Monday, July 09, 2007

Country Justice

I went on a river float trip with a group that rented part of a private camp ground. We were 50 or more in number and single, married, older, younger, men and women. A good balance of people who had planned ahead and prepared to reserve a large area far in advance of the trip. It was as close as you can get to a church-like group, like I experienced growing up, without religion playing any defining role in the grouping at all. Most enjoyed some drinking, some didn't and so forth.

This was out in the Virginia country side along the Shenandoah river. I think that "Country Roads" song by John Denver is really about Virginia, just "West Virginia" fit a little better in the meter. West Virginia is not far off in any case and I think a part of the river flows through the upper arm of that state.

There were some fireworks, some whoops and hollers could be heard across the river valley. I daren't say "redneck" but by the end of the float, even one of our friends who is originally from India had a sun burn, so you definitely get a little sun on the summer river float.

A few times I heard, from outside our area of camp, the "Dukes of Hazard" style Dixie car horn "Oh..I wished I lived in the land of cotton..." Seriously, someone had that horn. It sounds kind of bigoted to me, though I suspect the highly represented vacationers of Mexican origin probably thought it sounded a little more like Mariachi music with sloppy timing.

For some reason, some people beseech me for my judgment on things. It's like I have that..."tell me your story and I'll absolve you of all your sins" like "approachable" demeanor. As I have blogged before, sometimes it's a woman at a dance club confessing her 3 secret boyfriends...affectionately named Monday, Wednesday and Friday. "what are doing Saturday" would be my response.

This time, it was two fairly young men. I was standing under a shade tree in the hot day about 50 feet away from the restrooms (which haven't been updated since the 60's). I was waiting for a couple of the ladies before we headed back to our camp to have dinner. These guys had some river float gear and asked me politely if I planned to be there a little while and could I watch their belongings while they took a quick restroom break.

I said sure and asked their names.

They were about 17 or 18, both way taller and bigger as in buffer than I am. They were polite and respectful and I shook their hands as I got their names. One kid kind of pulled back a bit and said "woah" from the handshake. He showed me scars all up and down his arm where they couldn't be seen from the top with the reach of a handshake.

He was torn up big time with scabs and scars maybe a few days to a week old. I said "oh, yah, that's pretty serious". He proceeded to tell me how it happened.

Apparently this guy had been at a big high school "schools out" party and witnessed a guy he knew hit a girl in the face and break her front teeth out. The girl is his good friend and so he went out after the guy (we'll call him the perpetrator of the punch to the girl) who had run out of the house. The perp jumped into a car which was being driven by another girl. My new acquaintance with the scabbed arms, call him Johnny, slapped the passenger side 1/4 size triangular window a couple of times, yelled at the perp to get out. He eventually pounded on the window then grabbed a stick to bolster his punch and punched in the window, grabbed the perp and pulled his face into the smashed 1/4 window glass repeatedly.

Then the cops showed up.

I said, "and you both got assault charges right?" and so it was. He asked me what I thought of that. I told him "assault is assault" and even though hitting girls is socially egregious and against the law, under the law what he (Johnny) did was also assault and not regarded as justified by another assault. Morally perhaps country justice was in order, I am not sure, though I agree any assault should be what it is. It is not up to Johnny to charge, convict and mete out punishments. I also felt the overwhelming sense of offense at the perp hitting a girl. She was, in this case, essentially defenseless against the attack and I don't beleive such a thing could ever be justified by anything she might do.

Yet, I also have a strong moral sense that right and wrong should not be emotionally applied nor distributed via 'roid rage. No victim is worth more than another. Perhaps it can be shown, circumstantially, that ones suffering is especially great under ones unique circumstances. Still...

Country Justice troubles me. It is an affront to Equal Justice Under Law so highly prized by our nation. I am stingingly disgusted that a man would hit his girlfriend. It is very offensive and horrible. Yet, my personal emotional reaction is subjective and does not comport with an equitable legal system.

I guess I am not too worried about these kids. They talk of violence with wonder and fascination, but I think getting glass in your arm might tend to teach you you are not indestructible. Too bad he had to go the hard way. On the other hand, what a friend when you need one.

Oh, the float trip was relaxing and fun, only a few sunburns.

1 comment:

Just one of many said...

I almost alway start my day with the fond wish that right and wrong was boldly tattooed on on ass! Emotionality to often causes havoc in my life! That coming from a gal who grew up around "hill-billy judgement"!
Your post made me think right is right, until it has wronged!