31 July, 2011

Witch Hunt

Recently another witch hunt was triggered, and a large group of normally compassionate people lost the natural level of compassion they normally extend to strangers who, like all the rest of us, suffer the pains of life and also make mistakes. 

Luckily, they weren’t the ones in charge of practicing justice upon this poor unfortunate, because I am totally willing to believe that they all would have literally burned her at the stake, if it had been left up to them. But we, as a society, don’t actually believe that burning witches (or more specifically women (and men) accused of being witches) at the stake is a good idea any more. If they do commit unspeakable crimes, we say let us submit them to our legal codes in a measured and passionless display of justice. Whatever that means. Amen, is what I say. Thank god for that. At least we avoided another burning, whether or not “justice” was served.

I am a smart woman, but I am not quick. I resented the fact that I have to go through “this” again because it happened again. It’s a normal process, I know this, because it happens all the time. 

Something horrible happens. Horrible! I do not deny this. People don’t like it! It’s unacceptable! They ache with need to do something. They judge for themselves what the best thing to be done, and hang on tenterhooks to find out if the scapegoat is going to “burn”. (I say scapegoat not to imply innocence. oh no. innocence or guilt is irrelevant. The regular scape goat, the animal that leads other animals up the ramp into the pen for slaughter, the scape goat is not without guilt.) 

I’m just saying innocence or guilt is irrelevant, because people have withdrawn their normal level of fellow-feeling for that person. Their natural level of compassion. These are not compassionless jerks I’m talking about. Friends. Family. People who care. Even me, sometimes.

Who care so much, that after waiting on tenterhooks to find out if the mechanism we use to interrupt our impulse for retribution, the legal system, doesn’t deliver, find their need to do something, the perfectly natural inspiration to get involved and fix the horrible things, is triggered, and at water coolers and on buses and on facebook and on mailing lists, every where they might expect to find a compassionate listener, they release some of that pent up frustration in a wail of “It’s not fair!”, And then I find out about it, the whole, miserable, horrible, wretched, heartbreaking affair, is brought to my attention.

The opposite wail, “she got what she deserved” is actually even less attractive than the “it’s not fair!” cry, but it is a much smaller phenomena, because most of the people with pent up frustration have it relieved when “justice” is served, and don’t need to share. A few,. “thank gods”, a sigh of relief. Very slightly less attractive, but much less frequently shared, and that I personally appreciate. Because I can’t handle that shit.

I am not talking about guilt, or innocence, or the muddled versions of same that we discuss in court. I don’t care. I don’t care about the proof, I don’t care about the miscarriage or execution of justice. You cannot convince me that your witch hunt tendencies, whether justified by guilt or not, add anything to my world. Because I can’t handle that shit.

I find the whole guilt or innocence theory of crime and criminals to be a bit philosophical. And I love philosophy! These are feelings we hold in our heart about ourselves, first and foremost. And about others as a close second. These are ideas. They are not fact. 

I’d like to avoid crying over spilt milk. I mean me, personally, crying. CRYING. I don’t read newspapers, because the world, which is NOT filled with compassionless jerks, is filled with people who made mistakes. Mistakes have been made, as they say. Cleaning up the spilt milk is an important (and often woefully under-appreciated) job. Preventing it from spilling ever again is a noble goal, and I deeply appreciate the people who have charged themselves with the duty of doing so.

But I can’t handle that shit. It makes my stomach hurt. It makes my eyes water. It interrupts my attempts to sleep, it gives me nightmares, and I’m pretty sure it poisons my faith in the goodness of all mankind, which I’m pretty sure everyone understands at least, because the same thing happens to them. My faith in the goodness of mankind bounces back pretty quickly, but the rest of me does not. 

I started out in life with a phenomenal memory. Aces. I do not have it anymore, because forgetting is a valuable tool--I tool I personally need to get on in life, and now I lightly pass over the surface of most information so that it will not make much of an impression on me, in case it is THE HORRIBLE.

I wish I had some advice about what the right thing to do with that pent up rage and frustration was. I don’t even know if taking it in conversation with your friends and family is “the wrong thing”. It’s probably the right solution to relieve a person’s rage and frustration. I’m sorry your natural rage and frustration, naturally expressed, is so dangerous to me. I know you didn’t mean it that way.

It’s my problem. I accept that. I just wish I had somewhere to go with this frustration, other than my own head. And now that I think about it, I do.

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