The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jason's Fifth Birthday

I'm spending all day (at least, until his bedtime) with Jason, who is a Big Boy today, officially. It's been a blessing being his father, little hyperactive monster, and boy oh boy is he teaching me about myself. We're going bowling. Maybe a movie. Whatever we do, we're doing it with big freakin' grins. I love being a dad, swear to God.
Looking for a category of human beings that none of us have much sympathy for. The idea is the Vigiliante Squad idea: you eliminate members of certain groups, knowing that most people will agree with you, or at least turn a blind eye. You know: who would really cry if someone started killing: crooked politicians, Mob Lawyers, rapists, child pornographers, etc? Wanted some suggestions about other categories. Sort of: "God forbid anyone murder people in cold blood, but if 100 people had to die, and I could only choose the category, I guess I'd choose X."

Come on, help a brother out with a story point. What is your "X"? What do you think your neighbor's "X" would be? Your worst enemy's?


asha vere said...

Child pornographers is good. People who abuse or neglect children or the elderly would work, too.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Torturers. Mass murderers, especially the high status people who start genocides.

I think that's who I'd go after. I'm not sure who the general public would agree on. To judge by volume of complaints, I'm tempted to say bad drivers and parents with ill-behaved childre, but that would probably be a more humorous story than you have in mind.

Anonymous said...

Crooked lawyers that defend child molesters.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes said...

Defense lawyers seem an easy target, that is until I remember that their primary function is to assure that the state PROVES it's case BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT and manages to convince a judge or a jury of the same. As much as I've had observational cause to dislike defense attorneys, Lord KNOWS I'd hate to be tried without one handy and who knew his or her business. Christ knows this would be true as hell if I ever had to stand trial on a capital offense or long-term prison stretch in Texas or Louisiana. Thank God for FACTUAL DNA testing and those police labs that take the time to FACTUALLY report it these days with the number of people being cut loose after being railroaded into the joint, and WORSE. I bet things would change if a few more equal numbered white people were found to be innocent and then released.

Back to the topic. Deserving of death without much remorse huh? Hmmm. I doubt there would be many tears shed behind those responsible for the sub-prime fiasco, and I can't see much sympathy for the Madoff's (Made-Off, how ironic is THAT?) of the world. However, if given my druthers and could choose only one group, I'd start my slaughtering off with the Robert Mugabe-types and start considering any others while reloading and removing the bodies to make room along the wall where I shot the despots, tyrants, as well as any other ethnic and social cleansers.

salina said...

i'd have to say i'd go for the people who support the notion of "an eye for an eye". Ironic I suppose that i'd say to kill the folk who thirst for vengeance or revenge.

And I'd also get rid of the leaders of movements, religions, etc. who KNOW their ideology/belief system is oppressive, dehumanizing,and use it to intentionally manipulate people. More specifically, who KNOW the truth of who and what human potential is (and has always been)(stardust million year old carbon kinda motif) and yet teach and perpetuate that we are so much less. AND, lol, throw in the folk who intentionally keep the truth of history from those who would benefit the most...

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Sir Jason! I hope you get to stay up as late as you want!

I would say my "X" would be child molesters/pornographers. Oh and adulterers.

Steve Perry said...

I'm going with the assumption that one of the pitfalls for becoming judge, jury, and executioner is that you might wind up with Damon Knight's "Rule Golden."

First you take out the murderers and rapists and child molesters, but pretty soon, you are reaching a bit farther afield for muggers and wife-beaters, and next thing, spitting on the sidewalk gets you kilt ...

There are some gray shades in there you could explore. A guy who murdered somebody who maybe was something other than what he appeared. A false accusation of rape or somesuch that got somebody dead, and oops, sorry, and does that make the vigilante now one of the bad guys?

Generally, if a crime isn't punishable by death via the legal system, then having your avenger do it makes him a bad guy, doesn't it?

Bennett said...

Well, speaking as a Buddhist, I can't say there's any group of living things I find it acceptable to entertain murderous thoughts about.

My neighbors, though? I bet if you lit a hundred Muslims on fire out on the front lawn, they'd get marshmallows.

