Monday, May 12, 2014

Punishment and Reward

I was originally thinking about the Death Penalty. It is the ultimate sanction in the United States. For some, it is state-sponsored murder. It is a very long process, but if a person commits a serious enough crime the government, be it the federal government or that of the state in which they live, is empowered to take their life.

But if someone does something of outstanding merit for society, what is the state empowered to do for them? It cannot give them life that they would not otherwise have had, so what is the reward? A medal, apparently.

As an outside observer of the United States, what would one think that we valued? Presidential Medals of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medals are rare. Much more so than Death sentences or Life in Prison. Were I to run for public office, one of the worst things that could be said of me was that I was "soft on crime." But if I were to be indifferent to seeing to it that our fellow citizens (of the nation or the world) were properly lauded for the services they render us, would I be so obviously unfit to serve? Why are we not as invested in rewarding those who have done us a service as we are in punishing those who frighten us? If the values that we say we hold are so important to us, why do we not do more to honor those who exemplify them?

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