I have not posted a blog lately because I have been so busy trying to get my research paper I told you guys about done. So here it is. It’s long, 15 pages. I’m debating whether or not I should just post it here, or have you email me if you want it. I hope you guys enjoy this. I didn’t wind up talking about God much like I wanted to. I just ran out of time (due to severe ADD and procrastination). Enjoy! Let me know what you think, that is, if you actually take the liberty to read it. P.S. I have no idea why that middle section is really large and bold. It wont let me change it and it’s not like that in my actual paper. Like I said, if you want the official copy on Word, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Vigilante Justice Revealed
Imagine that there is a parent at a playground pushing their son on the swing. Suddenly, their cell phone rings and they walk away to answer the phone. They get caught up in business because a customer called asking for information on a specific product. The phone call winds up lasting about five minutes or so. When they turn around to go play with their son again he is not there. They seek frantically, calling his name out loud, but he is nowhere to be found. They hear the sound of screeching tires as a van flies down the road. Their son has been kidnapped. At this point, some people would call the police; others would chase the vehicle down themselves to investigate so they ensure that they do not lose that vehicle. Now imagine that their son was killed. Out of revenge the parent seeks out the killer and shoots him. This is known as vigilance. The person chose to kill the murderer because they lashed out of anger or a lack of confidence in the justice system, or some other similar reason. Killing is quite often perceived in a negative view. How does society look at vigilantes and is it okay to kill?
Almost all people have this burning desire to defend and fulfill right and wrong themselves. They desire justice and long to take it into their own hands. So many people do not trust the justice system these days. They feel the system is skewed and even though they make the claim of “not guilty until proven otherwise,” people feel that so many people are slipping through the cracks. A fictional example could be the television show that aired back in the early 90’s called Dark Justice. Dark Justice is about a judge whose daughter and wife is murdered and loses faith in the justice system (Dark Justice). The main character, the judge, is named Judge Nicholas Marshall. He begins to see how the judicial system is corroding into something that should not be. The criminals learn how to use it to their advantage and they begin to get away with terrible crimes. After his family is murdered he goes after criminals that he believes should have been prosecuted by “trying to stop their next scheme or get evidence that is needed to convict them” (Dark Justice). This is a prime example of how good people can and do take the law into their own hands to make sure that justice is served. It is not necessarily true that a vigilante is a bad person, or is ensuring that justice is served in crude or irrational ways.
To look further into this point consider abolitionists around the 18th century. These people took the law into their own hands by breaking federal law and assisting in helping free slaves. By definition a vigilante is a “a member of a volunteer committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily (as when the processes of law are viewed as inadequate) a self-appointed doer of justice.” (Dictionary) Clearly, the group of abolitionists can represent an example for a vigilante group as they take the law into their own hands to ensure that what they felt to be just was carried out. Through the eyes of most people the topic of ending slavery and abolitionist groups are looked at in a positive manner. However, these people really did break the law. Think about it, slaves were not even considered citizens during this time period (Slave laws). This therefore, gave the blacks no legal rights whatsoever. Caucasians could treat African-Americans however they wanted and got away with it. The whites were in control of the law system and nobody seemed to want to realize that the way they treated these people, human beings, was wrong. The abolitionists were the people that broke this pattern though, broke what society felt to be okay during this time period. In fact, they risked their lives to stop this madness and help gain the slave’s freedom.
How about the people that were rescuers during the time of the Holocaust? These people were from a wide variety of backgrounds, regions, and careers, but they all looked at the Jews and other victims as human beings, not enemies. “Rescuers had to decide whether or not to assume the responsibility of helping and risk the potential consequences. Public hangings, deportation to concentration camps, and on-the-spot shootings were very real consequences of helping enemies of the Third Reich (Guide to Holocaust).” These people showed such heart and compassion for these minorities. By taking Jews into their homes and secure places they had to have great vigilance, attentiveness, and awareness as to keep from getting caught. Instances like these are great examples of how being a vigilante are not necessarily an awful thing.
