Monday, February 10, 2020


When I was younger, I was often outraged that the justice system didn't treat those whose crimes made me angry as harshly as those people I sympathized with. Now, I find it a pity that the law doesn't treat those I sympathize with as leniently as those whose crimes strike me as less justifiable. But in the end, our society is too enamored of a system of justice that deals out suffering in return for suffering, because, I think, that for many people, the suffering of those who have wronged them feels like being valued.

But I suspect that the system doesn't value any of us, because we don't genuinely value one another. We live in a society where "average" is often used as a synonym for "mediocre." This is not a recipe for seeing those around us as having worth. Part of the reason is, quite simply, that our society is efficient enough that not all of us are needed for people to have relatively good lives. When the unemployment rate rises, the people who are out of work may go hungry, but the rest of us do not find that we want for the goods and services that we need. This means that most of us are, in one or another way, expendable, because we cannot make enough of a contribution to the overall society that it would be missed, were we to go away.

And when I was young, and angered by the idea of plea bargaining, it was because I believed in the rules, the idea that the laws were intended to be applied equally to everyone, not just to those that lacked something they could barter away for reduced accountability. I think I still believe in the rules, and in the idea that laws should be applied equally. And so I am saddened when the lack of something to trade becomes a lack of value. But value, I understand, is a choice. And human choices are never as fair as our ideals may want them to be.

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