When Kindness is Wasted

Peggy and I took a walk. Two blocks from home, we came across a broken bottle on the bike path, so I went home for a broom, a bucket, and a dustpan. I didn't do this because I'm kind but because if I can spare other people (and dogs) a big headache by undergoing a small headache myself, decency dictates that I do so. This means that I deserve no credit for what I did, but that those who could have removed the glass and didn't deserve censure.

Pedestrians often break bottles on bike paths. I suppose some do it because many cyclists are jerks who haze pedestrians for using their path (although it is a multi-use path), but however the glass breakers rationalize their behavior, it is inexcusable for the same reason that carpet bombing is inexcusable.

"Many People Are Alive Because It's Against the Law to Kill Them"

I agree with the above bumper sticker. If, by pointing my thumb up or down, I could kill anyone who intentionally breaks bottles on bike paths, I would kill them, and while I was at it, I would kill pedophiles, cat torturers, members of the Islamic State, people who drop boulders onto cars off overpasses, various members of the Trump administration, and many others. Not all people deserve a second chance, yet I live under a legal system that keeps giving criminals chances until they've raped or murdered so many people that we finally lose patience and lock them up for life. To show sympathy for a hardened criminal is to become a party to his crime.

I've heard, and it makes sense to me, that people with a high empathy quotient tend to favor harsher penalties than those who have a lower empathy quotient because they feel the victim's pain more acutely (they're also prone to burnout when they enter one of the helping professions, but that's another subject). This is true of me.

Some people, conservatives mostly, mistake me for a liberal, but I deny it because liberals believe that people are inherently good. Ann Frank was a liberal:

"It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart."

As liberals see it, criminals deserve help rather than censure, which leads them to devote the most resources to the people who deserve them least. Here's an example. Three teenage boys burned down a beloved baseball stadium a few blocks from here. Of the many people who wrote to the newspaper about the crime, one suggested that Eugene's residents need to come together to make these boys feel loved and supported rather than penalized and shamed. No such deluge of love was proposed for kids who work their asses off to make something of their lives.

Conservatives are the polar opposite of liberals in that they believe that people are inherently evil. I'm neither a liberal or a conservative. I believe that people have an enormous capacity for both good and evil. One of the most interesting aspects of war is that the same people perform acts of good and evil in rapid succession.

I believe that I am good inasmuch as I wish death on people who torture cats, and I believe that liberals are evil inasmuch as they aid and abet evil by showing kindness to people who torture cats. Some crimes speak so profoundly and so lastingly about whom a person is within his or her deepest being that there is no possibility of redemption. Some might argue that, when a person is killed, all the good that he (or she) might have done dies with him. I say

Let It Die

because if there's one thing we're not short on, it's people.

Something else I ponder from time to time is the question of which crimes should be punished most. As I see it, the punishment for a crime should be based upon the crime's reasonableness. Killing an abusive husband when he's sleeping is reasonable. Littering is unreasonable. Hence I would lightly, if at all, punish people who kill their abusers, while I would severely punish litterers. Another factor that I would consider is the likely damage to people other than the victim. For example, by breaking into one house, a burglar frightens an entire neighborhood, yet a first time burglar might not serve a day in prison.

There's a push here in America to punish people less severely because, it is believed, severe punishments don't deter crime. I rather think that we haven't made the punishments severe enough to know, so while I wouldn't send anyone to prison for using heroin (I would even consider decriminalization or legalization), I would see them dead for cheating old people out of their life savings. As things stand, "white collar" crime is lightly punished. Steal $10 in an armed robbery, and you might serve 10-20 years (sentences across America vary widely), but cheat scores of old people out of their life savings, and you're looking at 2-6 years. This leads me to another thought. Psychopaths and sociopaths can't be fixed, so if you have a person like that, a person who is certain to go through life committing one foul deed after another, why wait for him to do it? Why not respond to him (or her) as to a rabid dog who must be euthanized before he bites someone?