(My Eastern New Mexico News column from August 9, 2017- posted in its entirety now that the paper's exclusivity has expired)
When an innocent person falls victim to a tragic accident, I hurt along with everyone else. Yet I part ways with most others when they start calling for the blood of the person who caused the accident. Or the modern version of calling for blood-- punishment imposed by the government's laws and justice system.
This isn't justice.
Accidents are never crimes. It doesn't matter how much harm was done. It doesn't matter how they make you feel. Accidents lack a key component of a real crime. A crime requires an intent to violate an individual. Concepts such as "negligence" confuse the issue and try to legitimize the hunger to punish, but the reality remains. Without intent to harm there is no crime, no matter what man's made up laws say.
Even if some sort of arbitration is necessary, which may be the case, government shouldn't be involved. Government is not a party to the matter, and is most certainly not the injured individual. Nor is society. Involving government doesn't solve the problem nor wipe the slate clean. Neither does punishing the person responsible.
Does this mean there are no consequences? That someone will "get away with it"? Not at all. There is still loss of reputation and trust.
Plus, if you cause harm, intentional or not, you owe restitution to the person you harmed-- or to their survivors. Some harm you can never pay off. The injured person can forgive your debt, but they aren't obligated to.
I understand the desire to make someone suffer when they have caused you pain. Believe me, I've been there. I also understand the wish to call suffering inflicted in retribution "justice", but it isn't.
Causing pain in order to punish an accident is wrong. It's wrong for you to poke out an eye for an eye blinded in an accident, and hiring someone-- such as a prosecutor-- to do it on your behalf can't magically make it right.
Maybe people grasp these straws because they can think of no other way to feel better when a tragic accident occurs. Does it really help?
I know my words mean nothing to those who are hurting, but I would ask them to consider the harm it does to their soul when they lust for legal revenge against someone who made a horrible mistake. Remember, the shoe could as easily be on the other foot, because even if you lie to yourself saying otherwise, anyone can make mistakes.
(Footnote: It's sad to me how many people contacted me to express anger based on their belief that I said I wanted people to "get away with it", as if getting government out of the loop meant there would be zero consequences. One even wrote a really nasty email to me, saying that until I lost a daughter to someone's accident, I needed to keep my "stupid opinions" to myself and not write for the newspaper. I stopped her in her tracks.)