In today’s society with people being so obsessed with technology, computers, and communication, online predators is a huge issue. The police have taken the liberty in trying to crack down and catch some predators, but many people feel they are not doing enough. An example is the people that are in this group called Perverted Justice. This group of people is dedicated to cracking down and catching online predators. Many people criticize this group saying that their aggressive tactics rarely lead to convictions, but if this is the case then why do they have three hundred plus noted convictions? One of these convictions is particularly interesting. A Perverted Justice volunteer, Frank Fencepost, was pretending to be a fourteen year old girl in a yahoo chat room and caught a twenty-nine year old man, Adrian, which was going to meet up this girl when her mother was out of town. When Adrian showed up, he received a warm welcoming from Mr. Fencepost and another volunteer. One was holding a baseball bat, the other a video camera. The two men followed Adrian back to his minivan, “berating him for soliciting sex with a minor and filming his hasty retreat (Vigilantes Troll).” This being a more recent example of a “good deed” vigilante it goes to show that not always is being a vigilante a bad thing. However, there are times when vigilante’s deserve the reputation they have.
If all of these examples seem justified, at what point is the line drawn? When does vigilante justice become inappropriate? Why are there laws and a justice system if people are going to be okay with taking the law into their own hands? In 1851 when the Gold Rush occurred in California the population grew so much that crime went to a much higher rate. A group of six hundred volunteers formed a Vigilante Committee and in the first year they hung four law breakers, whipped one, deported twenty and released forty one after trial (Vigilante Justice, 1851). As a result of them taking the law into their own hands crime did go down, but does this justify killing? How many of those hanged were wrongly accused? How many were guilty, but of minor crimes? What if one of those four people that they hung was innocent? What would the people do, just say “Whoops” and move on with their lives? Killing is never okay under any circumstance. It violates international human right laws. As a religious person, the sixth commandment comes to mind, “You shall not murder” (New International Version, Exodus 22). Killing in whole is basically a world wide agreement that it is wrong. The basis of under what circumstances is it allowed is where the controversy lies. It is not our duty to decide who lives and who dies. That is almost as though people are attempting to play the role of God. Every human being has the right to live. The death penalty, for many reasons is not right. It is never okay to kill someone. If they commit a crime that is so drastically terrible that you seek revenge, allow them to suffer in jail for the rest of their lives without any chance of parole. Killing these people, guilty or innocent, is not justifiable. Ever heard the term, “two wrongs don’t make a right”? Merely because the criminal did something wrong does not give anyone the right to kill them. Punishment is required for criminals, or else why would we have a justice system? However, even law enforcement has a limitation to the actions they are allowed to take. Law enforcement is not allowed to shoot whoever they feel like; it has to be purely under self defense or the defense of someone else’s life. Otherwise, they cannot pull that trigger.
Another example similar to this is of a man that was accused of raping and killing an eleven year old girl. A village mob attacked the accused man and beat a confession out of him. The problem with this is that when the police could not explain how the accused got injured so badly, the Supreme Court acquitted him because they discovered that his confession was due to him being physically attacked (Rape). In a sense it teaches people that they need to rely on the justice system to serve justice. If American, or any country for that matter, were to allow vigilante justice when someone is accused of a terrible crime, then it would just happen more and more. The Supreme Court almost had to do what they did to show that what that mob did was wrong. Even if the guy was guilty, he was on the road to getting the death penalty. If justice is what the mob sought after, why did they not merely allow him to die the legal way?
There is an old song titled “Vigilante Man” by Woody Guthrie. The most interesting part in the song is when he says:
“Tell me why does a vigilante man
Carry that club in his hands
Would he beat an innocent man down?
That no good vigilante man” (Guthrie).
This is interesting because it attempts to make the point that vigilante’s are up to no good. This tends to be a wrong perception that many people have. Vigilance can actually be quite a good quality to have. To be aware and attentive to everything that goes on around can ensure that someone else or that person’s own self are safe and secure. It could save a life, or change the way a person acts. These lyrics point out the fact that society as a whole looks at vigilantism as wrong and should be avoided at all costs. This is why we have a justice system. Years ago, vigilantism may have been an acceptable result while the justice system was still growing, forming, and finalizing. But with the way today’s justice system is set up, we have police, lawyers, judges that all exist so that everyday citizens do not have to turn to vigilance. The lyrics also mention vigilantes killing innocent people. Without going through a trial and determining all points of evidence clearly, it is very possible vigilantes do indeed kill innocent people.
