Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Though Justice Be Thy Plea, Consider This:

I'm currently binge-watching the last few episodes of ABC's How To Get Away With Murder in anticipation of the new season coming up.  Gosh I love this show.  It's truly a guilty pleasure of mine. Viola Davis is everything.
© ABC Network
Then my brain starts working in overtime, and all of these words and phrases start spinning through my mind:
guilty pleasure
get away with murder
punishment that fits the crime
get away with...

I don't reference Shakespeare as often as my blog title would suggest.  But The Merchant of Venice (TMOV) is, hands down, in my top-three all-time favorites of his works.  As a student, I was tickled that I could understand it all on my own cognizance.  As an educator, I was pleased that its themes of friendship, justice, wealth, racial stereotypes and mercy were truly timeless and resonated with so many of my students.  As an adult I have so many real-world people who play the parts of the characters - a rotating cast, if you will.
Al Pacino as Shylock 2004 © 2004 Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc.
In TMOV, several characters are forced to face the consequences of their choices.   There are superfluous decisions like elopement, moral dilemmas over usury and semi-gambling, and even grand theft larceny.  The character of Shylock -- at once a small-claims court plaintiff -- attempts to get away with murder claiming "justice" served (think a bad check writer being sentenced to Lethal Injection), but his plan is foiled in a most ironic way.  Though he professes to stand on the letter of the law, Shylock reveals quite clearly that his real motive has nothing to do with right or wrong, justice or injustice, but with his desire to destroy another human being.  How often do we, too, use good intentions as our excuse to be unusually cruel or condescending on our fellow peers?

Everyday I see inconsistencies in life.  I see drivers receiving speeding tickets as I (wrongfully) drive 15 mph over the limit past the scene.  I hear about good, well-meaning people being laid off from their jobs while I receive pitifully poor customer service from a lacksidasical employee.  Or I hear of people charged with crimes being punished completely differently based on the strength of their lawyers and/or the socioeconomic background within which they exist.  It just doesn't seem fair!  It doesn't seem right.  I was having this very conversation with a close friend yesterday.  We were saying things such as "(s)he hasn't learned a d@mn thing!"..."(s)he will eventually get what's coming." "The system played favorites instead of doing what it's supposed to do."  Are we right?  And more importantly, do we have the right to feel that way?  I am neither judge nor jury to my peers.  I am simply a person who has lived a life full of choices, mistakes, retribution, lessons, growth, improvement.  Aren't we all?

I think the big picture is consequence, and the most important outcome is growth and/or change.  As Christians we are called to follow the law of the land, but only until the law contradicts with how Jesus taught us to live.  Jesus didn't just say "You who are innocent throw the first stone," He also said "Go and sin no more".  He recognized us as sinful people and He openly said that we had to die (completely change our ways and our desires) before we could live forever.   It isn't up to me to decide whether a person is sorrowful or remorseful.  But it is my duty to live the best version of my life in accordance with what will help me gain entrance into Heaven and to hold others accountable when they are failing in the same area.

Crime and punishment, despite being inherent in a person's mind and soul, is processed in the most errantly human way possible.  So there will always be episodes of the system getting it wrong.  There will be times when one person must give that entire pound of flesh -- blood and all -- and another simply has to feel the prick of the knife before being saved.   Again, I am not judge or jury and I have no desire to be.  But I have made mistakes, I have overcome bad choices, and I will be happy to share my lessons with you.  After you serve your punishment -- however large or small, cruel or cautious it may be.

What do you think about crime and punishment?  Have we become a revenge-hungry body of people?  Why does it always seem that money and/or power triumphs Lady Justice's scales?  What's more important: that the guilty pay or that we - who are all guilty of something - seek self improvement in order to be a beacon of strength and hope to others?

Hit me up in the comments.  And be nice!

No comments:

Post a Comment