The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

There is no food more comforting to me in the dead of winter than a heaping hot bowl of chili – particularly if it’s accompanied with some nice toasty garlic bread.  Not only is it satisfying but making a pot eliminates the need to cook something for the next few nights.  (I’m one of those people who doesn’t have a problem with leftovers).

One of the nice things about chili is that most people seem to like it.  And one of my pleasures in cooking is to share some of my concoctions with people who also are aficionados.  Several of my friends have raved about my personal version of this all-American food and have encouraged me to enter one of those “chili cook-offs” that happen from time to time.  While I’ve been modestly tempted to do so, for some reason I always find out about ones that are local two days after the competition has ended.  Shame on me for not subscribing to the local newspaper.

Cincinnati claims that it is the chili capital of the country.  And while it may be the city most famous for chili, there is no state that can rival the reputation for chili that Texas has earned.  I don’t know if Texas has a state food, but if it did, no doubt chili would deserve that honor.  Texas has another honor to its credit as well.  To my knowledge it is the first state which has legally ruled that “affluenza” is a disease and is a mitigating reason for giving a young man who killed four people and seriously injured two others, a sentence of probation.

Ethan Couch is a Texan who happens also to be a spoiled rich kid.  On a warm June night, young Mr. Couch, while under the influence of alcohol and valium crashed his pickup truck into a disabled vehicle on the side of the road, not only killing its driver and passenger but two good Samaritans who were trying to assist them.  The sentence meted out to him – ten years’ probation.

Why this light sentence?  Young Mr. Couch’s legal team painted a picture of him as a person who was spoiled and owing to his privileged upbringing was not able to comprehend the difference between right and wrong and therefore should be viewed as a “mentally disabled” person – a mere victim of his unfortunate upbringing in an affluent home – a victim of “affluenza.”  Apparently the judge in this case found that argument compelling.

If you remember, “The Mikado,” perhaps you will recall the way in which that supreme ruler viewed justice:

Fortunately for Mr. Couch he lives in modern America rather than feudal Japan.  Otherwise he might find himself missing his head – rather than just being unable to use it in the responsible manner which is expected of the rest of us.

One can only wonder if this novel defense gains a footing whether we should not go to the other end of the spectrum and excuse those who are victims of poverty who hold up convenience stores at gun point because “they need the money”  and are merely victims of “lackitenza.”

Meanwhile, four innocent people died needlessly.  Two others were injured, one possibly crippled for life – all because one spoiled brat was irresponsible.  That is something that Mr. Couch will have to live with for the rest of his life – if he is capable of thinking about the consequences of his actions.  That remains an open question.

Unlike our Mikado, I do not take glee in punishing offenders.  Would that we lived in a world where there were none.  But as a concerned member of society, we realize that some of us take our responsibility as human beings more seriously than others – and when those who act willfully in defiance of the rules of conduct to which most of us subscribe cross the line, for the good of society we need to take steps to protect ourselves from those who would do us harm.

The Texas sentence meted out to Mr. Couch does not make that statement.  And that gives me a bad case of indigestion.






  1. And that’s the thing. In many ways, justice (and incarceration) is not about punishment, it’s about protecting society from the perpetrator. And a criminal who thinks he’s not a criminal, and that his behavior was acceptable, is a nightmare waiting to happen again.

    • It really is about protecting society – or at least it should be. However, we still play this mind game that prison is intended to “reform” the convict. We know that with a rate of recitivism of nearly 90% that is pure hooey.

      • Precisely, I’m not sure if it helps him or not, course it not to humane to lock people in a steel box and not give them something to occupy their minds.

  2. What on earth is our justice system coming to in the West? I find that quite unbelievable that such a defence would be accepted. I fear for the future of our diminishing moral worth as nations.

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