An example of the death of an innocent bystander is prominent here: Helenwood, Tennessee is a small town near the Appalachian Mountains. A man named Timothy Carl Chandler was arrested for child pornography charges and everyone in Helenwood knew about it. Two of Chandler’s neighbors took the liberty make sure that Chandler did not do this again and caught fire to his home. Chandler escaped from the flames alive, but his unfortunately his wife did not. The two men that started the fire were charged of first degree murder and arson with a one million dollar jail bond (CBS). The fact that these men received a penalty for their actions makes it clear that vigilante justice is not always right. Sometimes you have to leave things to be handled by the police. Having the guilt of the blood of an innocent person in someone’s hands has to be the most terrible feeling and baggage they could carry with them for the rest of their lives.
To show another negative view of a vigilante group, think about the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of slavery. Abolitionists, as previously stated, were vigilantes because they took the law into their own hands to help free the slaves, but what about a group such as the Ku Klux Klan? This vigilante committee has an extremely negative view on society, and rightfully so. After slavery was abolished, the Ku Klux Klan “sought to continue white dominance over freed blacks by lynching and other forms of intimidation that were prohibited by law” (Law Library). These two groups are completely different spectrums and this is where the problem with vigilantism lies. At some point being a vigilante is in fact morally wrong. The KKK is prime example of a group of people that are unmistakably wrong for feeling as though they are superior to other human beings merely due to their skin color.
The book, A Time to Kill‘s plot is concerning this very topic. In the book a young ten year old black girl is severely injured and raped by two white men. The girl’s father, Carl Lee Hailey, is frightened that the white men will get away with the crime due to a previous memory of four white men that had raped another African American girl and wound up getting acquitted. Out of determination to not allow this to happen in this case, he takes the law into his own hands and winds up shooting both of the men on their way to the court room. Carl gets tried and the verdict is not guilty by reason of insanity (Grisham 508). This book raises the question of whether or not it is okay for a father to kill out of vengeance for the loss of a child, as well as uncovering the racial attitudes of that time and place. Think about the different perspectives throughout the book. In one case you have a young black girl who was raped so badly that doctors told her that she would not be able to have children in the future. On the other side, you have grown adult white men that feel African Americans should have no rights at all so for a black man to kill these two rapist is completely absurd. The KKK specifically was outraged and appalled that a white man would defend a black man on such a controversial issue. In fact these threatened to kill Jake, the lawyer, and also burned down his home while he and his family were away. Things got so out of control that the National Guard had to come into Canton to keep peace during the trial for Carl. Which side is justified? Do the white people have the right to be dreadfully upset that two of their colleagues, friends, and family were shot and killed by a black man? Or is Carl Hailey justified in killing the two men that raped, and nearly killed his daughter?
The basis of a vigilante group is all about justice and what is fair. If someone makes the decision to become a vigilante it shows a great sense of character and morality. It also shows qualities of being a good citizen and wanting to better the community. These two qualities, fairness and being a good citizen, are two of the six pillars of character. The concept of the six pillars of character came from the book Making Ethical Decisions. The six pillars include trustworthiness, caring, responsibility, citizenship, respect, and fairness (Six Pillars). Fairness and justice is probably the most difficult characteristic to have because it makes a person step outside of a box and sometimes away from what society says is right and wrong. Fairness, on the other hand, is a lot more subjective and personal. To be fair a person has to be completely open-minded and considerate of all options. A vigilante holds the quality of being a fair person because they seek justice no matter what other people think or say. They go with what they feel is the right thing to do and do not allow anyone to stop them. A person is clearly a good citizen as a vigilante because in a lot of cases the vigilante is doing what they are doing to ensure that their family, friends, town, region, or country is secure and safe. Think about to the example given about the vigilante group that seeks for online predators. Those people are good citizens because they have taken the law into their own hands to ensure that young women or boys are safe from sick and perverted older men or women. These are the type of people that make the world a better place.
Another example that shows how a person should act is forgiveness. Forgiveness binds so many wounds, and the lack of forgiveness is what causes a lot of pain and suffering throughout someone’s life. Holding on to baggage of something that happened can truly affect the way a person lives and their happiness. Colossians 3:12-13 says, “12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (New International Version, Col. 3:12-13) and it puts it all into perspective on basic guidelines on how a person should live. Another similar bible verse also correlates on how to respond when you are wronged 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 says, “14And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else” (New International Version, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-17)
In almost all towns there are areas that have residential speed limits of twenty-five miles per hour and almost everyone flies down at a greater speed than that. With a lot of today’s modern vehicles it is actually almost a difficult task to stay at a speed of twenty-five miles per hour. However, these people are flying down these residential roads when children are riding around on bicycles and playing football in their front yard. It is common for people that live in residential areas to become upset with the way people drive down their roads. An example is in the city Allentown, PA there is a man that is extremely fed up with people speeding down his road. The problem is that the law enforcement is not doing much of anything about the situation, so he took the liberty to make a couple of threats to attempt and keep people from speeding. This man posted a sign that says “Speed Limit: 25 mph, speed enforced by rock throwing”. Even though this at first comes off as a humorous statement, it can actually be quite serious. “Law-enforcement officials cannot, and do not, endorse vigilante actions of any kind, nor even the threat of such actions as displayed by this homemade placard — even though the cops might understand the motive” (Morning Call).