You might also consider Swiss bankers who stole Jewish assets post-WWII (or any surviving Nazis for that matter), skinheads, pimps, gays, communists, religious fundamentalists, cops, and hardline free market capitalists. All are a member of some group that another group finds to be valueless. It would depend on who the killer was, as much as anything.

I don't think there's any group that all of society agrees needs to be dead (apart from serial killers, child rapists, etc) that aren't already being pursued by law enforcement. So if you want to go vigilante, it's either Taxi Driver (get the dregs who are below the cops radar), or someone coming at the ideological spectrum so far from the left or right that they deny the humanity of those at the other pole.

Josh Jasper said...

Anyone willing to play judge, jury and executioner is probably going to decide that, oh, say, cutting him off in traffic is an execution worth offense. Or at the least, make a mistake, and execute someone innocent.

It'd be a more compelling story if they managed to do the inevitable, and had to deal with the consequences by turning themselves in to actual law enforcement.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to Jason, Tananarive, and you. I hope everyone had a great day.

I'm with Steve Perry, Bennett, and Jasper. Life is complex, and rather than murder them, I would prefer to put them away for life, to think upon their crimes, as described for a real penitentiary, as a place to penance.

Off topic, do you still like and use your Kindle?

MJHolt (I was dumped into an endless loop by Google when I tried to straighten out the username/password issue. I can sign in on my blog, but it does not carry over to other places, and I cannot sign in here.)

Anonymous said...

"Defense lawyers seem an easy target, that is until I remember that their primary function is to assure that the state PROVES it's case BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT"

-You mean like the defense lawyers for O.J. Simpson the first time around?

nikabrightlightwarrior said...

WOW! Thats deep!

Marty S said...

I find this discussion fascinating. As I read Steve's question, he is asking what evil would you most like to see eliminated from our society. If he said a genie was giving you one wish and you could only use it to cure all evil doers of one evil, I expect he would have gotten the answer he was looking for. Instead the discussion has pretty much focused on the validity of the dath penalty.

Christian M. Howell said...

People who have anal sex. Men who wouldn't rather give women head. Anyone who wears clothes that are too big while complaining that no one respects them.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes said...

"Defense lawyers seem an easy target, that is until I remember that their primary function is to assure that the state PROVES it's case BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT"

-You mean like the defense lawyers for O.J. Simpson the first time around?".

I mean like defense lawyers, period. The OJ Saga doesn't make me winch or flinch one way or the other in the grand scheme of things.

On another note...

I see the world has it's nice people and Lord love them. Would hate a world without them. However, I've always enjoyed reading the kinds of What If scenarios like this one that Steve presented, but I enjoy the answers much better.

Saying who or delegating who dies would appear to make some folks uneasy. Understandable, that is until a personal ringer, like say, survival is tossed into the mix, then a whole LOT of eligible candidates start making the list.

I've always also enjoyed listening or reading people when the Lifeboat Scenario is introduced where the space, food, potable water and such the like won't support the number of people wishing to get in the boat and decision time rolls around. There's the:

1. Women and children first bunch.

2. Then the old folks.

3. Married couples.

4. Someone to navigate and have at least some sea sense.

5. And those that won't commit and just hope like hell they can get-in themselves.

6. The martyrs.

And possibly others, like the die hard Darwinists who usually settle things anyway.

Hard to choose? Just be a voting party of 10 with only room for 5 and just watch and see how fast and easy choosing comes.

Reluctant Lawyer said...

I'd say child molesters, but my experience as a prosecutor shows that many of these people were themselves abused. Part of me says that such history should be considered, but if something were to happen to my boys...

Personally, I'd say the guys like Madoff. It's just sheer greed, an pathological inability to distinguish between "more" and "enough."

Lis Riba said...

You may want to check out the manga/anime series Death Note (I read the manga, but the anime is available thru

A Death Note is a notebook that can kill any human whose name is written in it. These are tools of the shingami ("death gods") but the series starts with one falling into the human world.

Its discoverer, a high school student named Light Yagami, starts using it to kill criminals and those he deems "evil."
As people around the world start noticing criminals dying mysterious deaths, the public reaction is divided. Law enforcement wants to stop the killings, while many in the public support this Killer.

