This week a pretty grotesque spectacle begins here in Jackson.
I suspect Karen Irby wants nothing more than to return to her old life, but because two people died from her actions, she'll be the center of a vast, horrible machine trying to find justice instead. Her life will never be the same.
I think justice really is just an ideal. It's a concept. We reach for it and we struggle for it and we devote whole portions of our society and culture to it, but it remains forever beyond our reach. Real justice would mean bringing the dead back to life or making the injured whole again. That's not possible though so we try and get as close as we can to it, which is usually pretty pitifully far away.
The process she'll go through is vile and dehumanizing and really quite beneath us, but it has to happen. We have to try and make things right, even if it is impossible. Vast amounts of money and energy will be spent prosecuting her and defending her but none of it will be any help to the dead.
Sometimes I feel really sorry for lawyers. They're only engaged when the worst of us comes out. They're the gladiators, pirates and garbage collectors of human frailty. We'd like to think they're Atticus Finch or Clarance Darrow, but most of the time it's not like that. Most of the time they're defending or prosecuting people who aren't bad, even though they are guilty.
Some will say, "whatever the legal system does to her won't be nearly as bad as what her actions did to two innocent people" and that's probably true. It is different though. The incident that caused these deaths was the result of just a few people acting, maybe just one, but what happens now with the criminal and civil process acts on behalf of us all and that makes it very different. Barbarism from the acts of one individual or a few is an apparition, barbarism on behalf of us all is a judgment of mankind.
This process Karen faces must happen because without it, the people of our society would seek justice on their own and that can only lead to chaos. We call it justice, but let's never forget it has a true name: vengeance. Calling it vengeance should help us remember that what happens now isn't a sport. It's not entertainment. It's cruel and ugly and it's a side of life we really should want to keep hidden, only we can't keep it hidden because we must know it's done without preference or favor.
Any of us could be where she is. We want to distinguish ourselves from her and say we'd never do that kind of thing, but we all do things that are stupid and selfish and could hurt innocent people, although for most of us it never happens that way.
Any of us could have been Daniel Pogue or Lisa Dedousis too, in the wrong place at the wrong time and suffering for it. So often that happens and there's nobody to blame, so when we do have someone to blame for the random suffering of innocent people, we make the most of it.
I can ask for mercy for Karen because I ask for mercy for anyone, no matter what they've done. No matter how upsetting the actions of one person may be, it's nothing compared to the terror of our whole society's wheels grinding in on one person, no matter how guilty they may be. This has to happen, but let's never forget how horrible it really is.