The movie Taken also is an example of a vigilante, but in this case we desire for the main character played by Liam Neeson to succeed in his vigilance. The basic plot of the movie is about how Neeson’s daughter goes off to Europe with a friend and gets kidnapped. Neeson receives a phone call from his daughter right before she gets kidnapped and winds up having a phone conversation with the guy that personally kidnapped his daughter. He states “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you I will not pursue you. But if you don’t I will look for you I will find you and I will kill you (IMDB).” Throughout the rest of the movie Neeson goes to great lengths to locate his daughter and save her. For example, the most intriguing scene of the movie is when Neeson goes to dinner with an old friend that he knows is associated with the kidnapping of his daughter. So in order to find out more information from this French man, he shoots the man’s wife in the arm and then threatens to hurt his children as well. So after a bit of probing the man gives Neeson the information he is seeking so Neeson knocks him out. The most interesting part about all this is that while watching the movie with big crowds in a theater you’ll receive heaps of “oou’s and ahh’s” of people rooting for Neeson as he does everything he can to get his daughter back. Shooting an innocent woman, electrocuting a man involved with the kidnapping, and killing several men until he finally discovers his daughter on a yacht. When he finds her, they hug and go back home. The question this movie brings up is whether or not Neeson was justified. He killed several people, some innocent. Yes, his daughter was in great danger and his motive is completely understandable, but it does not justify what he did. Killing is never okay.
When someone is in a situation where the only solution to a problem seems to be violence, what should they do? For a person to learn to control their anger, it has to be one of the most important qualities a person can have. To be patient and slow to anger shows great wisdom and integrity. These thoughts lead to the poem Revenge by Kim Hooten. These are the last two stanzas of the poem:
“The anger causes pain inside
Too deep to understand.
And the pain, in turn, will cause,
More malice to my hand.
The scourge I lay upon you now,
You surely cannot break,
This curse will last for on and on,
You’ve made a grace mistake.” (Hooten)
Anger is often due to an enticed situation, which should be an obvious statement. This poem lays out a clear image of someone being emotionally distraught and lashing out on a person. It is moments similar to these that a person needs to learn how they react to situations because they are the ones that are capable of knowing how they personally will handle a dilemma. A person needs to learn this about themselves in order to build an acceptable amount of patients and forgiveness. Forgiveness is also extremely important as it will help ease a person’s anger. If someone is fuming with anger at a person and then the person they are frustrated with apologizes, that almost always eases some tension. If the person is a forgiving person it will lighten the situation and stop things from happening that would have otherwise occurred. Another option for people to consider when under ‘heat of the moment situations’ is how this benefits them in the long run. They should also consider the laws of their land and if it is against the law, do they feel passionately that those laws are wrong? If they do not consider this question they are failing to really take all accounts of action into consideration. Not only does this show impatience, but it also show great lack of self-control. If someone is incapable of fading their anger enough so that they can consider these options before acting crudely they need to learn more about how they act and maybe even think about attending anger management classes. These are some of the best ways from keeping a person from turning towards vigilante justice.
In an interview with a good friend, Jason Dick, the question was asked whether or not he believed vigilante justice was ever justifiable? Jason replied, “Certainly. In the long run we don’t want it, because it lacks checks and balances. But if the laws are unjust, then it’s absolutely justified. I’d say that in some cases, it’s even demanded. Of course we should change the laws to reflect the more just system, such that we don’t have mobs going overboard” (Dick). His statements are worth looking at, but it also leads to the controversial question of where the line is drawn at. This is probably something that people will rarely agree on and is up to each person to decide for themselves. But out of curiosity the question was asked to Jason, “Then where is the dividing line? At what point do you feel it’s not okay, where is that line drawn?” His answer goes back to a lot of what said earlier in this paper,
“That’s a difficult question. There’s always going to be a massive grey area with these things. As a personal choice, I would put it far in the safe zone. As such I would only act in that manner if I felt that there were laws in place that are wholly unjust. An example might be laws justifying slavery. For the current examples of unjust laws, I can’t see honest ways of circumventing them, so I just wouldn’t do it today” (Dick).
