A little under two months ago, the country was appalled to hear that two little girls had been raped in Athlone. The girls, aged six and nine, went missing from a birthday party and were found in a distraught state by family members. I’m not sure that distraught is the right word for the condition of these kids who were so savagely violated, but in cases like this, words often fail us.
There was some sort of altercation, and it seems a local publican might have been assaulted when he intervened. It also seems that family members tried to inflict harm on the perpetrator — not without good reason, you might be thinking. Reports indicate that a 30-year-old homeless man, a father of two children, is ready to plead guilty to multiple rape of these two small children and immediately I want to tear him into little pieces. If somebody did anything remotely resembling this to any of my children, I wouldn’t care one jot about the rule of law. I’d kill them. I’d maim them. I’d make them suffer.
But I’d be wrong to do so, because we can’t order our society on the basis of feral, atavistic urges. If we did so, we wouldn’t have a society for long.
And therefore, much though I sympathise with the urge to dismember, torture and dispose of this piece of shit, I have to tell you that we can’t behave like that in a civilised society. It’s not because I want to protect and defend the scumbag who violated the kids. I’d like to chop him into small pieces, just as you would. It’s because we have a civilised society with all its faults and the place to judge people is a court of law, not an enraged mob.
If we want to keep our civilised society, we need to extend protection to scumbags whether we like it or not. The alternative is a world of lynch-mobs. Is that what we want?