The Ernie Project no. 6

From binder no. 3

Dated 19 Jan 86

Hello from the Pastor (by Reverend Ernest Richter

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

The Lord High Executioner in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Mikado” sings a supremely optimistic aria to express his sanguine “purpose all sublime, to let the punishment fit the crime”. It’s a truly worthy sentiment, indeed, a worthy ambition. And it’s one that has teased jurists and judges for centuries. If only each crime could have its own special and particular and just punishment.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, one man’s crime is sometimes another man’s innocent pastime. So it is in the “Mikado”. The Lord High Executioner must uphold the Mikado’s law, and that means that he must behead anyone caught kissing! It seems a trifle excessive to us perhaps, but the executioner, in his own idealistic way, seems sufficiently convinced that this punishment exactly fits this crime. I think it would certainly lead one to take kissing rather seriously. You wouldn’t dare rush dispensing kisses carelessly in such a quixotic world. Alas for love.

Well that’s the comic and fictional world of the musical theatre. In the real world such a bizarre standard of justice would never do. Kissing is not a crime. And even if it were, it would not be a capital crime, so it would certainly not be assigned such a severe punishment. Perhaps you would take away the offender’s ChapStick ®, nothing more. 

But what about the other end of the spectrum. What kind of punishment should be meted out for the worst crime – murder? Is there a punishment to fit this crime? There used to be. There was a time not too long when most thoughtful people would have agreed that murder was a capital crime. Not so today. Today there is a vague and vacant assumption that murder is possibly not a crime at all, not like water pollution is a crime, or discrimination against homosexuals is a crime. But that makes me wonder which is stranger, the “Mikado” or the present. – The End

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