so everyone is elated as scott petersen is found guilty. it's a story to which i've paid as little attention as possible, and it seems to enveloped us so that here i'm am writing about it. i'm disturbed. not so much as i was, say, on the morning of the 3rd while i dreamt that kerry lost the election and the smirking chimp is still directing our incompetencies around the world (that was just a bad dream, wasn't it?), but still disturbed.
i suppose i bring nothing new to the table here. i'm mildly disturbed that i am surrounded by a populace so intrigued by a murder, but nothing is new there. i'm much more disturbed by the choice. if lacy weren't an attractive, upper middle class white woman, would anyone give a shit? if she'd been a poor black woman, lived a hard life, and her body had been found floating in the bay near the chevron refineries in richmond, would it have even merited a footnote in the west county times? or if she'd been a pregnant iraqi woman torn apart by american shrapnel, would she even been counted in the death toll?
but so here we are, with thousands of people dying around the world with no justification, and we pick this one crime to which to devote our attention. i imagine the headlines in the local newspapers tomorrow, "SCOTT PETERSON GUILTY", will be set in type larger than anything used in reference to that war far away on the other side of the globe, with its death toll on the order of 100,000. too complicated. we don't want to think about the why's and wherefores. we don't want to consider everything that's gone wrong there. shut our eyes and turn away from the prison abuses. cheer as the bombs rain down on baghdad. turn a deaf ear when we learn that our troops have not been sufficiently supplied due to errors of judgment on the part of their commanders. gloss over the tons of explosives and many missiles we've lost during the events. obviously not, because i just checked, and sure enough, the majority of "us" did indeed reelected the shrub ultimately responsible for these catastrophes, these deaths, back into office.
nope. instead, scott peterson, and i am disturbed. it's a simple matter: innocent or guilty. and public opinion seems to hinge on the man's displeasing personality more than anything. much as OJ's proclaimed verdict sent out waves of jubilation, so has this man's proclaimed guilt. the people liked oj. nobody liked scott. and so twice the public's opinion has been confirmed by the courts in high profile cases with well-to-do defendants. i am disturbed.
much more so because everyone is cheering. i have no opinion of my own as to his guilt. i imagine that the verdict was more likely correct than not. i know that the investigations were rather botched. and i imagine only a very small number of people know for sure. but let us accept his guilt. we hear cries of elation, that justice has been served, that faith has been restored in our courts, that the evildoers will be punished.
but is that really cause for elation? out of the thousands of cases tried each year, should this one messy case really increase our faith in the justice system? we know that not all leads were followed in the defense of this wealthy white male, given a long and detailed trial. what can this say about the average poor or minority defendant. if the investigators wouldn't uncover every stone for scott peterson, what faith does this bring us that all evidence will be brought forth in defense of, say, a young black man accused of killing his white girlfriend in texas?
i'm most disturbed, because we are not celebrated something good, we are not celebrating something that would restore whatever beauty laci peterson brought to the world in her life, but rather, we are celebrating the destruction of a man. assuming, still, that he did indeed brutally kill his wife and their unborn child, is his proclaimed guilt really something to be celebrated? one more human being will be thrown into prison for the rest of his life, or perhaps injected with a dose of lethal poison that will stop his heart in a number of years. is this destruction of human life, vile as his may be, really something to celebrate? is his suffering something in which to rejoice? will his punishment really bring back any of the joy he took from this world, or will it simply add one more cry of pain to this suffering world?
this is not to say that the man should not be punished for what he most likely has done. it was a horrible crime, as are the many others that we gladly brush aside from our daily lives, and i'm not hear to suggest that retribution is not appropriate. but retribution is not happy. punishment is not happy. vengeance, even, is not happy. if the original wound was personal, there can justly be a feeling of satisfaction, or of accomplished duty, or perhaps even of relief. but we should not get pleasure from scott peterson's pain.
of course i could be wrong. perhaps we're not celebrating his punishment. perhaps we're celebrating his guilt. in which case, finding out that he did this horrible deed should cause no one even a glimmer of satisfaction. i should think we'd all rather he did not kill his wife and child. and so i imagine we're no different than we were a few hundred years ago, gathered around the gallows, cheering, not so much because of what the executionee had done, but simply because he was ugly, about to be killed, and the event was exciting. are we no better than this?