~8500~

March 23, 2010
Blaring horns, screams of fear and warning, but to no avail. The woman runs down the thirteen-year-old girl as she is crossing the crosswalk. The weapon of mass destruction detonates, wiping out all life within its circle of annihilation. Both events are unconscionable, inconceivable, irrevocable. While one may take only one person’s life, that one life meant more than the world to the people that surrounded her. Furthermore, the devastation caused in both cases is equal in relative magnitude, leaving undeniable scars for years afterward.

The penance devised for the ground-leveling action was minimal compared to the ruination. “You will be sentenced with a 90-day license suspension, one year of unsupervised probation with no jail time, a $1200 fine, and $8500 in restitution.” After the sentencing, the mother of the murdered child made a stand, inquiring into the disparity of the laws of the land, “When I was walking my daughter’s dog yesterday I saw a sign saying, ‘NO TRESPASSING: VIOLATORS WILL BE HEAVILY FINED AND GIVEN JAIL TIME.’ How can trespassing on someone else’s property be worth more than my daughter’s life?” In answer to her honest question, the judge lectured her for five minutes on the complex but “fair” workings of the court and the amount of toil that went into ensuring the proper distribution of punishment. Finally, the prosecuting lawyer had to step in and shield her client from anymore abuse. Apparently, in that judge’s views, there was no disparity, and all laws were just.

Does a human life cost so little? Yes, it was a mistake, but it was a mistake with a magnitude of a nuclear explosion, destroying life miles from the original detonation point. More than just one life was altered forever by this cataclysmic mistake. Just as the explosion ripples out from the middle, the tragedy fanned out and forever altered a multitude of lives, not just the one life that was taken. What about the parents? They will never get the opportunity to watch their daughter grow into a promising young woman. They will never again get to tuck her in, take her to hockey games, hear her carefree laugh, debate politics. How can you put a price tag on all those experiences, now lost forever? That family was decimated, same as the houses in the immediate vicinity of the blast zone. They go on in a shadowed version of reality, never again to reach their previous state, forever changed, forever broken.

Humans are flawed creatures and I realize that we all make mistakes. Consequently, those mistakes are duly punished. I also understand that second chances are a necessity in a world where failure is a prevalent practice of the dominant species. Yet, when a tragic mistake demolishes so much, punishment must be more than a dollar sign. I do not claim to have all the answers, but I do know human lives don’t equate to simple numerical values and they never will. It would be as if, 13 years ago, when the doctor delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl, he exclaimed, “Congratulations! Here is your brand new $8500.”





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