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Meanness in US Culture

heron61 has made a thoughtful and troubling post about his observations of "meanness" in US culture, as expressed across our political debates, media, and etc., and the often moralistic attitudes behind much of it.

It's worth reading.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
wlotus
Aug. 27th, 2009 05:04 pm (UTC)
I see a lot of meanness in US culture, too, demonstrated by the popularity of television programs which show people plotting against and talking down to one another. (Also known as "reality tv".) But I disagree that the desire for the Lockerbie to remain in prison, cancer or not, is necessarily a sign of meanness. Is holding people accountable for their actions now a sign of meanness? One can have compassion for his terminal illness and wish to see him receive adequate care in his last days, without letting him free. The suffering of those who lost loved ones through his actions cannot be reversed. That is a serious crime, and he needs to be held accountable for it.
heron61
Aug. 27th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
The suffering of those who lost loved ones through his actions cannot be reversed.

From my PoV, that's the entire point. Letting him die in prison helps the people he killed not one whit. He served quite a number of years in prison and will very soon be dead. What does anyone gain by having him die in prison?
wlotus
Aug. 27th, 2009 08:16 pm (UTC)
I wasn't thinking about what anyone gains by his continued imprisonment, though I could argue that letting him go reopens old wounds, adding further insult to trauma. I was thinking about personal accountability. It seems unfair that he could willfully take the lives of innocent people, then be freed to spend his last days (months, years...no one knows, really) surrounded by family and friends. What is the purpose of jailing anyone in the first place? Why not just allow a murderer to stand in front of a judge, say, "I'm sorry," with some tears, and then let them go, citing "compassion" as the reason for not jailing them?

Along the lines of what do people gain by keeping him in prison, in his case, this act of so-called compassion seems to be more mean to the innocent than keeping him in prison seems mean to him. It seems to suggest his pain deserves more compassion, somehow, than theirs.
heron61
Aug. 27th, 2009 09:55 pm (UTC)
I utterly reject the idea that causing anyone to suffer is a valid way of helping anyone, including the victims of crimes. Other than a satisfying lust for vengeance (for which my response it for the people to get the hell over that), the only way that punishing someone helps anyone affected by a crime is by making certain that this person won't harm them or anyone else again. I do not in any way see that anyone (regardless of what they have suffered) has the right to cause anyone else to suffer - I find the entire idea to be monstrous. People have a right to be safe and to be protected from those who might harm them, I do not in any way see vengeance as a right. From my PoV, the desire for revenge is a sickness that breeds death and suffering.

I can see only two acceptable reasons for imprisonment and other similar punishments - to keep someone from repeating their actions and to serve as a lesson to them and others that some actions are unacceptable. The first is irrelevant to someone who doctors say has three months to live, and the only lesson that causing someone to die in prison provides is that that the people doing the imprisoning are cruel.
wlotus
Aug. 27th, 2009 10:07 pm (UTC)
I disagree that personal accountability for one's crimes ends when one has the bad luck of contracting a terminal illness. That is life; sometimes bad things happen. That does not mean that all of a sudden you no longer ought to suffer the punishments due to you. It just means perhaps the universe decided to hasten your demise, if one believes in a sentient universe making things happen. That is not animalistic vengeance; it is justice.

By the way, if he is a known terrorist, his ability to freely connect with his network outside of prison can do a lot of damage to other innocent people in three months. I can only hope this act of "compassion" does not lead to the deaths of more innocent people. And to expect those who are traumatized by and angry over losing someone in an act of terrorism isn't very compassionate.
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