The little bits and pieces of my internal life.

From the Mosaic
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
I do like the new template, but I hadn't intended to break the commenting feature. It should be all fixed now, so if you have burning thoughts on anything, feel free to indulge.
Monday, May 24, 2004
An Eye For An Eye

Yesterday, I attended a party celebrating my friend's graduation from law school (congratulations, Liz!). At one point, as was perhaps inevitable, the topic turned to the death penalty, its justice, and its problems. I mentioned that my husband's uncle had been murdered last year, and to my surprise everyone jumped to the conclusion that I must, therefore, be for the death penalty. In retrospect, this isn't surprising; it's almost a cliche that the family of the victim "hungers for justice" or whatever. At the time, though, I was completely taken aback -- because I'm not for the death penalty, even now.

I suppose that in an ideal world, where people in general and the justice system in particular are infallible, it might be a reasonable thing. I've never been persuaded of the validity of many of the stock phrases of the anti-death-penalty folk, in particular the notion that for the state to kill lowers it to the level of the murderer, or that execution is intrinsically an affront to human dignity. The reality, however, is more complicated. The moratoria that have been put in place are in response to various symptoms, but the same underlying cause. Men are not angels and probably never will be. Until they are, the entire system of determining not just guilt or innocence, but indeed the nature and severity of charges, the whole nine yards, is simply an approximation. As certain as we may think we are of the proper outcome, death is not an appropriate outcome for any procedure which inherently involves that sort of uncertainty.

"But what about the victim's family?" you may say at this point. Well, in truth, what about them? The justice system is for, well, justice. It is not a tool for vengeance. It is not a means for anyone, no matter how badly they were wronged, to inflict their will upon another beyond what is strictly just. And, in fact, even were one to do this, to see the murderer struck down in order to expiate his sin, what good does it do? It cannot bring back what has been lost. It cannot bring "closure", whatever that is supposed to mean. In the end, your loved one is still dead. There is nothing, no procedure, no retribution, no restitution, absolutely nothing that can change that.

It seems to me that the families, often, are so desperate for answers that they will grasp onto any clue, any shred. In practice, this means that they listen to the scenario of the police and of the prosecution to the exclusion of all else. No wonder, then, that normally they are so eager to see the most extreme punishment, and so very disappointed if the case is lost on appeal or never even brought to trial.

In truth, I do not understand the appeal of vengeance. It's a universal trait, of course, and I'm not saying I'm incapable of lashing out in retribution in the heat of the moment. But to sit, as people do, years after the fact, and be anxiously looking ahead to the day when the criminal's appeals are at last complete, and yet knowing they will be ultimately disappointed because the suffering won't be a tenth or a hundredth or a thousandth as great as what happened -- I can't fathom it. It sickens me, some, but mostly it makes me sad.

I would much rather be able to look at myself in the mirror and see the face of someone who mourns for someone wrongfully taken from her, who always will mourn, but who is at least confident that the fallible justice of this world didn't cause another mother or friend or niece by marriage to do the same.
Sunday, May 23, 2004
The new blog template is courtesy of Andrew Lias. If you don't like the colors, though, that's strictly my fault -- Andrew put it together in red.

Thanks, Andrew!
Thursday, May 20, 2004

My brand new tattoo, immediately after being finished. Faded a bit, but on the plus side it doesn't hurt any more. :-)
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Permanent Markers

I have, on my foot, a sparkly new tattoo, acquired last Friday.

There are several questions that people without tattoos ask people with them.

The first, and most obvious, is what it feels like and/or how much it hurts. Well, it felt, to me, exactly like what it was: a tiny needle going in and out of my skin, in various spots, rapidly, for an hour. It is a very tiny needle, and I doubt anyone would object to being poked with it once; it's the repetition that gets wearing. I don't know how people can stand to sit for five hours and get tattooed. The foot is unusually painful, apparently, but still.

The second is why one would get a tattoo at all. Of course, that's going to vary, but it's surprisingly complex for me.

One reason is that, simply, it's something I'd never done before, and now I have. For something life-altering, like having a child, that's not a good enough reason, at least not for me. But a tattoo is pretty minor by comparison, especially if it can be readily hidden. So, sure. I wanted to see what it was like.

Another is, of course, no matter how much I might like to deny it, that I have lots of friends with tattoos, and that was influential. If I didn't know anyone personally that had one, it probably would never have crossed my mind.

But fundamentally, I got a tattoo because I thought it would be cool. What makes it cool? There's the obvious rebelliousness of it; it's still considered Not Quite Nice by a lot of people, as if it programs your soul to become a lower-class something-or-other.

The other thing that makes it cool is that, the conformity of Generation X and the habits of NBA players notwithstanding, very few people have tattoos (4% of the US population according to It's different. It's novel. You don't see it every day. I'm not the only one in my work organization, but I'm the only one it's visible on. So at the same time I got a tattoo because I wanted to be like others and different from others. Which makes no sense, really, but it's a little late now. It's a good thing I like it.

I hemmed and hawed for years about getting one. I even talked to a relative about it who has since passed away. I was concerned, mostly because someone I was close to seemed to find them somewhere between disgusting and abhorrent. He said, "Well, that's nice, but if I really wanted a tattoo, I wouldn't let anyone's opinion keep me from doing it."

Thanks, Malcolm. Good advice.
Sunday, May 02, 2004
Professional Representation

Apologies for the very long delay between posts. My life has gone through a fair bit of upheaval, which I'll share since it will segue nicely into today's topic.

I just quit my job; my last day was Friday. For the first time in my life, I'm leaving a job where everyone, co-workers and management alike, was sorry to see me go. It was surprisingly hard to leave, considering that my reasons for doing so were so sensible (the new job is just, well, better -- not as interesting, perhaps, but better). Of course, there is a management style consisting of pretending to be someone's at least pseudo-friend and then, inevitably, letting them down because it's a business relationship rather than a friendship. But my boss at my old company was either suckered into believing his own propaganda or (more likely, since he's not much of an actor) is that rarity, the Genuinely Nice Guy who really *is* trying to be your friend. He didn't do a bad job either, considering that the boss-employee relationship, at least when I'm involved, has a low tolerance for the sort of honesty that characterizes actual friendship.

The only difficulty I've had with this entire process has been maintaining the appropriate professional detachment. I was saddened to finally leave, even though I'd been looking off and on during my entire tenure. That's harmless in itself, but the behavior is more insidious. I tend to fall into the trap of treating my company and its needs as if it were on the basis of friendship, and that's entirely inappropriate. No company worth its salt (excepting, perhaps, small family-owned businesses) is treating its employees as friends. If the underlying financials dictate layoffs, the company will let you go, dispassionately (for the most part), regardless of the great times you've had together.

This is probably obvious to everyone but me, but I have nothing to lose from doing the right thing, keeping professional detachment. My boss won't hate me; my co-workers won't tease me at recess and call me names. To be sure, one doesn't want to go the other way into shortsighted selfishness, but that's an unlikely outcome for me in any case.

It's the company's job to be an advocate for its needs. But it's my own job to be an advocate for mine.
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    An Eye For An Eye

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