Jul 18, 2011

To tell the truth...

The Casey Anthony trial apparently captured the nation's attention, but not mine.

By all accounts, Casey was a neglectful, selfish, immature mother. That's not news, it's what countless children endure every day and no one in the media gets their knickers in a knot over the plight of all of them, or of the babies casually aborted every day in this country.  I found no reason to watch the trial unfold on television or keep up with the news recaps.

When the verdict was read, there was an outcry from onlookers around the world.  Everywhere I went in the days that followed, the same question was plaintively posed:  where was the justice for Caylee?

Justice is blind, but do we turn a blind eye to justice?
What is justice?  Do we even know what it looks like any more?  The dictionary says it is the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness.

How much justice exists within the perverted labyrinth of our legal system? We expect and accept trials like this one to be a three-ring circus with the defendant stone-walling and posturing throughout.  It was the OJ Simpson trial all over again.

In our convoluted idea of "justice" it's a game where the accused are supposed to try to wriggle free while we hope the system can snare the guilty ones.  When someone gets away with a crime, we express disappointment in the system.  Is it really the system's fault, though?

It's enough to turn us all into jaded cynics.  But I think there's another way to look at this.  (Call me Pollyanna - it wouldn't be the first time.)  What if we as a society look at these outrageous, atrocious travesties and start expecting some moral rightness from the accused?
Is it too much to expect adults to tell the truth, especially when it counts the most?
Stay with me - this isn't as far-fetched as it sounds.  When we were children, a broken lamp did not mean our parents were going to collect DNA and fingerprints before convicting us of the crime. The lamp was broken, it didn't break on its own, it's time to start talking.

If they found us with an item that they knew they hadn't bought, it would not have gone well for us to demand they prove - beyond a reasonable doubt - that we stole it.  They asked us where we got it, and expected an honest answer, even if the consequences were going to be painful or embarrassing.

I was taught - as I think (hope!) most children were and are - that if you were asked a point-blank question, invoking the 5th amendment was not a viable option.  You were expected to answer the question honestly, without prevarication. In fact, parents encouraged children to 'fess up BEFORE we were confronted by anyone. That was considered somewhat noble and honorable, although not committing the crime at all was always preferable.

We raise our children with the admonishment to always tell the truth. And then when they grow up, our legal system tells them to hide behind their "right" to be assumed innocent until proven guilty and use it as a legal ploy.  Zip their lips, deny everything, lie through their teeth, and dare their accuser to present enough evidence to convince a jury to convict them, but only if there isn't a scintilla of "reasonable doubt."
Think of how much money and time could be saved if we - as a society - expected as much from adults as we do from children. Just tell the truth and accept the consequences of your actions. Get it over with, learn your lesson and move on.  Confession can be good for the soul.
For starters, we wouldn't put victims and their families through months and years of court cases and legal shenanigans.

We also wouldn't need droves of crime scene techs gathering microscopic bits of detritus and running them through extraordinarily sophisticated (and expensive) machinery in the hopes of linking the suspect to the crime scene by a tiny fiber or single strand of hair or drop of blood.

And we wouldn't need attorneys spending (and billing) countless hours preparing witnesses and evidence for trials. If the "norm" was for guilty people to confess their guilt, either voluntarily or at least when they are caught, our courts dockets would shrink to a fraction of their current size and only those who were genuinely innocent would have to have their day in court.

In fact, the law enforcement and legal industry could be shrunk dramatically if we all acted with justice and moral rightness.  (Hmmm, that might have something to do with why we're in the messy predicament we're in.  The status quo provides job security for everybody in that food chain - everyone from Supreme Court justices all the way down to the guttersnipes chasing ambulances.)

And - for those of us who profess to be Christians - our relationship with our creator and each other would be far stronger and healthier if we confessed our sins to one another and sought reconciliation for our transgressions.  A clear conscience is far better than any anti-depressant, anti-anxiety or sleeping aid foisted on us by the pharmaceutical companies.

Maybe it's delusional to think it could happen, but what's the point of teaching our children to tell the truth, if the rules of the game change when they become adults? Isn't THAT the ultimate in delusional and futile thinking?

Happy pondering,