[IMO, the story bogs down in an increasingly improbably battle of wits between Light and the master detectives attempting to catch him, but it's incredibly popular.]

Ethereal Highway said...

Kill the child molesters and the people who protect them by covering up their crimes.

Bill Moonroe said...

Steve, I'm assuming you're not actually planning on doing this... although, with the time you've spent with Larry Niven, who in turn spent at least some time with Robert Forward...not that Forward would have done such a thing, but if anyone could invent something like the Death Note, he certainly had the creative intellectual power do to so.

If I were going to work on something like this for a story, I think I'd warm up with, oh, maybe 10 what-if questions. I'd give myself permission to be as goofy about it as I'd like, nay, I'd go out of my way to be goofy with it:

What if, in an area known for its ham production, the pig farmers started disappearing?

What if all the IRS agenst started washing up, half-eaten by crabs?

What if members of one of the mega churches started being found slumped over their pews?

What if the people ahead of me at the passport office or DMV started developing severe health problems.

What if those people who like to slow down and brake in otherwise fine traffic suddenly experienced brake failure?

You know, stuff like that. I wonder where I picked up that technique? :)

Steven Barnes said...

I've actually seen Death Note. My daughter loves it, and when I spoke about my story idea she mentioned the similarity. I'll be careful.
Defense lawyers for O.J. Yeah, I have a problem with them. But while (I feel that) I KNOW the bastard did it, I'm not at all certain his guilt was proven LEGALLY, "beyond a reasonable doubt." If I'd been on that jury, I might have had to let him go, as well. But I would have prayed lightning would strike him.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

But while (I feel that) I KNOW the bastard did it, I'm not at all certain his guilt was proven LEGALLY, "beyond a reasonable doubt."

That's always been my feeling, actually. I mean, maybe it should have been seen, even LEGALLY, as "beyond a reasonable doubt" - the DNA evidence weighed heavily with me. But I didn't follow every detail of the darn trial, and the parts I did follow - the stuff about Mark Fuhrman wasn't pretty, not the fault of the defense lawyers that it was there to dig up, and it could have legitimately raised reasonable doubt.

Since I've always been pretty sure the bastard did it, of course I regretted seeing him get off, but the thing I was most afraid of was that he would get off with a hung jury, and we'd see a ballot measure, next election, trying to amend the California state constitution so juries didn't have to be unanimous. Tough cases make bad law, and I'd have hated to see a weakening of the burden of proof for defendants in general because one bastard got off.

For which reason, defense lawyers, including OJ's, wouldn't be on my kill list (even setting aside the fact that as a Quaker I'm theologically barred from having such a list).

Anonymous said...

Josh Jasper said...

Why stop at the lawyers, Lynn? Why not kill the jury too?

Ashe Hunt said...

My X is pedophiles. Really, anyone who harms children directly in any way, period.

Ashe Hunt said...

Oh, and I hope Jason enjoyed his Bornday with his Dad.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

But, but - Josh, I was saying why I wouldn't kill the lawyers. How did you get from that to me having a motive to kill the jury? I think defense lawyers - including ones who are defending rotten guilty bastards - are doing a necessary and important job.

Or is there another Lynn in this thread that I didn't notice?

Actually, practically every other group named in this thread (other than the really silly nominations like parents with ill-mannered children and people who have anal sex) is higher on my dislike list than defense lawyers.

Irene said...

I'd hate to be the one to define 'harming' children, though. Pedophilia, ok, that's easy, right? But is an eighteen-year-old harming his fifteen-year-old girlfriend if they have consensual sex? (The law thinks so). Am I harming my son if I make him walk to school in the rain instead of driving him the three blocks? (My neighbor thinks so). Or if I forbid dessert because he didn't eat his beans? (He thinks so).

Some guy said...

I guess the KKK is a personal favorite. Joining that group seems relatively voluntary (as opposed to a child molestor, for instance, whose drives may be effectively hard-wired in or something, or the old-time Nazis who might have had to join the group to survive.) But it's probably too obvious and too popular a choice to be useful for what you need it for.

Don't really have any enemies and don't know the neighbors, so I can't say anything useful there...

Some guy