bobby1933 (bobby1933) wrote,

Punishment and........Punishment

An eight year old boy has been missing from Boise for 8 days.  The search is "narrowing" and it looks like the most likely scenario is injury or death at the hands of mom or mom's boyfriend.  The suspicion has been growing over the past five days that the mom has all along known the whereabouts of her son, whether dead or alive.  There has been an outpouring of volunteers to look for the boy for hours at a time. 1700 turned out yesterday in 100+ degree heat to continue searching, even though everyone must suspect by now that the mother knows exactly what happened to the child and where he (or his body) is.  The boy is almost certainly dead, and very soon someone will confess or the evidence will lead to the truth.  At that point the focus will "naturally" shift from the victim to the perpetrator and talk of appropriate punishment will begin.

But is our focus on "appropriate punishment" indeed natural, or is it a product of an overly individualistic and "over enlightened" culture.  Certainly we are aware of other cultures (a few of which still exist) where punishment seems, by our standards, to be overly harsh or "misdirected" (e.g.where "innocent" relatives of the perpetrator are also punished.

We are less aware of other cultures where the focus is not on "punishment" of a "perpetrator" because offenses tend not to viewed as cases involving an "offender" and a "victim."  Instead what we call "offenses" are viewed as community problems which must be solved by and for the community with particular "victims" and "offenders" playing a part in that solution without being the center of attention.

In traditiional Navaho society, if Tony Hillerman's fiction can be believed, whether or not a murderer or some other offender is caught and punished is irrelevant or at least seconday to the performing of ceremonies which restore beauty and balance to the community and its universe.  In one story, Mrs. Leaphorn, a traditional Navaho, asks her husband, a nontraditional Navaho Police detective, why he is pursuing a particular "criminal" so tenaciously, adding that the universe will somehow take care of things, balancing out whatever wrongful actc he committed in some yet to be determined manner.

There is a Buddhist story (which I wish someone would reference for me) that says  that our life expectancies are being cut shorter and shorter because of crime, but the point seems to be that it is not crime, but our inability to forgive criminals that is at the core of our problems.

In our local missing child case, the mother's original story was that the child had left the apartment in a snit because he had not been allowed to attend a friend's birthday party.  It seems possible to me that whatever happened to this child began  because he was being "punished" for something.

Christians often say: "hate the sin but love the sinner."  Thats a great idea, but some other cultures seem to actually take this aphorism to heart and act upon it.
Tags: punishment, robert manwill
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