Last night I watched the movie Boondock Saints with my friend Kari. It was a fascinating and entertaining film. Granted it was late, so I fell asleep about ten times, but what I saw I thoroughly enjoyed. And between saying the f-word more times than I've heard in the past year in under two hours, the movie had an interesting question to offer: is it ok for vigilantes to take justice into their own hands as long as the people they are killing are universally accepted as evil?
But I am ahead of myself. The plot goes like this: Two guys, we are led to believe they are deeply spiritual, hear the voice of God one day that tells them to avenge the helpless in the world by killing the wicked. This is their "calling", if you will. So they begin attacking some of the big players in the Russian and Italian mafia with their sidekick, "The Funny Man". By the end of the story they have become local heroes, and are dubbed "The Saints" for their "laudable actions".
The people they kill are undoubtedly the wickedest men in the city they live in. I must have fallen asleep when they mentioned the town name, but I'm thinking Boston. And so we are left with the ethical dilemma - are their actions justified? These aren't vigilantes with a questionable cause. Everyone would agree that the men they killed at the minimum deserved life-sentences in prison, if not capital punishment. But because of the power these men held, getting them in prison by law enforcement is a near impossible task. So the Saints simplify the process.
During my days of religiously watching Law and Order I always sided with Jack McCoy who believed that justice was for the courts. If we allowed others to dole out justice, our system would eventually crumble and anarchy would ensue. Or so his line of reasoning would lead us to believe. This belief was so black and white, that even in the case of the Boondock Saints, he would still think that why their deeds were necessary they still needed to be punished.
After some thought, I'm going to have to say that I still agree with Jack. While the Saints killed people that would be thought of as evil by all of society, letting people carry out the law in their own hands would ultimately lead to chaos. The reason is that punishment is still an arbitrary question after a certain point. Sure, we all think rapists, child molesters, human traffickers all prey on the helpless but we all have our own opinions too. What if my family was robbed, and I suddenly viewed theft as a crime worthy of capital punishment? What gives me the right to decide what is truly evil beyond the universal laws?
Those are some of my thoughts. They aren't worthy of scrutiny in court, that's for sure. What do you think?