I like to read the John W. Whitehead column that The Macon County News and Shopping Guide carries, because Whitehead is mostly correct. However, attempting to explain the Dark Knight massacre, he fired very wide of his mark (02 August 2012). Not that what he said was wrong, but he is like the boy who was told to go out into the yard and fetch back a big, fat hen for Sunday dinner, but came back instead with a young pullet. He brought back a hen but a much smaller one than the one he was sent for. So, I want to take a shot at the mark.
Warning, this letter contains ideas that may be unsuitable for both young children and liberals.
The explanation does involve messages, and the one Whitehead presented is one of them, but there is a much bigger hen in the yard: In this country, the sense of justice has been replaced with a sense of sentimentality. Some people can be deterred from a given act by a fairly mild penalty. Other people would be deterred only by extreme severity. The deterrents that our courts give out are often much short of justice.
Currently we arrest, we grant two or three years to prepare a defense, we sentence to prison rather than to death, or if to death, we grant 10 or more years to file appeals. If the perpetrator was bullied as he grew up, he may get a light sentence or an acquittal.
If a sense of justice rather than a sense of sentimentality ruled, in such an obvious case as the Dark Knight massacre, the perpetrator would be arrested one day, tried the next day, and a bullet put through his head the third day; if that were the way, fewer such massacres would occur. (Whitehead supplies a list of such massacres.)
And what of it if the perpetrator was bullied as he grew up? Granting him leniency is an insult to all those who were bullied but did not commit evil. The evil he committed is an injury to civilization; why he did it is not germane — put a bullet through his head. The purpose of justice is the maintenance of civilization, not the wreaking of revenge. That some individuals are more focused on revenge than on protecting civilization, is not reason to abolish the death penalty. The motive of some doesn’t matter; the result is what matters.
A prison sentence is cruel and unusual punishment if anything we see on TV documentaries is true, and the experience makes most of the inmates who are released more dangerous to society, not less. If society can be made safe by making a criminal give monetary reimbursement to his victim, go that route instead of prison. If that route would not make society safe, put an ankle bracelet on the criminal and sentence him to a sufficient number of years of servitude to his victim. If the criminal is too dangerous for even that, put a bullet through his head.
Sentimentality breeds evil; justice is one of the props of civilization.
George Crockett — Franklin, N.C.