Ancient Tyranny in the Modern World?

Tyranny hasn’t always meant what we take it to mean now.  To the Greeks it meant something much different.  For the Greeks the word tyranny had less of a connotation.  The word “tyrant” was not originally used as a person who was domineering or autocratic but instead a non-hereditary ruler.  A tyrant was someone who was not born into power but rather stole, seized, or otherwise came into power over a people that he may not have “traditionally” had power over.

One of the first early examples of a true tyrant (true taken to mean the original definition of the word) was when Peisistratus seized control of the Athenian government in about 550 B.C.E.¹  This breaks the modern societal mold of how we perceive the word tyranny, because Peisistratus was a relatively popular and effective ruler.  He bolstered the economic prowess of Athens through a myriad of public works projects and economic programs until his death in 527 B.C.E.² 

This all begs the question:  how does our modern definition of tyranny compare to the ancient one?  Serge Schmemann’s article in the New York Times titled ”After the Fall:  Looking Back on Berlin 30 Years Later” analyzes the collapse of the Berlin wall in 1991, what that meant for the people of that time, and what it means for the globe almost 30 years later.  The most interesting part of this article, however, is Schmemann’s use of the word tyranny.  He says of the collapse of the Berlin Wall that “for the Central and Eastern Europeans, it was the long-awaited end of a tyranny” that had oppressed them for generations.³  The use of the word tyranny here is interesting because it could be molded to fit both the ancient and modern definitions.  To most the communist government of East Germany was not a “hereditary” ruling body in the sense that the governmental power was seized and did not represent the will of its constituents.  A more accurate analysis for this use of the word, however, comes when it is viewed in the scope of its modern definition.  The communist government in East Germany was highly oppressive towards the German people.  That government was certainly seen as autocratic and domineering and as such was called tyrannical by our more contemporary standards.

Schmemann closes his article by calling out the tyranny going on “now in Hong Kong and Chile” and stating that “tyranny is not the choice of the tyrannized.”⁴  This invective language and the fact that people can be “tyrannized” implies a negative connotation which lends this use of tyranny to the modern definition.  This closing passage is also interesting in that it ties historical tyranny to the modern political climate.  Tyranny is cyclical, and it is merely the definition that changes over time.

Language is infinite.  It evolves with and is defined by those who use it.  It follows then that meanings and definitions change with the ebb and flow of time.  Tyranny and its definition are not exempt from this truth.  The ancients had a much different definition and view of tyranny than we do today.  This is important to understand in order to read historical documents in the right context.  An Athenian writing about a tyrant such as Peisistratus is much different than an Allied soldier or German citizen writing about a tyrant like Adolf Hitler.  Differences in definitions such as these often lead to misunderstandings and false readings in historical analyses.  By being cognizant of these changes in definitions, historians can properly analyze history so that people now can accurately learn from the mistakes and triumphs of the past.

–T. C. Fuselier

Word Count:  586

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¹  Spodek, Chapter 5, pg. 141

²  Spodek, Chapter 5, pg. 141

³  Schmemann, Serge.  “After the Fall:  Looking Back on Berlin 30 Years Later.”  The New York Times, 08 Nov. 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/08/opinion/berlin-wall-anniversary-germany.html?searchResultPosition=9.  Accessed 30 Jan. 2020.

⁴  Schmemann, Serge.  “After the Fall:  Looking Back on Berlin 30 Years Later.”  The New York Times, 08 Nov. 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/08/opinion/berlin-wall-anniversary-germany.html?searchResultPosition=9.  Accessed 30 Jan. 2020.

Student Debt: Is it Good or Bad?

Student debt reform is a major issue within the upcoming 2020 presidential election. Two democratic champions, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, wish to completely wipe out student debt if elected into office. The proposed debt reforms have a striking resemblance to the debt reform policies enacted by Solon’s seisachtheia in ancient Athens. The democrat’s debt policy resembles Solon’s seisactheia in the proposed implementation and the projected outcomes.

