Should one hotdog speak for all?

This country has an approach to solving problems that I believe in: the belief of thinking someone is innocent until proven guilty. I stand by this method and strongly believe every case, no matter the context, should be conducted with no charges pressed against a person until there is solid evidence against them. But I am disappointed to find a lack of such convicting clarity in circumstances that blur the line between guilty and innocent. If someone is clearly proven guilty, but does not deserve the punishment that comes with breaking that law then how are they charged? For example, if a homeless person is starving and steals food from a street vendor’s cart would it be fair for them to be charged and need to go before a court?  With the fast advancement of technology these days it is much less common for people to be in emergency situations in which they need to break the law because of the commercialization and widespread use of cell phones in today’s society, as well as the mass education of citizens on how to handle various emergency procedures by calling upon various emergency responders. But although the likelihood of needing to break the law in your day-to-day life is fairly low, that does not mean that there are no circumstances in which the intent of a person’s actions, even if illegal, should not be taken into account when judging them as guilty or not.

The main problem that comes with creating rules that have certain consequences is exceptions to those rules, or at least extenuating circumstances that create outcomes in which the traditional black and white of guilty or innocent of a crime are not as clear. If the aforementioned homeless person had stolen a hotdog because they were starving, should a fair law-abiding officer see them as an exception to the typical punishment for stealing and instead try to find a unique way to solve this problem? Therein lies the danger of symbolic gestures of justice. A local reporter could hear about how a homeless person stole food from a vendor and was then allowed to walk with a mild verbal reprimand, and that reporter could utilize the power of social media to change this story any way they wanted. They could air a clip warning all local business owners of the ‘good-Samaritan’ cop who would be destroying their businesses by basically encouraging all homeless people to steal food because they would not be severely punished. This one incident could be portrayed as an example of the beliefs of all police officers within the area, creating discord between them and local business owners, and also inciting strong feelings between other citizens who choose to sympathize with the officer or the street vendor.

Another more prominent example of a symbolic gesture of justice would be the scandal currently unfolding around Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Some people may say this case involves blurred lines of guilty versus innocent because of trivial matters such as the time it has been since the incident happened, as well as the decision to come forward now to testify with his nomination coming up. What matters to me is the fact that this case has a designated seat in the public eye, and with that comes a lot of added weight to the final designation of this man as worthy to be a supreme court justice or not. If he is allowed to ascend to this position that will be a huge statement to people all over this country about how our government feels about women, their rights, and the validity of these rights. If our government refuses to let this man take this position it is no longer just about his moral incapacity to be a judge, it is a strong statement to every woman in this country about what our country believes in — equality and rights for all. I cannot say I feel pity for the accused person currently desiring to represent my country as a member of the Supreme Court of justice when he clearly has so little knowledge of the concept he is hoping to act upon, but I do hope it is recognized that this case is now so much bigger than him. The outcome of this case will impact the safety, agency, and validity of women across this country, and will be a model to countries everywhere of the rights women possess.

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