Check your morality (written March 25th, 2013)

I went to sleep last night somewhat disturbed by a now former Facebook friend’s comments on story he posted.  And I should point out that to use the word friend here somewhat cheapens the word as this was simply a former student who friend requested me on Facebook.  And while there are many students current and former I consider friends, I truly hope I never cross paths with this person again.

The story was a fake actually, but this did not seem to deter him.  I suppose it was a pro-gun story, and while I am sure many of you know my views regarding this issue, and I have had many fruitful debates with friends about the issue, because there are meaningful arguments to be made on both sides, this was not a debate.  This was not even really about gun control actually, but I was exposed to a disturbing sense of morality.  The most unfortunate part is that this persons shadow is cast by many others in this country as well.  Often when one is disturbed by something deeply, it can take some time to put it into words, but I wanted to do so before I forget.  The story itself was about a woman who upon having her purse stolen shot the thief 6 times while trying to make his getaway.  The woman was arrested, and then acquitted.  In the story she asked on the stand why she shot 6 times, and her answer was that after 6 times, the gun would only click.  As I said the story is a fake.  This person posted the story with the word “ ‘Murica!” posted along with it.  Not telling for sure whether he was being perhaps sarcastic I simply posted the Snopes link.  There was no response to that.  Another of his Facebook friends posted that “this was nothing to celebrate”, indicating that she believe he was being serious and thought that this was a good thing.  He responded by saying that if he could “he’d give that chick a merit badge”.  So I responded with the obvious, well the story is a fake and besides no one deserves to die just for taking a purse.  His arguments devolved from there, also in conjunction with his other friend’s comments.  This other friend by the way is pro-gun as well, but also a morally reasonable human being.  Basically he believes that guns are a form of empowerment and that anybody who tries to take a material possession from another, that person has the right to gun them down.  I have seen comments from others in the gun debate that reveals that this attitude is not unique.

The initially disturbing part was how much this person celebrated that the person was shot 6 times, and that the person would have been shot more had there been more bullets in the gun.  If it was somehow morally okay to do such a thing, the fact that anybody would then have so much hate and anger to shoot 6 times or more for such an offense makes that person a much greater danger to society than a purse thief.  That being said of course I find it morally reprehensible to shoot anyone for theft of material items.

And even though it’s a fake story, both the person who posted and many others in this country, and perhaps this world, think that this is okay.  It left me wondering where the compassion and empathy has gone.  Where is forgiveness and understanding?  There are many possible back stories to a purse snatcher.  Perhaps hungry, perhaps has an addiction.  And we don’t even know what circumstances led to his behavior.  Child abuse, poverty, drug addicted parents, etc.  The idea that all of us as individuals can play jury, judge, and executioner for any crime no matter how minor simply because a personal possession has been taken is appalling.  It’s worse than supporting even the death penalty.  At least that person gets a trial.  Whether society is safer with guns or not is a different debate than the attitude displayed here.  Without empathy and compassion society is definitely not safer despite the assertions made by the person who posted this story.   I was finally able to reason why as I thought about a video I watched on the Qualiasoup YouTube channel that talks about how we develop morality in a society.  They talk about the fact that in a society the punishment for crimes must be tiered.  He uses the example of rape and admits while this is a horrendous crime if the punishment for rape was death, then the rapist loses nothing by killing his victim if the punishment is going to be the same (although sadly in our society rape is hardly punished at all).  Anyway, so even if it isn’t officially a law, that those who commit theft are put to death, in a society where this is seen as a morally justified is problematic.  To simply kill because of burglary, this would actually act to promote violence.  If you are likely to be killed by someone you assail, you are better off committing a greater act of violence against them in order to get what you need.  You might kill them or at least follow them until they are in a more secluded area and rob them with a gun.  You might make a wrong move and get shot, you might try to reach for your gun now and get shot, or shoot them.  In this society people die for invalid reasons.  In a society where gunning down someone for a petty crime is not seen as morally justified.  No one dies.  There is the possibility of rehabilitation and redemption.  Who knows the purse snatcher may later feel guilty about what he has done and return the purse.  I find this to be a better and more moral society.

If you find yourself agreeing with the person who posted this story than I implore you to please remove me from your Facebook friend list.  I have ZERO place for you in my life.  I would sit down with the purse snatcher any day over you.  It chills my heart to even know you exist.  Where does such hate come from?  Perhaps I’ll never know.

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