A Serial in Eight Parts
retribution: deserved punishment for evil done.
Retribution Episode 6
We drove along in silence for five minutes and I wondered why Levi’s thoughts about Johnny Got His Gun.
“When Mom died,” he continued, “she left me her place on the south side. The place looks just the same. It’s nice to be backed up to the hills where there aren’t be any neighbors close. It’s still as quiet as ever. Why don’t you come over, I’d like to show you something.”
“Sure, but let’s stop and get some Mexican food first. I’m hungry.”
“Sounds good to me,” and we turned onto the wide avenue that would take us to the small restaurant which had always been our favorite.
During our meal, the conversation turned again to the courts and the basic failure of justice in our country. It began to feel like the old days, when we would spend late night hours in a cafe, drinking coffee and discussing life, the universe, and everything.
“The trouble is,” I was pointing out, “there is not really any punishment that can do justice for many crimes. Sending Bundy to the chair is small punishment when you consider the hours of horror and pain inflicted on each of the many women he killed. There’s no possible way to extract your eye for an eye.” I had always been the believer in the Old Testament style of justice. “Turning the golden rule around, it goes: You should have done to you, that which you have done to others. How can we approach that?”
“Society can’t. But maybe an individual could.”
“Yes, but what can give an individual the right to judge like that?”
“Maybe when all the other systems have failed, and there is no other recourse, it is the individual who must finally step forward and assume that responsibility,” he said. That led us into a long divergence about Sartre, responsibility, and freedom and into a familiar discussion of the general tenets of existentialism. It was an hour later when we drove toward his mother’s place—now his—on the edge of the town.
“When my mother died and I had cleaned up my life and moved out here, I found that Allens getting released by the courts still wouldn’t let me be. I don’t know if you knew, but Jan did not die an easy death. Ryan he killed outright, but not Jan. It was anything but quick and painless. She was alive and abused for a long time. I kept thinking of the pain and terror she must have gone through and wished there was such a thing as hell, so he would receive his just rewards in the afterlife.
“But the trouble is, I don’t believe there is a god…or an afterlife. If there were a god, one who sees every sparrow fall, he would not allow the things that happen in this world to occur. Or, if there is a god, and he lets them happen, then he is the kind of god who is immune to such things and wouldn’t punish Allens anyway. I finally decided that if I wanted justice, I would have to get it on my own.”
To be continued