Elizabeth Warren intends on wiping out student debt day one in office via a means of an executive order (Mic). Waiving debt is the same thing Solon did once stepping into power. As a direct result of Solon’s policies peasants found it difficult to take out loans from the rich, which would have a resemblance to Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to start canceling student debt. Many organizations would immediately lose future revenue and would be costly as the chance of gaining back money would be slim. The low chance of recovery comes from the estimated six hundred forty billion dollars that would have to reimburse upon the executive order being issued (Mic).

At the same time the borrowers would be affected too, as the removal of a loan would affect their credit score (Market Watch). The immediate removal of a long term loan would be the same as removing a credit card with a long history, because credit score reporting agencies would have one less source to verify the credibility of borrowers. While not the same as what happened with the peasants of Athens it is similar because a lowered credit score may reduce the chance of approval for future loans. Simultaneously, under current income tax, laws those who are given debt forgiveness will have to pay taxes as if the loan was added to their income, which means that they can be put into a higher tax bracket (Market Watch). This is unfavorable because should someone owe taxes, as a direct result of debt relief, would still owe money to the Internal Revenue Service. By owing the Internal Revenue Service money the former borrower does not benefit as it does not support their credit score by paying the government rather than a lender. If the former borrower then owed taxes and held no other income other than the loan then the credit score of the borrower would be affected even more. Credit.com says on the issue of owed taxes affecting credit score, “And since the IRS can garnish your wages and put levies on your property, it could make it harder to pay other debts, creating a slippery slope that leads to a drastic drop in your credit score,” (Credit).

While many cons exist about the student debt relief there are positives that would be enjoyed with the debt reform. A study of ten thousand borrowers found that debt relief actually benefited them because most had defaulted on their loans before (Market Watch). Getting rid of the negative of defaulting on a loan is good for the borrower in terms of credit score, but it does not apply to all who would be affected by student debt relief. Many Americans are burdened by student debt, but it does not mean that all who are burdened by debt do not have the means to manage said debt. The resulting aftermath of removing a long term loan that has been consistently paid on time would negatively impact the credit score of the borrower.

As a direct result of student debt relief many of the borrowers would see long term impacts on their credit scores and will have a hard time taking out future loans due to a low credit score. Low credit score also means that the borrowers taking out loans will have higher interest rates on future loans, which will already lower their usable income. Both Sanders and Warrens’ plans for student debt relief while promising on paper would actually be catastrophic in practice just as Solon’s ancient policies affected Athens.

Word Count: 538

Edited by: 4/C Metz

https://www.mic.com/p/how-elizabeth-warrens-student-loan-plan-would-actually-work-21745267

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/wiping-out-the-nations-student-loan-debt-could-have-unintended-financial-consequences-for-borrowers-2020-01-22

https://www.credit.com/taxes/do-taxes-affect-credit-score/

Complexities of Tyranny

In our daily lives, we are constantly hearing about the horrors and atrocities of non-democratic government, such as tyrannies. We compare the freedoms that we take for granted to the unfortunate realities of people elsewhere and are taught to despise these ideals. Tyrannical governments possess authoritarian values where power is placed in the hands of a single ruler who demands unquestioned obedience. However, can tyrannies actually provide the growth that a state needs in order to thrive, contrary to popular belief?

However, before discussing tyranny any further, it is important to define what tyranny was during this time compared to what it is considered nowadays. Tyranny can be defined as rule by a non-hereditary ruler opposed to that in a monarchy. These tyrants were sometimes elected by the people or achieved power through violence. Today, tyrants can be defined as the lesser between democracy and non-democratic styles of government due to the restrictions they place on the individual. Although there are many differences between tyrants of the past and today, they had some similarities. Many authoritarian styled governments today provide structure in regions that cannot be attained through democracy, just as many tyrants provided structure in the past. Also, tyrants of the past even employed democratic processes under their rule as do tyrants today. For example, Solon organized districts in Attica to include more citizens and to foster stronger political identities.[1] Today, many authoritarian countries employ democratic processes such as elections, even though they are often unfair in many ways, according to the Menu of Manipulation by Andres Schedler.[2] Regardless of their democratic success, ancient and modern tyrannies are similar in many ways, but also very different in others.

