Make penalties bloodier for our own violations

April 08, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

About three weeks ago, I made a prediction. That's when I wrote:

"Michael Fay. At the moment his name might be unfamiliar, but I doubt if anyone has a greater potential to arouse heated emotions, headstrong opinions and emotional talk-show babble. Before long it will happen."

Boy, has it ever.

I doubt if there is even one talk show that hasn't opened its phones to bloodthirsty howls of joy that Fay, 18, should be flogged in Singapore.

So help me, I have been contacted by radio stations as far away as South Africa. You would think that country has enough problems of its own to talk about.

Most major papers have had editorials condemning the flogging as barbaric; other columnists have jumped in, and my mountain of letters and faxes on this subject is growing by the minute.

The latest tally shows that about 90 percent of them are enthusiastic about young Fay being flogged.

As many of them say: "That's what we should do in this country."

And as more than one has said: "Let the punishment fit the crime."

Which is kind of ridiculous, when you consider the crime and the planned punishment.

The crime: Fay and other young men went on a binge of vandalism. They spray-painted and threw eggs at cars, switched license plates, tore down traffic signs and committed other stupid acts.

The punishment: Several months in jail, a $2,000-plus fine and flogging.

It's the six strokes on the butt that stirred the controversy. And the bloodthirsty cheers.

We are not talking about a mere spanking. In Singapore, you are flogged with a bamboo rod, wielded by a martial arts expert. Skin and flesh fly. Blood flows. The floggee is scarred for life.

And if he faints, as some do, a doctor revives him so he feels the next whack.

I concede that vandalism is nasty. And I'd be upset if someone egged or spray-painted my car.

But is it a crime that justifies what amounts to torture?

Well, if you think that, then you have led an amazingly blameless life and have raised children who are models of virtue.

And I doubt that most of those who are baying for young Fay's blood qualify on either count.

However, if this is what people want, I say give it to them. So I propose that we revise some of our laws.

Let us begin with traffic. Speeding causes deaths. So does lane-hopping, jumping stop signs, going through red lights and failing to use turn signals. So let us apply a bamboo rod to the bare butts of those who break these laws.

What's that you say? You have never, ever broken a traffic law? Sorry, but unless you don't know how to drive, I don't believe it. Even the pokiest fuddy-duddy on the road goofs up once in a while, even if he isn't caught.

Littering is a form of vandalism against society as a whole, since we have to spend countless millions of tax dollars to pick up after those who toss a wrapper or a cigarette or a Kleenex on the sidewalk or street.

So let us lop off one finger on all litterers, young or old. If your kid flips that Popsicle stick in the gutter, I want to see that finger plop. If granny blows her nose and tosses the tissue in an alleyway, let the doc revive her after her pinky is zapped.

Then we have the problem of substance abuse. Stuff like smoking marijuana and underage drinking. Of course, you never did it, nor did your children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews.

But for those who do, let the punishment fit the crime, and I don't think flogging is enough. I say their lips should be amputated. It is damned hard to puff a joint or drink an illegal beer if you have no lips. And when we see a lipless person on the street or picking up our daughters for a date, we would know he was not to be trusted.

Non-payment of bills? Out with an eye. Calling in sick and skipping work when you aren't? That is theft. Off with your tongue for lying. A fib on your tax return? How about beheading?

So how about it, all you Michael Fay-haters. Have you given any thought to how much Windex it takes to clean your glass house?

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