As previously stated, an example of when vigilante justice is appropriate is the abolitionist in the early 18th century that was against the laws justifying slavery. However, Jason makes note of the fact that he has the intelligence and patients enough to recognize that he cannot think of any current laws that he disagrees with enough to take the law into his own hands to end a specific problem. Jason is a great example for how a person needs to think before they act. To keep a calm and collected mindset in all situations will keep someone out of serious trouble and heartbreak. If the men mentioned in Tennessee had considered their consequences, would they have taken the liberty to burn down that man’s house? Would that woman still be alive, enjoying life to the fullest degree that god has planned for her? These are the types of thoughts that must go into consideration before acting irrationally.
In the book The Catcher in the Rye Holden is in love with this girl named Jane. When he is at the Pencey Prep, his roommate, Stradlater, goes on a date with Jane. Stradlater is known for making his “moves” on the girls he goes on dates with. Since Holden knows this about him, he becomes extremely distraught. In fact, when Stradlater gets back from his date with Jane, Holden begins to question him about the date. His probing led to getting into a fight Stradlater because he became so upset over the topic (Salinger). This is not vigilante justice or anything, but it does deal with the way Holden managed his problems. Holden interrogated Stradlater and therefore wound up getting into a physical interaction because of wrong choices made along the way. If Holden had considered a more appropriate way to address the issue, it would not have escalated to the point it did. This exemplifies the point that a person needs to learn who they are, how they react to situations, and what they can do to prevent regretful moments.
Another subject to touch is standing up for what a person believes in. Dr. Martin Luther King is a prime example of someone who believed strongly on many issues and was not afraid to stand up those causes. In fact, he even made a speech n this very subject:
“I say to you, this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live….And you refuse to do it because you are afraid. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab or shoot or bomb your house. So you refuse to take a stand. Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are just as dead at 38 as you would be at ninety. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit. You died when you refused to stand up for right. You died when you refused to stand up for truth. You died when you refused to stand up for justice” (King, Jr.)
Doctor King is not necessarily speaking about taking the law into someone’s own hands, but about why someone is alive, and what they live for. The choices someone makes, and the things they do is what forms everything about. If they nothing to live for, they might as well be dead. Many vigilantes are standing up for what they believe is the right thing to do. They are not dead, but alive. If under the proper circumstances vigilantism can be a beautiful thing.
If someone is doing something wrong, morally or merely due to ignorance, a lot of the times they are unaware of this. In fact, if everyone went around murdering and killing, it would be socially okay at that point, to kill. Morality is extremely biased and unique, and is not always based off of “majority” beliefs. This is shown quite clearly through controversial topics like abortion or the death penalty. Marianne Williamson lays this concept out quite beautifully, “May we not succumb to the thoughts of violence and revenge today, but rather to thoughts of mercy and compassion…We are to love our enemies that they might be returned to their right minds” (ThinkExist). For someone to realize that they are in the wrong, sometimes they have to have someone else show them. If the person they wronged shows compassion and forgiveness it can not only let a person see what they have done wrong, but also correct the issue. It is possible that they may do the issue frequently. If this is the case then by showing a person love they see how they should act themselves. People are swayed left or right based on those around them very easily. An amazing way to make a small, but crucial impact on the bettering of people and the world is to love and care for someone.
In conclusion killing is never okay no matter whom someone is or what has been done to them. Every person has been blessed with the gift of life and it is not any other human’s duty to take that from them. Vigilante justice will always be a controversial topic and nobody can give a definite right and wrong on the issue. A basic rule of thumb when it comes to vigilantism is that if someone is pursuing revenge they are most likely in the wrong. However, if they are defending someone and their lives they’re probably doing something that takes great courage and it will be respected by many people in the future. Just as Edwin Hubbel Chapin says, “Never does the human soul appear so strong as when it forgoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury.”
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Another P.S. If you’re going to actually use any of this information, have the courtesy to cite me properly, or the good people that I cited, give them the courtesy. It’s only appropriate to give them the credit. Thanks.