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Retribution and Regret

My younger brother, Eric, can be one of the most domineering, angry, unrelenting and crazy backseat drivers there is-- even while riding shot gun. Around six months ago, he was criticizing everything I did. I'm 17, and only had my license for about a year at the time and I admit I'm a flawed driver. My brother, though, is 15 and has never driven in his life. For him to complain about the speed at which I used my brakes, when I turned, where I turned, the parking spots I chose and the music I listened to (all at the same time!) made me upset, angry, even irate! So, quickly parking and unbuckling my seatbelt, I turn to him and punch him. POW, right in the jaw! It was a sweet left-hook as furious as Copperhead snake. I believe in fair and just punishment.

Please, let me digress. In my attempt to draw in you, the dear audience, with an action-filled introduction conveniently ending with the belief I had formulated, I may have given the wrong impression. My angry left-hook wasn't the fair but just punishment. Although Eric did admit later that it was “a pretty good punch”, my dad's own level-headed reaction to the incident is what showed me this value. He created a rule: If either of us were to punch the other, the sibling that had been punched would be given a ten-second time frame to retaliate. If the punched-man can fight back within those ten seconds, the one to throw the first punch must only stand and let him punch back. As hard as he can, punch back.
Since that time, I've had my license suspended. It was not taken by my parents, but by the State of Ohio. It seems that I ran a bus stop sign (I thought the lights were yellow!). I could defend myself in this space and speak of how I was the only person in Juvenile traffic court that day that was not pulled over or in an accident, whine about the ironic injustice that the bus-driver who called the police on me is now the woman I am reliant on for transportation to school, or moan that if the incident had been two months later I would've been given a fine, and nothing else, because I would not have been a minor, but I won't. I simply bring up this incident to show how the rigid, often bureaucratic, nature of the law causes harsh sentences that may not help teach important lessons. I doubt eight-weeks without my license will help improve my driving. If anything, my skills may slightly rust because of lack of use. While I do empathize with the decision-making process that went behind making laws meant to protect school-children— and will try in the future to be more careful, it's clear that the consequence does not always aid the ultimate goal. Although, I do wonder if punishments like my father's would technically be in violation of the 8th amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishments. That would certainly be a contradiction to my argument.
My father's consequence was much more intuitive, especially compared to most run-of-the-mill parental reactions. It discouraged violence but acknowledged the reality of it.
Grounding me until I forgot what the sun looked like would only serve to make me thirst to see retribution on my brother's other nasty habit— snitching. Creating a parent-sanctioned means for retaliation encouraged improved behavior for both parties. Eric might think twice about being an obnoxious back-seat driver, fearing I would take the risk of punching him again. Conversely, I would be less likely to punch him if I knew he had free-reigns to fight back within ten seconds, since he was taller and, theoretically, stronger than I am, despite being younger.


For these reasons, a fair and just punishment beats out a cruel and long one every time.



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