If someone were told that if he did not follow the rules, he would not be allowed to remain in the club, and he broke the rules anyway, knowingly and deliberately, it would be only fitting and fair that he be put out of the club. The rules were very clear; the consequences were very clear; therefore the outcome should also be very clear.
Now suppose the person who heads up the club has a mean streak in him. He decides that just putting the person out of the club isn’t good enough. He wants to add a little more incentive for people to not break the club’s rules, so he thinks it would be perfectly okay for him to devise some kind of a “putting a person out of the club” example-to-others ceremony. He decides that the person will have to go through a Corridor of Shame on the way to the Door of No-return. And, while he walks that walk, it is possible that he (or she) just might encounter some surprise obstacles that may pop up out of nowhere, as it were, to make that walk of disgrace “more interesting” to those who choose to watch. After all, so the club president’s thinking might go, the disgraced man chose to break the rules and knew that he’d be kicked out of the club for doing so, and it wouldn’t be the club’s fault if the way out was a little bit rougher than anyone expected it
But some people might be saying, “Wait a minute there! Okay, he broke the rules and can’t stay in the club, and he’s willing to take the consequences—even though he might not have a choice in the matter—but why is it okay for the club president to inflict all that extra misery
on him? How does doing that make anyone think well of the club? Is the club really just some kind of secret torture chamber in disguise? Are people just waiting for the next rule-breach to happen so they can rally round and watch that walk down the Corridor of Shame — maybe even secretly hoping that one of the many pop-ups will catch that
rule-breaker off-guard and make his long walk all the more painful for him and possibly more satisfying for the rule-obeyers to see?”
Others might pipe up and remind the “bleeding hearts” (as they would call them) that such ne’er-do-well club members might not just break one little rule, but might break every single one of them, and even more than just once. They might point out that no one ever broke the rules as blatantly and as often as “Joe,” who recently had to walk the Corridor of Shame and was apparently hit with every pop-up that was secretly programmed into that exit ceremony.
“But wait!” those “bleeding hearts” would plead once again. “Look, we’re all for the kind of justice that says ‘You do that, we’ll do this,’ or ‘The punishment for this is that.’ We believe that wrongdoing must be punished. But what we’re also saying is that if something is added on to the punishment after the fact, that is just wrong. It would be like charging twice as much for some item in a store after you discover the customer is very wealthy. Mercy says you can always do less, but justice would not have you do more than the prescribed punishment. If you were sentenced to twenty years, would it be right to have ten more years tacked on to your sentence just because the warden did not like you? Would it be right to allow every member of the victim’s family to come to the prison as often as they wanted to, to openly cast aspersions or “stones” upon you, even years after you had made peace with yourself and with God and asked for
their forgiveness? And most important of all, what kind of society would we be if we encouraged inflicting pain and suffering on anyone, even those who have done so to others? How would that make us any better than them? To enjoy the suffering of others is to tap into the same place that allowed the perpetrator to do what he did in the first
Some people do not deserve to live. Living would give them an opportunity to continue radiating some kind of bad energy; it would give them an opportunity to continue doing bad things and hurting people, even from behind bars. It might even give them a sense of hope for getting out, in some way at some time. And while they live, horrible unwanted feelings and thoughts could find a way into the minds and hearts of the victims’ family and friends, as they remember
always that their loved one is no longer with them, but his murderer is still alive.
It is bad enough, though very understandable, to wish another person were dead, but to take on a newly-found joy at contemplating that person’s intensified suffering before or during the enactment of his prescribed death sentence would be to somehow activate a part of yourself that you really don’t want to see activated in anyone: the part that enjoys seeing others suffer.
Rather than activate that part of oneself, if we can just stick with the prescribed sentence and not cheer on any additional suffering as it raises its head, justice—as we have seen fit to create it in our society — would be served. And just in case “we” were wrong in handing down the prescribed sentence, justice also means that those who
proclaim their innocence would be free to appeal.
As the silly saying goes, I would not want to join any club that would have me. But in real serious life, there is no club that wants any of its members to destroy each other or cheer when one member tortures another. Those members do deserve to be put out of the club. But should the president of the club then take it upon himself to add something to the already agreed-upon consequence for such behavior, we hope that the members of that club would hold an emergency election for a new president.
Rules are rules. Consequences are consequences. But enjoying the misery and suffering of others is empowering the part of yourself for which we kick people out of the club.
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.