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An Eye for an Eye?

” The work of eradicating crimes is not by making punishment familiar, but formidable.”
Oliver Goldsmith
Issues that constantly pop up in society are the ones that question the appropriateness of  the current forms of punishment found in our community.  People often ask, ” Isn’t he/she getting off  too easily?”  “Isn’t that just a little bit harsh?” or “What kind of legal system is this? ”  A more specific and correct question that these people should be asking is, ” Are our forms of punishment for our “criminals” too mild, fair, or too strict?”   My answer to this question would be;  Obviously too mild!  We need to increase the severity of our forms of discipline.  I say this because like Oliver Goldsmith, I feel that the only way to prevent crime is by making the punishment for an individual’s actions both respectable and strict.  This will allow the citizens of this nation to be aware of the potential consequences of their actions which will also make people think twice prior to breaking the law .  How can we possibly be sure that people will stop breaking or never begin to break the law?  The solution is the enforcement of  harsher laws and penalties.  Thus our current system of discipline is insufficient for this changing era.  Therefore, we must make certain changes which will make our system both strict and respectable while remaining constitutional.
Forms of punishment are often debated because it is extremely difficult to decide upon the proper punishment for an individual or group who has committed the offense.  Both the government and the members of  this society are responsible for making these decisions.  As a  member of this society, I have decided that our current form of  discipline and punishment are inadequate to provide us with reasonable assurance and security.

Yes, I am aware that laws and bills are being made in attempt to provide us with safety and our well-being, but due to the constant debate over constitutional rights, the sternness of  these new laws are not enough to get through the minds of potential law breakers or multiple offenders.  One such law which was in the process of ratification was the “D” for drunk drivers.  This new law promoted the  “branding” of all people who were convicted of drinking and driving.  The law required these individuals to have the letter  “D” marked on their driver license along with their license plate.  I thought this was an outstanding proposition  since it will allow people and police officers to be aware of these potential law breakers so that they are less likely to drink and drive or cause fatal accidents since other drivers will keep a “safe distance” when they are around these people.  Unfortunately, our government found this law to be unconstitutional.  Yet some characters of The Scarlet Letter thought that the scarlet letter was a worthy punishment: ” They have doomed Mistress Prynne to stand only a space of three hours on the platform of the pillory, and then and thereafter, for the remainder of her natural life, to wear a mark of shame upon her bosom” (60); our government feels that the “branding” of these drunk drivers will leave a bad impression for these individuals when applying for jobs, meeting people, and driving around town.  I completely disagree with this conclusion!  Yes, the “mark of shame” will be a burden to bear but if an individual does not want to bear this symbol, then they should not commit the crime in the first place.  What if the idea to drink and drive was simply an uneducated and regretful decision for that day, should the individuals be held accountable for the rest of their lives?  Yes, they should be!  These offense are not mediocre ones which are as simple as misdemeanors.  We are discussing issues which have constantly been stressed throughout our lives: Don’t drink and drive!  Don’t commit adultery!  Therefore, all of these individuals should be held accountable for their actions.  Therefore, Hester must bear the dreaded letter upon her for the remainder of her natural life.
Some might argue that the punishment which Hester received was far too strict and unjust.

My only possible response is that she brought it upon herself.  She knew that for that moment, what she was about to do with Arthur Dimmesdale was something that was wrong.  Yet, she had no concern for a her morals and ethics and decided to commit adultery!  As a good God-fearing Puritan, she should have known better.   Still, some might continue arguing that it was her morals and ethics that made the punishment worthy; that it was her self-punishment which produced a punishment that lingered inside of her, twisting and tormenting her for the crime that she awfully committed.  As the “Good-wives” of the novel stated, ” The naughty baggage __ little will she care what they put upon the bodice of her gown” (49).   For this case, Hester was a good Puritan and she punished herself for the horrible crime that she committed, but in reality most criminals dont even lose one minute of sleep over the crime that theyve committed .  Therefore I was happy to read that Hester was responsible enough to inflict such a form of discipline upon herself, but once again, we are discussing a fictional book.  Obviously, Hawthorne has to bring up a controversial issue in order to make this such an outstanding book.   Getting back to reality though, I feel that it is fair for me to assume that more than seventy-five percent of the people on this earth will not care about such a punishment.  We have reached an era where the younger generation have little, if any respect for their elders.  It is hard to raise children who are properly provided with the morals, ethics, and good judgments for society.  Half of the things which we acquire are taught in society through experiences; through trial and error.  Therefore, I say, ” Let both society and family teach the new generation how to behave. ”  Unfortunately, society seems to be unfit to teach these lessons.  The grim images of drugs, violence, and corruption that taint our streets, neighborhoods, and country is not what we want to teach our children.  Therefore, we must change the predicaments found in our society today.
We must face the facts: our community is not what it used to be.  From various crimes, gangs, abuse, and depression that plague our world, it is hard to not feel that the apocalyptic end is coming near.  Incidents such as the David Becker case are few of the numerous problems which reflect our need to increase the harshness of laws and consequences.   “Becker was accused of  plying at least nine high school students with drugs and money, having sex with some of the teen-agers and photographing them in various sex acts.”

