Monday, December 15, 2008

An eye for an eye

Wrath and the desire for revenge: those must be the most human emotions. When I meet people who are forgiving and compassionate in the face of great personal disaster, I am in awe. I think I have met two such people. Well, maybe one. But trust me, his forgiveness is awe-inspiring, compassionate, and smart. It's also completely baffling. I mean, who wouldn't want to personally torture the executioners of a loved one?

As much as we might enjoy a Dirty Harry film or a Charles Bronson revenge flick, the reality of "an eye for an eye" is a gruesome one that reveals the darkest part of our humanity. (I almost wrote "lizard brain," but couldn't actually imagine a lizard committing an act of vengeance.) Thomas Erbrink's article in Sunday's Washington Post, about a young woman blinded and disfigured in an acid attack by a spurned lover who has successfully lobbied to have her attacker blinded by acid, graphically illustrates the moral problems at the heart of legal systems that allow for vengeance. The very legality of corporal punishment, no matter how rare or common it might be, allows victims and their families to unleash their dark revenge monsters.

This monster exists inside most of us. I mean, how could it not? It's only natural to want to revenge a wrong. Imagining a vicious crime committed against me or someone I love is enough to make my blood boil... the reality of it... well that would be even worse.) Reading Erdbrink's article, made me feel incredibly sad that such a vicious crime was committed in the first place, and that the woman and her family have spent so much time and energy to ensure that the perpetrator gets a dose of his own medicine by having 5 drops of acid placed in each of his two eyes. Will fewer men stalk and harm women as a result? Somehow, I doubt it.

On a closing note, a few weeks ago, a friend told us the story of a European woman who was raped in Iran and who called for the men accused of the rape to be executed. This case was particularly difficult for European diplomats who spend so much of their time in Iran campaigning against the death penalty. The second one of their own citizens had the opportunity, she called for execution.

This is what the law is for: to protect us from the worst of ourselves, not to transform us into vigilantes.

Other blogs discussing this:


Here, There, and Everywhere


I know there are a lot more, and even more in Persian, but I'll stop there. I do want to borrow a comment left by Mrss at The Kvetcher:

In this culture (which I know something of, though I’m American.) It’s likely that if they blind him, his family will force a close female relative (a younger unmarried sister or cousin most likely) to dedicate the rest of her life as his full time caregiver. She will never be allowed to marry or pursue a career or education, and she will have no choice in this. In this respect, I would rather he die than destroy another innocent woman’s life.