Editor’s Note: Views expressed in guest columns and letters to the editor reflect the views of the author, not the views of The State News.
Many of you probably saw the recent news broadcasts about a woman in Cleveland who drove up on a sidewalk to get around a school bus.
Witnesses testified she had been doing it continually for more than a year. It finally took a bus driver who had a few guts to catch the license plate and turn her into the police.
Now, this opinion column could be going down the road of saying how awful this individual is, how dangerous the situation could have been or simply the state of affairs in the U.S. when you have these kinds of people out on the open road.
Well, although I might be thinking all of those things and a few more, that is not where my opinions traveled, especially when I watched the media reaction to the sentencing the driver received for her felonious driving escapades.
This Cleveland driver was ordered to wear a sign reading: “Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus.” She was required to stand on a corner in Cleveland from 7:45 – 8:45 a.m. on two different days this month wearing a 22-by-22-inch sign as part of her parole agreement.
OK, she got caught, and she received punishment. Shouldn’t I be happy with that? Maybe she won’t do it again, and with her example, others might think twice about this kind of reckless and absolutely dangerous behavior.
I am happy that this character got what she deserved. I am not happy that the media couldn’t let it go and leave her to stand in the sight of God and men and do her penance.
The problem arises with the comments made on NBC. When commenting on the punishment handed down to this reckless driver, the first thing the television listener heard was: “Is the punishment too humiliating?”
I guess we have reached a point in our history when some soul searching needs to take place, and we as a people need to figure out if we actually are on a narrow path to greater heights, or if we are on a four-lane highway to a bottomless pit.
A person drives in a manner that puts children in danger and our greatest concern is if the driver might be humiliated by having to be identified as an “idiot.” Her response to why she drove on the sidewalk was that she was trying to get her daughter to school. I guess she wasn’t concerned about those other students who might never have made it to school if she had run them down.
In Michigan, a drunken driver careened down the expressway going the wrong way and succeeded in injuring oncoming drivers. Their plea probably was, “I was drunk, and I didn’t know what I was doing.” Another instance of no concern for anyone else in existence and placing the blame on one’s drinking behavior.
The penalty some receive for driving while intoxicated: two years in jail. Perhaps that is humiliating, too. Shouldn’t we question penalties as severe as this and let the offender spend the afternoon at Starbucks reading a book instead as his or her punishment?
It seems like every time we see instances of penalties being handed out to individuals who go out of their way to endanger their fellow human beings, there arises a murmur from across the land about the penalties never being fair.
Perhaps if you stole a loaf of bread and were sentenced to 15 years in jail, I would be the first to scream this was wrong. But what is happening now is a total reversal of any form of sanity. Should a prominent actor, actress, rock star, rapper or porn star be given preferential treatment simply because the punishment for his or her awful behavior is humiliating? Should the Lindsay Lohans and Justin Biebers of the world quietly be given a slap on the wrist when they out perform each other with dangerous behavior?
It seems this is the current path being followed by any number of commentators on the American stage.
I think we all should thank our lucky stars punishments today do not reflect the punishments of the past. Paula Broadwell, Jill Kelley, Tiger Woods and too many to list might not have made it past the crowds throwing stones in ancient Israel.
Sitting in the stocks for days on end also would be uncomfortable if people were handed down these types of punishments today. Were they humiliating and sometimes deadly? Yes. But maybe a little humiliation causes a bit of soul searching.
Maybe it makes us realize our behavior does have ramifications, and hopefully we can learn from what we have done, and do better.
Perhaps we can catch the momentum of punishment before the public in general gets tired and demands much harsher treatment.
Craig Gunn is a guest columnist at The State News and an academic specialist in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.