consciousness society would substitute instead. Imagine a society where there is NO "punishment" to fit the crime because punishment itself has become obsolete, replaced by restoration.

It will take a quantum leap to get there. I believe one is in our midst. The surprising outpouring of empathy for Robert Bales is only the beginning...