One Person's Humiliation is the Entire World's Teachable Moment

There are some who hold that humiliation is good, that being hammered with shame by a merciless hand instigates growth. In fact, there are many around the world who hold this to be so and call it justice. Consider these two stories that capture the theme of One Person's Humiliation is the Entire World's Teachable Moment.

Elders of a Sudanese village forced Charles Tombe to marry a goat named Rose because Tombe had been found taking advantage of the animal. The elders also forced him to pay a dowry to Rose's original owner in the hope of shaming the man, according to a BBC news story.

The marriage ended when Rose choked to death after eating scraps of a plastic bag.

The story became an Internet phenomenon, winning the BBC site plenty of traffic and tongue-in-cheek comments about Rose's reaching the end of her tether, the prospect of the couple's having any kids and whether they would employ a nanny, whether Tombe had become a goatee.

A little shame goes a long way in this bizarre story that has circled the globe. It's good not to be Charlie Tombe.

It's good not to be Lisa King Fithian, either. On this side of the world, Attalla (Alabama) City Judge Kenneth Robertson, Jr., ordered Fithian to wear a sandwich board sign stating, "I am a thief; I stole from Wal-Mart," and to stand outside the box store for four hours each during two successive Saturdays. Another convicted shoplifter was ordered to do likewise.

Store manager Neil Hawkins was delighted with the court-ordered embarrassment because he anticipated it would curtail future crime. "Maybe they'll think twice about doing it," he said, according to a May 8 Associated Press story.

I feel warm behind the ears when I think of these stories. They are memorable less because bestiality is weird and theft is despicable than because sadism and retribution are weird and despicable--and exponentially more so when they are palmed off as justice.

I think of these words by C. S. Lewis and wonder what these upholders of the law know about the essential place of compassion and balance in justice: Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.

This must have something to do with lifting up to assist growth. Not hammering down.

For Greg's view of this world, go to Hasty Ruminations.


  1. I like old C.S.! And I like the parallel you drew between the two stories.

    Of course, I took a different approach to Mrs. Tombe's plight.

    As usual (*sigh*)...

  2. Thanks, Greg. You know, your post on lethal injection at motivated me last night. Thanks.

  3. Sandy, "motivated" you to do what?!

    Oh Lord, she's not experimenting with the three-drug-cocktail, I hope!

  4. Oh, gee, better clarify--write this thing about justice meted out by meanies.

  5. Anonymous9:02 PM

    Talk about cruel and unusual punishment - I thought that was outlawed by the Constitution. Those poor women; I think passersby referred to it as cruel. Alas, that poor goat.


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