Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I've been listening to way too many fan podcasts, where they go through a tv show episode by episode and analyze and enjoy and nerd out and I want to do that but not a podcast because I don't have podcasting equipment I just want to ramble about nerd stuff and I will I think I just have to pick a show but I want to do ALL THE THINGS

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Emotion or Vulcan Logic?

Can you ever make a decision completely devoid of emotion? An important one, I mean, one where you've been asked to set aside your instincts and emotions and base it solely on facts and evidence?

I've mentioned before that I listen to a lot of podcasts, and a great number of them are true crime, unsolved mysteries and the like. There's one called Breakdown, from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It's pretty well done, all in all, not sensationalist even though the second season has been covering what you might consider a pretty sensational crime.

Or accident.

One of those.

This season has been following the trial of Justin Ross Harris who was accused (and convicted) of deliberately leaving his nearly two year old son Cooper locked in his car all day in 2014. Cooper, tragically, died and his father was very obviously the responsible party.

That's not really in question.

Harris had his son and instead of taking Cooper to his daycare, he drove to his work and left his son to die in the car. Harris and his attorneys claim that it was an accident, that because he did things out of order that day, because he was distracted, he had a lapse of memory and forgot that he hadn't yet taken Cooper to the daycare.

That he forgot his son.

He was responsible for Cooper's death, and no two ways about it.

And this is a thing that happens. The number of infant car deaths is terrifying, to be honest, and I don't have kids! I occasionally have my god kids, and it's unusual enough for me to be driving them around that I am constantly aware of them and checking to make sure they're okay in their carseats. But I don't have them every day, I don't have those car seats in my back seat every day. I can kind of see how, especially with the rear facing seats, you get used to seeing them there, the seats themselves can become a part of your scenery.

I can see how you could accidentally forget a child in one of those seats, and I can't imagine how painful that would be for a parent, and I'm glad that there are people working to raise awareness and to make items that will help keep these sorts of tragedies from happening.

People forget things on a near constant basis! We forget things that are incredibly important because we're distracted or it's something so routine that the memory of us having done it is almost burned into our brains, making it occasionally hard to remember whether or not we really did the thing that day, or we're just remembering having done it a million times before.

Usually, this isn't a matter of life and death. But our brains can be slippery bastards even when the consequences are unthinkable.

However, this turned into a case that wasn't as horrifically simple as an accident. Harris was tried and convicted for the deliberate death of his son. According to the prosecution, Harris did not have a memory lapse but rather intentionally locked Cooper in the car to die because he wanted to be free to pursue a life that he felt his son was holding him back from.

The prosecution presented a lot of evidence toward the fact that Harris was, in fact, a pretty awful husband and generally less than stellar person. He'd been cheating on his wife for years, hooking up with women online - some of whom turned out to be under age at the time of the interactions. He was, in fact, sexting with an under age girl the day that he left Cooper in the car.

They brought out comments and threads that Harris had made or checked into about the 'child free' lifestyle and how he 'loved his son and all but we both need escapes'. Now, plenty of people want to live the 'child free' life and they are in no way thinking about or advocating murdering children. They just don't want to have them, and so they don't.

Of course the defense pointed out the thin connection between needing a break from your child and murdering that child, but all of these things about Harris' lifestyle and actions were presented in court. The podcast played pieces of testimony, people talking about how wrong Harris' affect seemed when he discovered Cooper's body in the back seat. They talked about how, essentially, deviant he is to be cheating on his wife and having these multiple affairs while pretending to be this great family man.

There was also evidence, of course, and not just the comments that he made online. There was the fact that Harris is seen on the parking lot security seeming to watch someone as he passes them - after he had just parked the car that morning with Cooper strapped in - to see if they were going close to his car. There's the video of him going to the car at lunch and throwing a pack of lightbulbs into the car - with the argument that he had to have been able to see Cooper at that point, that even if it was an accident, he 'discovered' the mistake hours before he admitted to it and there is one witness who claims that Cooper could have still been alive at that point.

But, at least from what was relayed through the podcast, a lot of the evidence was character driven.

He was a bad person, and bad people do bad things.

He cheated on his wife and he wanted to be free of the responsibilities of being a father. So he murdered his son.

They played parts of one of his interviews with the police on the podcast and the first time he sees his wife after Cooper's death.

I admit, up until the audio of the police interview, I was torn as to whether or not I personally thought he was guilty. There are, at least for me, degrees of badness? Of evil? Just because you're willing to cheat on your wife doesn't necessarily mean that you're willing to murder, let alone murder your own helpless child.

However, the audio of his interview with the police convinced me that he did it. His reaction to being told that they're going to charge him with...I believe they said it was neglect at that point, but I could be wrong about the specific word they used there. Basically, they said that because Cooper had been in his care and due to his negligence Cooper had died, they had to charge him with this. And I'm listening, thinking, okay, okay, that's reasonable. Harris was the adult, he was responsible for Cooper's safety and well being and it might have been an accident but he failed his responsibilities and Cooper died. He didn't just get hurt, he *died*.

And then Harris proceeds to calmly *argue* with them that he shouldn't be charged with anything, that it wasn't intentional. Let me say, there is something, in listening to him speak, so *off* about his tone and his concern and his reaction that makes me think he did it. It was that fast, I decided that he was guilty and I've been listening to the rest of the podcast with that mindset.

