On Hazing

Blanket-law mania creates police state, not justice

November 21, 2010

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AFTER READING “Despite law, many still unsure when to sound hazing alarm’’ (Page A1, Nov. 15), I’m compelled to ask: Is anybody really surprised? Blanket legislation does not improve with age; on the contrary, it causes the legal system — and the public’s understanding of justice in general — to rot from within. It accelerates our process toward a society of hapless sheep who need laws, statutes, and regulations that dictate our every move. America has become so willing to pass broad legislation in response to single, tragic incidents that we can no longer see the difference between a fatality and a pie in the face.

Third-graders can be charged for drawing pictures of guns while in school. Ordinary teenagers can be labeled child pornographers and stigmatized for life by engaging in flirtatious, youthful indiscretions with each other using their cellphones.

Ryan Carroll, who was charged in a hazing incident stemming from 2004, is the sole voice of reason in your article. He states that he sees a clear difference between injury caused willfully and injury caused accidentally as part of horseplay or benign cultural rite.

In essence, Carroll touches on what used to be a key concept in American justice: “mens rea,’’ or “guilty mind.’’ This judicial requirement has been all but eradicated and replaced by the idiot’s version of law: “zero tolerance’’ and “the war on (fill in the blank).’’

Continuing to pass blanket legislation in response to specific tragedy will result in a cultureless, joyless, lifeless police state. I fear we are nearly there.

Inge Berge