Looking back to ancient times we can see the success that particular tyrannies had, specifically in ancient Greece. In ancient Greece many of the city states, known as polis, were led by a single non-democratic ruler. Tyranny within ancient Greece did away with aristocratic families holding the power of the region.[3] Instead, some tyrants advanced public services such as infrastructure and strengthened the economies. It is important to understand the benefits that tyrannical leaders had on these ancient societies. In the article, The Field Guide to Tyranny, by Adam Gopnik, tyranny is portrayed as an evil form of government that gives the tyrant unlimited power. Gopnik states, “Then comes the isolation of the dictator within his palace—friendless and paranoid—and the pruning of his circle to an ever more sycophantic few,” in order to show the harsh reality faced by tyrants.[4] This is similar to that of ancient times because it is explained that even in ancient Greece, some tyrants were removed by violence and were forced to rule with fear of removal.

Simply put, I think that the degree of tyranny a nation falls under is dependent on the type of leader that is in rule. We have seen examples of both good and bad. Tyrannical regimes that hold power are capable of producing beneficial things for their citizens. At the same time, these tyrants are capable of oppressing their citizens with harsh rule. Placing a “one size fits all” ideal on this cannot work in accurately measuring the degree of efficiency of a tyrannical regime. At the very least, ancient Greece has shown us evidence to support the fact that we should analyze an authoritarian government before categorizing it as negative. The questions raised are:

  1. Are the consequences that come from toppling a flourishing tyrannical government worth the benefits of spreading democracy?
  2. Is spreading democracy to a nation worth the instability that comes from the collapse of a prosperous tyrannical regime?
  3. Do we as democratic believers have a moral obligation to get involved with a prosperous tyrannical regime?

Jonathan H. Lopez

Word Count: 623, Quotes: 25


[1] Spodek, Chapter 5, Pg. 141

[2] Schedler, Andreas. 2002. “The Menu of Manipulation.” Journal of Democracy 13 (2):36-50. Pgs. 39-41.

[3] Spodek, Chapter 5, Pg. 141

[4] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/12/23/the-field-guide-to-tyranny

A Modern Babylon?

In ancient Mesopotamian society a harsher level of punishment was given to people of lower status in society. This distribution of punishment was actually written into law shown in The Code of Hammurabi. I know what you are thinking. Ancient societies were messed up and that way of governing is obviously not fair and completely wrong. Unfortunately, this type of uneven distribution of punishment is still very prevalent in today’s society.

Image result for brock turner

In January of 2015 Brock Turner was only given a six month jail sentence for raping an unconscious woman on his college campus. Brock Turner was a white male athlete at Stanford University. When Brock was given his sentence of only six months the judge felt that Brock was not a danger to society and had too much to lose. There was also already a since of entitlement showed by his family when Brock’s father describe Brock’s crime as only “20 minutes of action.”

          

Image result for albert wilson rape

In September of 2016 Albert Wilson, a black man who attended Kansas University,  was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for allegedly raping a 17 year old white women. In this case there was no substantial proof of the two having intercourse.  Although there was no proof of Wilson’s guilt he was convicted guilty by the court.

            In these two cases you see the disproportionate judgement of crimes that didn’t even happen over 5 years ago. In the first case a young white male at a prestigious university got a slap on the wrist for raping another human being. In the first case there was absolutely zero reasonable doubt that he did it. In the second case a young black male got 24 times the sentence for raping another person and there wasn’t even legitimate evidence that they had intercourse.

            In today’s society the law is not equal or fair. The law sees color. When and educated white man comes to the stand often times they see him as able to be rehabilitated. When a man of color comes to the stand they see him as a danger to society, as someone who can’t change, someone who is already guilty.

            When reading the Code of Hammurabi you can see the parallel of unjust differences in punishments similar to the cases above. The code says “If a man has knocked out the teeth of a man of the same rank, his own teeth shall be knocked out.” This seems pretty fair so far but then the code then goes on to state “If he has knocked out the teeth of a peasant, he shall pay one-third of a mina in silver.” Now this seems outrageous because this is not a very large amount of money it’s really more like pennies on the dollar. The stigma they are building with this type of law code is that if you are a high enough status you can get away with whatever you want. This is the same in the two cases discussed earlier in the blog.

