In the title of his magisterial book, Fyodor Dostoevsky paired “Crime and Punishment,” not crime and pardons, or crime and “Civics lessons,” amnesty and asylum.
Punishment must closely follow a crime in order to be both effective as a deterrent, as well as to serve as a public declaration of values and norms.
In explaining Texas justice and its attendant values, stand-up satirist Ron White performed the public service no politician is prepared to perform. "In Texas, we have the death penalty and we use it. If you come to Texas and kill somebody, we will kill you back."
So, where’s such clarity when you need it?
Something has gotten into the country's lymphatic system. The infection is becoming more apparent by the day, not least in the way matters of life-and-death are debated (or not).
Again-and-again one hears boilerplate statements that fail to properly fix on the defining issues of our time, much less fix them.
Consider the flippancy over threats against persons and property, from within the country and from without it.
The home of Fox News personality Tucker Carlson is surrounded by a small, if menacing, mob, and his family threatened. Before dinging the man’s front door, the assailants chant out their criminal intentions:
“Tucker Carlson, we will fight. We know where you sleep at night. We know where you sleep.”
To which other talkers, even the wonderful Tucker, respond by vaporizing about rights to speech and protest vs. some or other watered-down peace and security to which private property owners are entitled.
Nobody alludes to the rights of private property or to the fulcrum that is law-and-order.
No demands for arrests are issued or voiced, publicly. No expectation for retribution is set-up. Follow-up is nonexistent in media. Police do not publicize any arrests. If they make them, none are reported by media.
No teachable moments occur.
Remember words like, “Police are requesting the public’s assistance in finding those responsible”? Or, “No arrests have been made, as yet”? Such civilizing utterances have vanished from the nomenclature of media and law enforcement, when discussing acts of trespass, vandalism, and public disorderliness.
Be they within the U.S. or from without it, acts that violate one person’s property rights or the property rights of many—as the Central American caravanners expect to do—these acts don’t conjure the requisite tough talk or actions.
As a popular aphorism goes, “Justice should be seen to be done.” This is paramount to the rule of law. But more than that: In a population whose ignorance is growing, not diminishing, the basic and public acts of naming the transgression, identifying the transgressors, and arresting and prosecuting them are all essential in setting up an expectation of law-and-order.
Yet, on Tucker’s TV show, a languid guest suggested serenely that the solution to ambient lawlessness lies in … bringing back Civics lessons, to schools already root-and-branch rotten.
When the streets and suburbs are ceded to thugs threatening to inflict bodily harm on citizens—the U.S. may no longer lay claim to being a country steeped in the rule of law.
Still on the topic of lawlessness, incivility and disrespect for personal boundaries: A Fox News panelist, Kat Timpf, is another in a list of public persons to be accosted by political adversaries, while out on the town.
Hounded before her were Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, White House adviser Stephen Miller, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Sen. Ted Cruz and his wife, all badgered at eateries and other establishments.
Timpf tweeted, “I was just ran [sic] out of an establishment because of where I work. Chewed out, abused. But I guess that’s the norm now.”
Once again, the victims are surrounded by a conservative circle of love and lamentation, and thousands of hackneyed tweets sent their way.
Attempts to talk sense about what just went down and what should have gone down under law-and-order, the rule of law, and the sanctity of private property—these seldom happen.
And not one word is disgorged about the obligation of proprietors to protect their patrons.
Why aren’t businesses blamed for letting hooligans hassle paying patrons, as they try to enjoy services for which they’ve paid?
Why has no one suggested that the onus is on private property owners—yes, proprietors!—to turn away those who badger other customers in their rightful enjoyment of the services they bought?
The lack of focused debate is even more “messed up” than the assaults just recounted.
I mean, the Red Hen Restaurant henpecked Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her young family. Then and there, Mrs. Sanders ought to have demanded her money back. That would have been a better teachable moment to the nation than any presser ever given by the press secretary.