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Nobody is Perfect

All the events in the news last year has revived thinking on punishment, justice and forgiveness. Especially those who have produced major works for humankind.

There are a lot of factors and there is a lot of injustice. It can be easy to say that there is so much injustice we should just punish all these abusers and criminals with no possibility of forgiveness or reentry into society.

But is that appropriate? Is every bad person a monster that should be locked away, deprived of a way to make a living and opportunity for social connection?

In other words: is there a different response that would benefit the victim more than the current method?

There will probably be no surprise that what we need is more education, more compassion and more forgiveness. I don't mean to suggest that we let folks off the hook. Educating someone is hard work, and being educated is even harder. But it's a fact that healthy and productive individuals that care for their neighbors and engage in prudent decision making are a benefit of society. And criminals, sick and poorly behaved people are a drag. A drag on us, on the economy, on our peace of mind. Why wouldn't we turn these individuals into productive healthy people. Turn a liability into an asset.

And whether or not we punish or nurture, the response should match the situation. At the moment it terrifying to see people torn from everything they have, all their work disgraced and for all intensive purposes banned, and left with nothing. Not able to show their faces in public anymore.

How to size the punishment to the crime is not an easy task but right now it's a hard slam. Interaction between men and women right now can be a bit tenuous because there is so much to lose. Even the slightest provocation or false accusation can permanently destroy someone's reputation and career.

Does it matter if the aggressor knew what he was doing was inappropriate? My inclination is to say no. The law is the law, respect and justice hold no quarter to ignorance. But if I ask the opposite question: should folks who knew what they were doing was wrong receive a harsher punishment? Undoubtedly my gut says yes. That seems to imply that a punishment should accomplish two things: a) to deter crime in the first place and b) moral and emotional compensation to the victims.

I also do not think that there is an "expiration timer" on crime.

And what of the rest of us? The bystanders, the 3rd party that were neither aggressor nor victim. Can we still reap the benefits of their life's work? If we can then when?

Some say never. Their work should be buried. That is bullshit. Every one of us has benefited, continue to, and will until they are dead the benefit of works created by people who were unquestionable flawed, bad, mistake prone or straight up evil.

We have to separate the wheat from the chaff. Find value in all that is good, shun the idle or evil.

That's easy for the dead. What can be said of the living? Could I continue to develop a revolutionary cancer medication from a currently incarcerated rapist? Or can we laugh and enjoy the entertainment of someone in Hollywood that has abused and hurt women?

I think we can but the two have to be clearly separated. The aggressor cannot be involved or near the work. He/she must be completely divested from it. He/she must not continue to profit from it. I'll avoid the gnarly details of a "life's work probate" discussion here but once we've separated the two I think society can, with clear conscious continue forward with the work whether it be technology, entertainment, whatever.

Interestingly this does not require forgiveness on our part. This will probably be appealing to Americans who have little interest in forgiveness. I'm not sure society ought to be responsible for forgiveness of folks we weren't victimized by. Although in the case of public figures acts of injustice make us all victims to some degree, at the very least humiliation.

And what of the men and women who have hurt someone and shamed society? Are they obligated to improve their behavior?
I don't think so. But if they don't then it would be necessary to protect society from their ill behavior. And if public figures want to re-enter a public arena then they must demonstrate conclusively to society that they are rehabilitated. This would almost certainly require some transparency into their transformation. But a transformed person should be allowed to enter society. Should be allowed to create new benefit for society and be fulfilled and reap the benefits of society.

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