Eye for an eye | AspenTimes.com

Eye for an eye

Tony Vagneur
Aspen, CO Colorado

“If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” This, according to the Torah, or the Five Books of Moses, which is the same as Christianity’s Old Testament, if you’re wondering about origins.

Today in Aspen ” the self-proclaimed liberal coterie of the Roaring Fork Valley ” we sit and watch as an “eye for an eye” (lex talionis, to quote Latin) issue plays itself out in the sexual harassment investigation of the Aspen Police Department and Loren Ryerson. Of course, we need to remind ourselves that an accused is presumed innocent until found otherwise, although the actions of city manager Steve Barwick have singled the chief out in a way reminiscent of religious shunning. I suppose if you have a reasonable grasp of the “innocent until proven guilty” theory, you could readily accept the fact that Ryerson is entitled to receive his paycheck, drive his car and otherwise take advantage of the employment contract offered him by the city of Aspen. To think otherwise is to interject yourself into the solution, which isn’t good, especially if you don’t know what the hell is actually being talked about.

Certainly, retaliation is learned and fed at a more basic level, one occupied by children, which should, by extension, confer upon us the belief that “lex talionis” is a concept we should outgrow as we become civilized adults. Christians espouse this as they beg us to “turn the other cheek.” Truthfully, however, as we age we trade in the physical for the monetary, couching it in the pseudo-sophisticated belief that money can somehow compensate for injuries suffered.

Oh, for sure, we have the largest prison system in the world, partially filled by innumerable people who probably shouldn’t be there to start with, but like other “do-good” schemes we foist upon ourselves, we unthinkingly pay homage to the term “correctional” institution. What we really mean is that we’ve taken socially deviant people off the streets, offering them no clear choice other than to pay their “debt” to society while giving ourselves “breathing room.”

If you’re big on bucks, like some churches, you can buy your way out of charges of priestly child abuse, which makes about as much sense as letting other miscreants off, if they can come up with the proper coin. What did Jesus say about the “money-changers” in his Father’s house? I’m not singling anyone out here, but the only place the “kick ass” reality of an “eye for an eye” should be enforced is in the case of physical and sexual abuse of children. But how do you make an adult feel as a child does, during (and after) the abuse? Or how do you transfer to abusing adults the lifelong disability such abuse creates? Make them wear a scarlet “A” for “abuser?”

Before you think I’ve totally lost it, let me offer that sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious offense, one that should be investigated with the utmost vigor. And anyone that is found to be guilty of such an offense (or offenses) should be appropriately dealt with, within the context of our legal system.

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But, I also caution you that witch hunts are still popular, even around Halloween, and prematurely making the chief out to be guilty, whether through inference or damnation, is doing a disservice not only to him, but to the entire community. Sexual harassment, if it exists, may fall squarely on his shoulders, or it may be more endemic to the whole of city government than just the police department, and then wouldn’t all that chatter in black and white look foolish.