            So is the US a modern day Babylon? I would say that is a bit of a stretch but in a lot of cases it is almost spot on. The criminal justice system in the US is basically saying that if you are wealthier or have lighter skin you shouldn’t be convicted as harshly as poorer people with darker skin.

Modern Book of the Dead

            The Egyptian book of the Dead the dead was essentially a cheat sheet for someone to read to their god of death in order to get into the afterlife. It contained all the correct things to tell the god Osiris they honestly haven’t done so that way they could enter their version of heaven. The Book of the Dead helps display to the modern world what the ancient Egyptians valued in their everyday life because it tells what they valued as most important.

            One thing the Egyptians held very dear were the gods. There are many phrases such as, “I have not committed evil in the place of truth,” and, “I have not thought scorn of the gods,” that portray how important the gods were to Egyptians. The fact that they thought so highly of the gods means that they had some sort of moral compass is order to pass the test and get into heaven.

            Another common theme within the Book of the Dead is respecting others. “I have not oppressed my kinsfolk,” or “I have caused no man to suffer,” and other sayings show that in their society it was very important to treat others well to get into Heaven. It even states “I have not domineered over slaves,” and “I have not caused harm to be done to a slave by his master.” Slavery seems very immoral today, however it was the standard during their time. But the Egyptians believed that they couldn’t treat the slaves terribly, which is something the United States didn’t even believe a couple hundred years ago.

            A huge part of the Egyptian culture was the scarce resources and not wasting them. They lived in the dessert with limited food and water, and wasting them was a big no go. When the book says, “I have never driven away the beasts from their pastures,” or “I have not obstructed water when it should run,” essentially states that wasting food or water was a sin. That’s how important the limited resources were to them.

            I believe that there are similarities and differences within all of these beliefs of Egyptian culture with life today. For example; religion is a very important part of most people’s lives today. However not everyone follows their religion as strict as the Egyptians, or even has a religion at all. Also, respecting others is something you learn from a very young age but there are still people who will commit heinous crimes against people. I am sure that the Egyptians were taught to treat others well, but also had some amongst them that broke that rule. Finally, wasting resources is still a problem today. And while we try not to through things like recycling or donating to food banks, we still burn fossil fuels and throw away left overs. Below are a few tenants that align with today’s world that are similar to the Egyptian’s.

I have never bummed my neighbors WiFi.

I have never stolen an amazon package off a porch.

I have never taken my friends charger he left at my house.

I have never slept through church hungover on Sunday morning.

I have never ordered a 20 piece nugget meal and thrown away ten.

Dalton Jackson

Word count: 547

Hammurabi’s Code seems savage…but is it that different?

The code of Hammurabi appears as a barbaric code that ruled the early humans but after deeper examination, their laws were jaded and biases towards higher standing people in society, similar to the current status of the law in the United States of America. America loves to project the image that the law is black and white and justice is always served to those who deserve it but the punishments are often unproportioned. Minorities and those of a lower economic status are the ones who suffer from this form of injustice. Recently, Amber Guyger a former Dallas police officer shot and killed a man in his own home. Her claim was that she believed that he was intruding into her home. Guyger fired two shots and killed Botham Jean who was watching TV and eating ice cream. The facts of the trial were that an armed woman intruded the home that was not hers, fired two shots, and killed a man who was watching TV. She was found guilty, which was monumental victory because when cops kill unarmed black people, they usually get off by making a case of self-defense. Her sentence is when things become unjust. She was only sentenced to 10 years of prison and is up for parole after 5 years for first degree murder. Even her lawyer was quoted saying, “he expected a longer sentence but he would respect the decision of the jury.” The judge gave Guyger a hug and a bible and told her to work for forgiveness. If the roles were reversed and an armed black man walked into a house that he believed to be his and shot and killed the occupant, he would be facing the death penalty. This is not an exaggeration. It is a fact that black people are judged unfairly in court and even targeted by police. There have been numerous documentaries about how the 13th amendment is a loop hole for slavery. The war on drugs, stop and frisk, are more examples of unfair treatment by police towards black people. In 2019, a black man was sentenced 10 days to jail for oversleeping and missing his jury duty. Little things like this make it very clear to those who are paying attention that the law can always been interpreted to do harm towards someone but at the same time, be lenient to others. We are not that much different than Hammurabi’s law code. 

