A fitting punishment

This was written after last February’s ‘tagging’ of Plymouth Rock and other monuments, in reaction to the call for corporal punishment for the teenage vandal.

I’m pondering the penalty.

You too?

They caught the criminal, the one that defaced the places we love, a person indifferent to the beauty around them.

We were dismayed when we saw the damage.

We were angry at this malicious indifference.

We wondered aloud who, who would do such a thing?

And now we’re delighting in devising the proper punishment.

I’ve got it!

A mirror.

We issue everyone a mirror with the words, “Caught in the Act!” stenciled above.

I’m not leaving myself out.

I think it probably took me 50 years before I developed the slightest awareness of the beauty and fragility of the world around me.

I thought nothing of the waste, the thousands of tons of trash I was generating, or the mountain that I was building one trip to the dump at a time.

For my first house the developer cut down fifty 50-foot trees: white pines, pitch pines, an oak or two, just to make it easier to get the trucks in.

The house came with a thousand square feet of sod, 10 hardy shrubs, and a driveway built right through a wetland.

I have probably thrown away a thousand plastic water bottles.

How about you?

You live in a rare and unique ecosystem, perhaps with a pond in your backyard.

How many tons of fertilizer have you dumped on it?

Does your septic system drain into the pond?

How many trees did you cut down to improve your view?

Yeah, this seventeen year old did a bad thing, and he or she should be punished for it.

Think hard about what a fitting punishment might be.

• He or she might be asked to spend the summer cleaning invasive species from a conservation area.
• Build a boardwalk along a low-lying stretch of a popular trail.
• Maybe they should learn about the history behind the monuments they defaced, and then give free historic tours.
• They should have to learn the names of native flowers, and birds, and how to stop polluting our ponds, and the story of Massasoit and his son Metacomet, and how Plymouth Rock was broken, moved, reassembled…

The more we know about the place we call home the more likely we will treat it with respect and care and seek to conserve it for the future.

They caught the criminal, the one that defaced the places we love, a person indifferent to the beauty around them.

We were dismayed when we saw the damage.

We were angry at this malicious indifference.

We wondered aloud who, who would do such a thing?

Now all we need to do is find a fit punishment.

I know it will be painful but, look in the mirror, we deserve it.

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