I've been reading to kill a mockingbird in school. Although I in no way dispute that it is a great work of literature, i do disagree with one thing, the emphasis put on the title. It is clearly said in the text that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird because they do no evil, only good. This is a direct metaphor for a trial that happens in the book, where a black man, Tom Robinson, is being wrongly convicted of a terrible crime, and could be sentenced to death, therefore killing the man (Metaphorically a mockingbird) who doesn't do hasn't done anything wrong. My english teacher, and entire class, have been discussing how the title is a great insight, and I don't understand how that works. No one has ever disputed that killing an innocent person is wrong. When the class is discussing the title, I am tempted to say "Well what if the mockingbird wasn't innocent?" I bet that would cause quite a bit of different discussion. Unfortunately, my english teacher has directly banned me from leading in-class conversations into digressions.
But what I said, about what if the mockingbird was really guilty, leads into a much more serious question of justice vs. mercy. I'm not talking about the death penalty (I think I've posted about that topic quite enough) but whether the law, be it regular rules, city ordinances or federal laws, be intent on punishing equally to the crime or less than it. I'm pretty sure any other regular readers of my posts know my answer, but let me explain why.
I don't know what justice means, but commonly when I discuss it with people, they use it interchangeably with vengeance. And it makes sense that someone who commits a crime should go to jail, but not because it's what they deserve, although deep down that's what I, and most others, feel. It should be because they need reform, or at least to be kept off the streets so they can't repeat it. That is the fundamental flaw with the death penalty (Sorry, it just came back to it). It is impossible for any kind of reform. You have to remember that these are people, and can't be generalized as good or bad. One or two hours of a life can't possibly be more important than a lifetime of others.
Often, I've heard people, mostly christians actually, refer to "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth". This was, as I understand it, a jewish law, but seems odd that they use it because Jesus himself directly refuted it with the "If you are hit, turn the other cheek" quote. I think the reason that it is used is because it so strongly connects to our pathos, to think of ourselves as the ones who decide who is wrong or right, while not knowing that we have no idea about the reason the wrong was committed. But the upside to this is that hopefully if we have more open, less judgmental minds, others will consider this when judgeing us.