Thursday, March 25, 2010

Simple Evening

Last night, I met my friend Ela for dinner at Ten Ren in College Park. Finding a parking spot around the restaurant/tea house is a game of chance. When I finally found one, I didn't have much change to feed the meter, which charges more than a penny a minute. And officers swarm the place writing parking tickets.

I ordered Kung Pao tofu, which squirted oil with each bite. It was cheap, but barely edible. Ela talked about a bad dating experience during most of our dinner.

An early 80's band from Houston, Texas called Culturecide did a cover of the song We're an American Band with altered lyrics. One of the verses goes something like: "These girls were out to meet the boys in the band. They said: 'Come on boys; let's have sex.' But we just talked about child abuse and Hitler's SS."

Anyway, I thought of that song as Ela shifted the conversation between her ballroom dancing skills to the Nuremberg Trials. She's worked up due to a conversation she had with another friend about when mercy should cede to justice. I told her that mercy is a part of justice. Plus, in seeking retribution, people sometimes exhibit the same qualities that they despise in others. She countered by asking what I think of the war criminals from the Nuremberg Trials.

I'm not going to get into all of the reasons I'm against Nazis, because I don't want to write an entry that long. I lived in Krakow, Poland for a summer and visited Auschwitz/Birkeneau. The camp has a room piled with baby shoes. I cried a lot.

My response to Ela's question remains that you can't decide what is a just response to crime in general based on an extreme example of brutality. You can't ask a question about how I feel about prison and throw Hitler into the equation. Of course I want atrocities to stop. Hitler has nothing to do with mercy for an 18-year-old drug dealer suffering from PTSD because he grew up in a rough neighborhood. Hitler doesn't justify the whole U.S. prison system.

Also, I can't do justice to such a complex topic if I begin discussing it as I'm paying for my dinner.

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