© 19 Dec 2011 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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Hidden skeletons and uncut jewels.


Of Courts, Crimes, and Idioms

I open with one observation and two idioms. I put no particular effort into making them flow.

Vigilantism is illegal. If I discover a mass murderer and decide to track down and kill the culprit then I am guilty of voluntary manslaugher, possibly even murder. Courts are not totally without compassion in these cases, but the goal of the court is to determine if I violated a law, not to review the appropriateness of the law I violated. Indeed, many of the complaints against the judiciary’s “‍judicial legislation‍” stem from times that the court appears to have judged the law, not the defendant.

One of my favorite English idioms is “‍skeletons in the closet‍” “‍Closet‍” is the US English rendering; UK English uses “‍cupboard‍” instead. It is a marvelously potent image for a truth we’d rather keep hidden at any cost. “‍I’m as likely to reveal it as I am to point out the mouldering remains of that person I killed.‍” Few idioms are quite as visceral.

I also like the idiom “‍diamonds in the rough‍”. “‍In the rough‍” here means uncut, in it’s natural lumpy unattractive state. It is related in meaning to the more common idiom “‍every cloud has a silver lining‍”; both imply something that looks unpleasant has good hidden inside. However, the silver lining is usually implied to be a good thing buried in a mass of badness, where a diamond in the rough is primarily good, just with a bad exterior.

Judgment: Punishment or Relief?

Oft I have heard the child’s whine, “‍that’s not fair!‍” To them, judgment seems altogether positive. Oft I have seen fear in the eyes of adults contemplating the final judgment. To them, judgment seems altogether negative. Whence this change?

I postulate that we, as humans, are all diamonds in the rough with skeletons in our closet. But as our legal systems have evolved to seek out only the skeletons we see judgment as a one-sided investigation into our secrets. True judgment, by a perfect and impartial judge, would discover and consider both our hidden merit and our concealed wrongs.

The final judgment holds no terror for me. I have skeletons a plenty, and it will be frightening if proper to pull them out, account for each, and give them a proper burial. But I also am confident I will be surprised by how much I shine when finished and brought to view by God’s skilled hand.

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