Indictments (After Donne, Meditation XVII)

Indictments are being handed down tomorrow. By the time you read this, there’s a good chance they’ll be out, and someone will be facing charges.

They’ve been oddly public about this, leaving us to speculate over a whole weekend about who the unlucky sod is going to be that’s first into the inquisition. Will it be Manafort? Kushner? No doubt there are a few deluded Trump supporters that honestly think Hillary Clinton is about to get indicted.

But we don’t know. It could be anyone. I mean, it’s not me, but it might be one of you; who knows? It could well be someone that thinks they’re free and clear, or someone that has no earthly idea that what they did might be not only wrong but illegal. It could be some shill or patsy or ignorant schmuck, and who are we to say that’s not us, or our friend, or our neighbor?

But that’s not the point.

I’ve been watching people salivating over these proceedings all weekend, and it strikes me that’s the wrong reaction. Yes, it’s a good thing when the guilty face justice, but in a larger sense it’s terrible and awful. Even if this is the slimiest of the slimy, that justice is invoked is a bad thing, and the last thing we should do is celebrate. There’s two reasons.

First, it means someone did something wrong. Someone injured, or colluded, or defrauded, or malfeased (and yes I know that’s not a real word but it is now because I’m using it and you know what I mean by it, so it’s now a word). Someone did something wrong, and people were harmed, and if there’s indictments being handed down we’re pretty sure who and how. In this context — in any context — that’s not a good thing.

Second, it means that society is going to be forced to perform an act of justice, or at least as close as we can get within the confines of a fallible law. Someone’s father or mother is going to miss the next forty-seven softball games, every concert, every school play for the next eleven years. Someone’s husband or wife isn’t coming home tomorrow night, and just to add insult to injury what had looked like a comfortable retirement just turned into court fees, so you’d better hope Social Security stays solvent. No matter if they deserve it; it’s not going to fix anything they did.

By the way, this is hard on cops, on prosecutors, on judges. They know all this and do their jobs anyway, which means every time they have to, they have to harden their hearts, and the next time you get a speeding ticket they’ll be a tiny bit less likely to let you off with a warning.

It also hurts the body politic. Every time politicians get arrested, we think to ourselves, “Well, we all know politicians are crooks.” As if running for office were a criminal act! You know, instead of our best and brightest, these days the only people with so little self-respect that they’ll stand for office are lawyers! And the fact that we all found that joke to be funny is a perfect example of my point.

This is the reason our elections are unstable. And it’s the end result that those people who interfered in our election were hoping for. They couldn’t dream of a greater reward for their efforts than that we punish people, and that there’s a huge spectacle. They want us to hate our government, and by God they’ve succeeded — each voter hates the Other Guy’s faction, and that hate is a righteous flame and passion.

Every subpoena that’s served, every arrest and indictment, every single moment this takes up airtime when we could be having a national dialogue on the issues — each of these diminishes me –“…because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Here endeth the lesson.

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