Surprisingly, he is not considered as a “flight risk.”  What is that supposed to mean?  People like him should not be allowed to walk the streets.  It is also people like him that gave the Internet its bad name.  The World Wide Web is a place where information is supposed to be exchanged and used for educational purposes.  It is not a place where sexually explicit pictures should be found or a place where sick and perverted people can talk to children.  Once again, this problem has not been solved or eradicated due in part to our constitutional restraints.  Ironically, we come to our next issue.  With all of  these advancements in technology, the government expects me to believe that our legal system is incapable of maintaining records which hold the essential information for deciding whether or not an individual is competent of bearing arms?  I think not!  That is what I call incompetence.  With all the funding and advancements, we are still letting criminals roam our streets with deadly firearms.  Even better, we are releasing them because our police department doesn’t know who’s who.  If this does not reflect the seriousness of our issue, then we are really blind or we simply don’t care any more.
Self-punishment is a form of discipline which I revere, but I find it hard to believe that its existence still hovers in our society.  Arthur Dimmesdale, a man of God, allowed this form of punishment to tear him up inside which eventually led to his death at the conclusion of the novel.  The images of this torment is vividly illustrated in chapter eleven.  As we approach chapter twelve, it is shocking to see that as Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale stood  upon the scaffold, the sky appeared to turn red  with the clouds forming the letter “A”.  Being a man of God, it surprises me how Dimmesdale simply stood there and gazed at the sky when I would think that that was a sign telling him that it was time for him to reveal his secret and face the punishments which will be decided by the magistrates of his village.  As Pearl requested him to stand with her and her mother to tell the village about their crime, Dimmesdale turned down the request.   If this lack of responsibility could be shown in a minister, how would someone else behave in a similar incident?

For example, the O.J. Simpson Trial, the prosecution had the burden of proof.  Since Mr. Simpson hired the best lawyers that money could buy, we all knew that he was guilty but he would not be convicted because the proof had to be beyond a doubt.  “Holes” were produced by the defense and this enabled Mr. Simpson to run free.  He was finally punished when the Brown Family took him to civil  court.  As John L. McClellan once said, ” The idea of  having a lawyer present before you can ask a man a question about whether he has committed a crime is taking absurdity to the extreme.”  I feel that our present system of discipline is absurd because our system is so lax that both lawyers and offenders are manipulating the system and laughing at its incapability of  convicting offenders  and punishing them.  This is why we should have several changes in our system to ensure that this does not continue.
As Joseph Addison stated, ” Justice discards party, friendship, and kindred, and is therefore represented as blind.”  I believe that justice has not been living up to what it symbolizes.  Our Constitution was written by great men.  They were great men because they shared one common thing with great men, they knew that they do not know everything.  With this in mind, they made the Constitution a “living document” to tend to the changes and requirements of time.  Now is the time that we make these changes.  We must make our system of discipline both respectable and strict.  I feel that caning is reasonable but I also feel that there are lines which must be drawn.  As for now, this line must be drawn further since so many people have taken giant leaps across this line.  All I can simply say is that we must make changes to our system while watching ourselves to be sure that we will not become cruel tyrants.  We have to make sure that our punishments are strict but fair.  Unlike the witch hunts found in The Crucible, punishments like those are simply inhumane and complete stupid.  We all live in the same world and therefore it is our duty to ensure security for both ourselves and others.  The outcome of this earth simply depends on the decisions which we decide to make.  The changes to our laws and penalties can only be decide by society.

Works Cited
Bailey, Thomas A., and David M. Kennedy.  The American Pageant.  10th ed.  Toronto: D.C.
Heath and Company, 1994.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel.  The Scarlet Letter.  Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1850
Miller, Arthur.  The Crucible.  Boston: Spoken Arts 704, 1956.
Smith, Michael.  “Becker Case.” Orange County Times  Jan. 1998.

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