There is no crime so heinous that we should punish someone who didn’t commit it.
I’ve said this frequently about domestic crime. It seems obvious, but it is also something we forget when somebody has committed a crime and somebody has been accused of the crime. People who have no idea what the evidence is are instantly convinced that the somebody accused should be convicted and punished. Evidence doesn’t matter. But if somebody (actual criminal) and somebody (accused) are not the same person, all we’re doing is encouraging the commission of another crime (well, morally if not legally) when we ask that the accused be punished.
I’ve noticed that the more heinous the crime, the less likely people are to give consideration to whether the person actually committed it. I hope that the officials charged with carrying out justice will be duly cautious and follow evidence, but elected officials are especially subject to following the baying of the uninformed crowd. And face it, in most of these criminal cases almost all of us are uninformed. It takes serious effort, effort that few of us are willing to expend, to develop an understanding of a case that merits attention.
I take the same view of terrorism. There is no act so heinous that we ought to punish people other than the offender for committing it. I am fully in favor of vigorously going after those who committed the crime. I celebrate the success of the French police thus far and their recent raid. I’m even in support of going after ISIS bases, provided we can do so effectively and in a well-targeted fashion. I’m not fully convinced of the effectiveness of air raids under these circumstances, and I say that as a life-long advocate of air power and an Air Force veteran, but in principle it’s a good idea.
But when we start to take out our anger at a heinous crime on people who did not commit it, that’s something very different. Times like this, when we feel that we are under attack, demand more, not less, patience and consideration. They demand more wisdom, not less. We should not permit our fear or our anger to make us less that we should be. And I fear we are doing so.
This is not the plea of a pacifist. I deeply respect pacifists. True pacifism requires incredible courage. But I am not a pacifist. I would be quite willing to wield a weapon or aid in military action that was properly directed.
But taking out the hate on Arabs generally, Muslims, or even Muslims in some defined area is not going after those who actually commit these crimes. (And yes, I prefer that we use a crime-fighting rather than a war-fighting metaphor.)
More importantly, however, we should not take out our fear and our anger on those who are refugees from the very criminals we should be hunting. I consider it morally wrong.
It is not our military people or our police that are disturbing me. They have a job to do. But they are directed by our politicians, and what I hear from them is dangerous.
A friend of mine put a great comment on this on Facebook. You can read it here.