Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dueling in 21st Century America, United States-

This is a follow up to my previous post pointing out the emotional insufficiency of contemporary justice systems. More specific, the justice system of the United States. The criticism might apply in other modern nations, but this is my nation and the context of most of my own experiences.

I have served in the corrections end of the justice system, holding prisoners for the State of California and the United States both before sentencing and after sentencing. My observation is that as a system it is probably about as good as we might expect. Sure, it could do with some fine tuning, and should always be under development toward as fine a system as possible. However, it is not a train wreck. In general, the system works.

My point of contention was more in the area of satisfying the emotional needs of victims. Systems of vengeance were generally messy, and probably had little to do with any ideal matching the usage of the term "justice," but there was some degree of emotional satisfaction. I have to assume that a multitude of victims having "faith in the system of justice" find themselves quite unsatisfied in the emotional sense of balance and order.

I have seen drunk drivers who have robbed a family of a member through vehicular manslaughter do as little as a year in minimum custody. These drunk drivers were permitted, under supervision, to continue in their jobs while sleeping in a jail dormitory. There are usually other legal stipulations extending over a number of years, and a financial penalty as well.

Such sentences are well reasoned. To deny the drunk driver's family a source of income is to compound an already enormous tragedy. Additionally, the drunk driver did not get drunk with the intent to take a life. They were foolish, stupid and irresponsible, but not inherently terrible by nature.

That may be true, but the offended family may not be emotionally satisfied by such a sentence. It just is not enough. They lost someone they loved, someone who was part of their very life. This is a terrible tragedy, and it was the direct result of another human being's choices. It hurts, and such hurt demands an emotional satisfaction.

It is for that purpose that I would recommend that an organized system of dueling be brought into being. The offended could issue a challenge, which would be reviewed by a "fair fight" committee. A suitable venue would be provided, and appropriate handicaps established. The offended could exercise physical violence upon the challenged, who would be permitted a degree of self defense.

For example, a woman of advanced years had her purse snatched. The perpetrator is apprehended, tried and found guilty. The offended woman, having received a minor injury and considerable inconvenience and a loss of a sense of personal security, elects to exercise her right to challenge as part of the sentencing process.

A fair fight committee establishes a time and place for the duel. Considering the youth and vitality of the perpetrator, they assign leg shackles and the binding of one hand. After further evaluation, the perpetrator is also chained to the wall of the arena, having a limited arc of movement. He is provided with head protection to prevent damage to his brain and eyes, but is otherwise not protected.

The challenger enters the arena. She has been offered a choice of body armor, but elects to use only a bit of padding over chest, back and shoulders. Within the arena are a number of stick weapons, a paint ball gun with ten rounds, and a short leather lash. Training has been provided and counsel regarding how to approach the battle.

The limits on the battle were established by the committee to end the battle on first blood, any injury requiring medical attention, or the physical exhaustion of the challenger. Should the challenger fail to follow the instructions provided through training and counsel, and she closes with the perpetrator and he gain an advantageous physical hold on her, the battle would be ended and the challenger rescued.

I have to imagine that the battle would be interesting. A woman of advanced years laying down the ten allotted rounds of paint balls to bruise her victimizer from a distance, then selecting a suitable stick weapon or lash to apply a more direct satisfaction. Dancing and striking, avoiding the grasp of her victimizer as she tries to land a few blows. The eventual exhaustion of the challenger as the physicality of the battle overwhelms the emotional need for vengeance.

That is the sort of thing I see serving to provide satisfaction to persons offended. The challenge to building a working system of this sort, under the umbrella of a justice system, is to prevent abuses. Social orders which embraced dueling tended to have to deal with abuses. Expansion of a justified duel into feuds and civil wars. Thugs using the guise of dueling to exercise their passion for violence.

I could also see the potential for exploitation of such a system for entertainment. Videos marketed to purportedly offset the cost of the system itself eventually becoming a motive to expand the system and encourage more and more legally sanctioned battles.

Humans are often emotional and sometimes violent. A system of justice that is too abstract and sterile is not sufficient to meet those drives when confronted by injustice. Could a system that embraced carefully regulated dueling serve to meet the emotional needs of victims?

I really don't know. However, the image of a victim slapping their victimizer silly sure does put a smile on my face!

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