Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Classic Battle of the Sexes Moment: Justice v. Forgiveness

I loved this. Most of the comment on this has focused on Mark Haines' sexist wisecrack at the end of the exchange, but I am more impressed by the way it comically contrasts two ethical Weltanschauungen. Haines is incensed because Tigers pitcher Armando Galaraga is cheated of the chance to have his perfect game go into the record books, and Erin Burnett thinks it is "beautiful" that the ump hugged the pitcher and all was forgiven.

Actually, I think they both have a point. Yes it is very important that justice be done and excellence get the honor it deserves. On the other hand, I think it's great that the ump immediately apologized when his mistake had been proven, and that the pitcher accepted his apology. Yes, we do need more of that in this world. (Both these men contrast sharply with the officials who had the authority to correct the record retroactively and simply refused to do so.)

There is still a big issue here though. Which is more important: justice or forgiveness?

I vote for justice.

Justice is a fundamental virtue, forgiveness a derivative one. Without justice, there couldn't be such thing as forgiveness. Forgiveness is one of the traits that fixes things when the process of justice fails to work or has regrettable effects. Ordinarily, it should not be substituted for justice.

That is because we need justice if life is to go on at all. You cannot base a civilization, or a complex institution like baseball, on group hugs.

As Heine said, "One should forgive one's enemies, but not before they have been hanged."
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