Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jonathan Donihue responds to question of bully registry

What do you think of Lake County Record-Bee letter writer Frank Carini's suggestions about punishment and deterrence of bullying? Should there be a "bully registry" that becomes part of a child's permanent record? I asked the question across social media and here is guest blogger Jonathan Donihue's response.

I recently saw the movie "Les Miserables." The movie and the play are both based on a book of the same name by Victor Hugo. Hugo was a Christian, a philosopher, and a passivist.

The main story line is of a man living in France at the time of the revolution. The government had become abusive and enforcement of the law had become extremely severe. If a person committed any crime, even petty theft, it followed them for life.

For "the protection of society" all law breakers were required to register themselves with the magistrate of any town they went to. If they stepped out of line at all, the were taken back to prison. And finding a job, especially in a recession, was virtually impossible for a registered criminal.

So their choices were three. They could break the law to live, they could go back to prison to be fed, or they could reform and die trying to please a society that hates them.

While I agree that bullying and violence are wrong, I think we cross a dangerous line when we start labeling people for life. I think the author should ask himself if his desire to punish both parent and child is motivated by a sincere desire to make a positive change in the world, or if instead its motivated by fear, anger, and a deep desire to lash out, to hurt, to take revenge on the perpetrator.

Our current system of dealing with crime isn't really any different than all the other systems of the past. It's a system of retribution: the inflicting of injury or punishment in return for harmful behavior. This could also be used as the definition of revenge.

I think we all need to ask ourselves if continuing the cycle of anger and violence, as we have always done in our legal systems, is really working. Is crime somehow less prevalent because of our system of retribution. If not, then why don't we start using our intelligence and our compassion to start making a permanent change in this world.

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