Monday, July 30, 2018

Here's one time we need less Hope.

"See here, Captain Croker, we'll do this in due form of law. You are the prisoner. Watson, you are a British jury, and I never met a man who was more eminently fitted to represent one."
 -- Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange"

The denizens of social media seem to enjoy rallying lynch mobs almost as sport of late, which gives one pause to reflect up the jury system of passing judgement. Like any system, it can have its flaws, but the intentions behind it are excellent: That no one man or woman is objective enough, observant enough, or wise enough to consider the facts of a case alone.

We go to great trouble to select juries, hopefully with both sides of the question getting to weigh in on who gets to be on said jury, along with a judge, again . . . hopefully . . . to keep it at its most fair and impartial. In the matter of the crime at Abbey Grange, Sherlock Holmes declared himself judge, decided that Watson could replace an entire jury, and acquitted the accused without involving the actual legal system.

And in "Abbey Grange," we usually go along with Holmes.

But recall A Study in Scarlet, and Jefferson Hope.

"I knew of their guilt though, and I determined that I should be judge, jury, and executioner all rolled into one," Hope declared. Do we go along with him as well?

Watson, appointed as jury in "Abbey Grange," had no emotional ties to anyone in the case. And while he was just one man, he still had "Judge Holmes" to keep him honest. Jefferson Hope was a twisted mess of a man who spent more time and energy on vengeance than he did trying to stop his adopted daughter's final fate. Much of his motivation stemmed from his own guilt in the tragedy as his sense of honest justice.

"It is of the first importance not to allow your judgement to be biased by personal qualities," Holmes once said, speaking of being biased by other people's looks. But it's harder still not to be biased by the personal qualities within ourselves, as Jefferson Hope did. In the end, he was no judge and jury.

Jefferson Hope was just a one-man lynch mob.

We live in complex times, with complex questions being raised. And we can choose to be like Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson, or we can let ourselves follow a path like that of Jefferson Hope. And there's a key thing to remember when you're making that decision:

Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson have been lead characters in sixty tales that have lived well over a century. Jefferson Hope was done in one, and most of us don't really enjoy reading the prequel part of his tale at that.

Don't be Jefferson Hope.

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