LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Application of the law must evolve with the times

Monday, July 9, 2012 | 3:09 p.m. CDT; updated 11:36 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 28, 2012

"Shame punishments" were popular in the Middle Ages, I think. If a woman was accused of impropriety, she might have her property impounded by the authorities, have her hair shaved, be covered in mud and be paraded nude in front of the townspeople on a donkey where she might then have to grovel in front of the priest or pastor for forgiveness before her property might possibly be returned. Large crowds would attend such affairs and a festival might ensue.

I agree with the Jefferson City News Tribune editorial (published in the Missourian on Sunday) that shame punishments "blur the line between justice and entertainment." I always thought that Darwin's theory of evolution applied to our spiritual natures more appropriately than to our physical bodies. This means that application of the law needs to be ever evolving in refinement.

Let's face it; people in this world are not equal. There are hierarchies in intelligence, education, beauty, wealth, abilities, health — and these are just a few of the observable human qualities. We also have hierarchies in quality/refinement of thought, emotion and decency. Therefore, some people will respond with empathy when they are shown how their behavior has harmed another and some people will just feel justified in escalating their attacks while garnering crowds for more acclaim.

Perhaps the justice system might do well to apply punishments based upon inner qualities of intention, will and direction of desire. But maybe we are not yet in the proper century to do so.

Julia Williams is a Columbia resident.

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