When I heard that he was convicted I thought, 'Good. He murdered that poor baby.'

Now, after this whole thing has had time to marinate in the back of my mind, though, I'm wondering.

I'm wondering if Justin Ross Harris wasn't a philanderer, a cheat, and a generally morally reprehensible person, if I would have taken his reaction as proof positive that he did it. Certainly he didn't react the way that I imagine I would in such a situation, but I've (thankfully) never been in that situation and you never really know what you'll do when faced with something like that. But is that enough to say that he is guilty of a deliberate crime? Or could it still have been a grossly horrific accident?

And I'm just getting the bits and pieces shared over the podcast. The jurors are seeing much, much worse than what I'm hearing.

Which brings me to my question.

Can you ever really totally objectively look at something like this?

Could you, as a juror, ignore your emotional reaction to seeing a dead child? To knowing that his father is the one who caused his death? To knowing that the man has been cheating on his wife, has been doing things that are illegal and/or morally corrupt?

Could you look dispassionately at what the facts are and decide innocence or guilt based only on that and not on the emotions that you feel?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Rambling + Wrong Things Being Wrong

I have edited this post three or four times. I start on it, then get distracted and then I come back and have to update All the Things. So if something makes no sense? Go me.

So a while back I said I wanted to do a post about inherent evils. I may have used the word intrinsic, but I think that's the wrong term now.

A lot of things have happened since then, work is always interesting and my sister is actually getting married in less than a month married. Much luck to her husband, he knew what he was getting into. I'm the maid of honor...matron of honor? Not sure what the right term is, actually. I'm unmarried (clearly), but not properly a 'maid'. *shrug* Whatever. I'm busy killing myself walking around breaking in cowboy boots because apparently my sister is a red neck of the highest caliber.

Let me tell you how miffed I was that I had to buy not one, but TWO pairs of boots because my sister approved the first pair of boots and then blamed her husband and said that they had to be BLACK boots because of reasons. *rolls eyes* And then I break in a second pair of boots and SHE DOESN'T EVEN GET ANY PICTURES OF THE BOOTS I COULD HAVE BEEN WEARING NORMAL SHOES LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN AND NO ONE WOULD HAVE KNOWN.

I took those boots off so fast.

So. Fast.

I just keep telling myself its her wedding, and she's hardly a bridezilla. And I've told her she only gets the one. I also told her fiancee husband he can't give her back. But seriously, he seems like a good guy and he's a cop, which, the irony is thick here. My sister is studying to be a nurse and he's a cop - I look the most like my maternal grandmother out of the rest of the family and we may...have had certain personality traits in common? Seeing as how we are both always right. ;) But my sister is literally recreating my grandparents' marriage, since my grandmother was a nurse and my grandfather was a cop.


There was also the election.

Which is a thing that happened. I don't really talk about politics, and I'm not planning on changing that now.

Moving on.

My boss, who is a great man, has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. It's not the treatable kind and I don't know if it's worse to know that you're going to die, here's a timeline or to know that you're not going to be yourself before the end.



Inherent/intrinsic evil.

I listen to a podcast called Catholic Answers Focus. It's related to the Catholic Answers radio show, which I also listen to, surprise surprise. It's more of a one on one interview kind of a thing. Back in August (OMG that was so long ago) they had an episode titled Natural Law and Civil Law. Which was an interesting listen.

While I was listening, I had a minor epiphany?

So, incest. We can all generally agree that it is terrible and wrong and should not happen. But is it because it is typically an abusive situation or is it because there is something so wrong with the act/concept itself that even if it happens in a 'healthy' way it is still evil?

I was thinking through it in my head, sort of like this.

Incest is wrong because

1) it is an abusive relationship. If it is between an older family member and a younger there is an inherent power differential and the pedophilia aspect just makes it that much worse. If it is between relatives of a more similar age, there is still typically a power imbalance where one party is manipulating or controlling the other due to a variety of factors;

2) step back and say that it is a relationship that is not abusive in that way. There are two people, related, who meet and decide to begin a romantic/sexual relationship. They've never met one another before this, they didn't grow up together, etc. There's no possibility of it being a situation like in the first step. Is it sill wrong?

Yes. But why?

My first thought was because they could possibly have children and those children's probability of being born with significant birth defects is higher than those of people suitably distantly related. I know it doesn't happen in every instance, and that inbreeding can take a long time of repeated occurrences to cause the worst sorts on a regular basis, but it's still an unnecessary risk factor to add to an already risky proposition.

So, 3) take it back another step and say that they will not have children. Better yet, they cannot. For whatever reason.

Is it still wrong?

My brain says yes.

But why?

I suppose one could argue that even a scenario such as this serves to normalize the incestuous relationship, thus perhaps making it an nth more likely that someone will abuse another member of their family in the way detailed in the first step. But that seems a stretch to me, and honestly, if someone is that wrongly wired, they're going to do it no matter what justifications they have to make to themselves.

Still wrong?



It just is. It's just wrong. At it's core, there is something wrong with the concept, let along the act itself that sets people's teeth on edge.

And yes, I am aware that incest has been practiced in other, ancient cultures. Doesn't make it less wrong. People have done a whole lot of things, collectively and individually and made themselves believe that it was okay. That never made these things actually okay.

Some things are wrong and no argument or justification can be made to change that. 
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