The Least We Can Do

3579096098_41f2b10826_b“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”  – the 8th amendment to the U.S. Constitution

A few weeks ago in Chicago (the big city just down the road from my house), a cop was convicted of killing a kid. There didn’t seem to be much doubt that the cop killed the kid; it was captured on bodycam and he shot him 17 times.

Everyone agreed 17 shots was a bit excessive. The only debate (which continues) is whether the sentence was severe enough.

But for this discussion, please just accept – for the sake of argument – that the cop was guilty and the sentence what he deserved.

Off to jail went the cop. And shortly thereafter he was severely beaten by other inmates in the prison.

Apparently, that is expected if you are a white cop who kills a black kid and gets sent to a prison with a great many black inmates. It would seem that some of the prisoners are not model citizens.

I’m sure there are many folks who think the cop got what he deserved. But that goes against the 8th amendment – as well as my sense of right and wrong.

When a judge passes sentence on a convicted criminal for a serious crime, he gives him time in jail. That is a punishment because it deprives the individual of freedom. It also protects society from the possibility the criminal will offend again. And, at least we hope, it offers the criminal time to reflect and repent, and, perhaps, get training or education that will help him when he returns to free society.

Notice that the judge never says, “I’m sentencing you to five years in prison, on the conditions that you will be beaten by your fellow inmates and suffer rape and other sexual humiliations.”

Unfortunately, this particular cop was beaten. And unless all the stories about sex in prison are made up, many inmates suffer what can only be called cruel and unusual.

This is a disgrace. And we are a society with strong enough morals – and the means – to stop it.

I know some will call me naïve and soft on crime. It would cost a fortune. These are the dregs of society and we shouldn’t waste time, energy, and money coddling criminals.

Yet, a society truly will be judged by how it treats the least of its members. And these are in so many ways the least of us. They have failed. They are being punished. Let’s make sure they are punished by our standards, not the standards of the jungle.

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Dropping the Bowl

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I have reached a point in life that I never anticipated. It is unexpected, difficult to accept, and to some degree painful to talk about.

This is somewhat embarrassing for a red-blooded American man to admit. I certainly won’t volunteer it in either polite or impolite company.

But here it is; I may have watched my last Super Bowl.

There it is. I actually wrote the words. I’m on the record. And now I must explain my reasons for this betrayal of American sportsmanship.

The decision (which is still provisional) came to me after the 2019 game in which New England beat Los Angeles 13-3. By any standard, it was a boring event. And that is just the actual football part. A championship game that features three field goals and one touchdown is decidedly a demonstration of offensive futility.

But beyond the boredom of the play, it was made more boring by how interrupted it was by commercials, reviews of plays, and a halftime show that seemed to last forever. I honestly can’t remain focused on a sporting event that has more interruptions than sporting action.

And for the most part, the interruptions were sophomoric.

Perhaps there were viewers who were thrilled by the lead singer of Maroon Five taking off his shirt and strutting around in his semi-buff torso and tattoos. And he was better than the rap stuff. Not my cup of tea.

In fact, I must now make a serious personal confession. My wife and I take dance lessons and not long ago did a routine to a Maroon Five song: “Moves Like Jagger.” I solemnly promise never again to go down that shameful road.

But returning to the Super Bowl, perhaps the problem with the halftime show is people want to make it more than the break in a football game is designed for.  Why all the massive production?  I’d rather see (and hear) the marching band from the University of Illinois.

But just to be fair, there was one positive musical note in the eight hours of pre, during, and post coverage: Gladys Knight singing the National Anthem. God bless her for singing the song with maturity, dignity, grace, and talent.

Then there are the commercials. The brilliant advertising agencies that designed the ads clearly were not targeting me. I don’t like robots. I don’t care what Hollywood stars drink. I don’t drink beer.

Looking back on the majority of the commercials – even those that were faintly amusing – I can’t remember what they were selling. I guess being cute and clever is more important than selling chips and cars.

I watched the game until the boring end, then skipped the award ceremony and thought about better ways I could have spent the previous several hours. Here are a few of the preferred options…

  1. Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.
  2. Engage in some solid spiritual reading.
  3. Talk a walk with my wife.
  4. Sort out my fishing tackle so I’m ready for spring.
  5. Clean out all the old files on my computer.
  6. Watch an old movie that doesn’t have graphic violence or naked people.
  7. Play with the grandkids.
  8. Clean the garage.
  9. Go dancing.
  10. Write another blog.

Those are some of the options I’m considering. Of course, if the Bears make it to the Super Bowl next year, all of this sanctimonious and superior posturing goes out the window. In that event, I’ll be glued in front of the TV and will put up with whatever stupid ways people come up with to sell hamburgers and roasted nuts. And I’ll enjoy the halftime show with the band Chicago and the Blues Brothers.