Tj Salu

Word Count: 407

Sources:

 McLaughlin, Eliott C. “Amber Guyger Gets 10-Year Murder Sentence for Fatally Shooting Botham Jean.” CNN, Cable News Network, 3 Oct. 2019, www.cnn.com/2019/10/02/us/amber-guyger-trial-sentencing/index.html.

Lockhart, P.R. “A Black Man Went to Jail for Missing Jury Duty. After Public Outrage, the Judge Cleared His Record.” Vox, Vox, 8 Oct. 2019, http://www.vox.com/identities/2019/10/8/20904974/deandre-somerville-jail-sleep-jury-duty-florida-kastrenakes.

The American Laundry List of the Dead

When Dr. Jay Samons came and spoke to the Brigade a few days ago he remarked, “If you want to know what a society cares about, listen to their songs.”  In a similar vein, one can and rightfully should consult the Egyptian Book of the Dead to see what the ancient Egyptians valued as a society.  The document outlines in great detail what one should tell Osiris, the god of death and the underworld, as they enter into the afterlife so as to appease him.  This processes of appeasing was meant to allow the ancient Egyptians the opportunity to convince Osiris that they deserve a happy afterlife as opposed to a less-than-pleasant one.

            These admonitions cover a wide range and variety of sins that the ancient Egyptians could have (and often) committed.  The most interesting notion about these admonitions, however, is the fact that many of them state that the speaker has not tampered with agriculture or land use in any way.  This signals to historians just how important agriculture was to the ancient Egyptians.  Two more entries read, “I have not obstructed water when it should run.  I have not cut a cutting in a canal of rating water.”  The Egyptians relied on the reliable flooding of the Nile River to irrigate their crops.  This was their livelihood.  If one were to obstruct another’s water or otherwise steal from it, they would be directly affecting that person’s livelihood.  Such a transgression was seen as so severe that the transgressor was not worthy of a happy afterlife.

            All of this begs the question:  what would a modern American Book of the Dead contain?  If we can look back at the Egyptian version and ascertain their values, what modern day American values would make the cut into the American version?  A list could tentatively look something like this:

I have not been the proprietor of Fake News.

I have not discriminated against anyone based on race, sexual orientation, religion, or economic status.

I have not cheated on my classwork.

I have not committed adultery.

I have not killed another human being.

I have not made a cringe-y TikTok.

I have not been a fan of either of the Paul brothers.

I have not enjoyed a Twilight movie.

I have not laughed at an Amy Schumer joke.

I have not broken bread with anyone in the Army.

While many of these admonitions seem jovial or satirical, they still hold truths for what our modern American society values.  Historians and anthropologists of the future could look back at a list like this and ascertain the values that modern Americans hold in high enough regard to proclaim innocence of them in order to reach eternal paradise.  Unlike the ancient Egyptians, Americans don’t have to worry about physical sustenance in everyday life.  Modern America is concerned with the unabated flow of information rather than water.  Perhaps that is what this hypothetical Book of the Dead would communicate to generations thousands of years into the future.

–T. C. Fuselier

Word Count: 505

RODNEY KING

Racial tension in California during the nineteen hundreds was violent, disruptive to communities and filled with hatred. Police brutality was one of the factors that led to the hate between African Americans and whites during that time. The L.A.P.D was known to have some of the worst officers because of their excessive actions and extreme hate towards minorities. What made things so unfair to the African American race was that two of the four police officers involved with the case were acquitted. Rodney King’s case was caught on camera with evident proof of the police officers brutality and still wasn’t enough to charge them. Back then if those police officers had done what they did, Hammurabi’s Law would have given the police officers a max punishment or put to death. Hammurabi’s punishments were very detailed and exact which is why as odd as it sounds, King would be punished too for evading police.

I believe our laws are different from Hammurabi’s because although we think our laws are extreme, Hammurabi’s were worse. For example, in one of his laws he said “If any one break into a house he should be put to death.”(Code of Hammurabi) If we had Hammurabi’s laws in this society today there would be less crimes and more racial equality. King was in the car with his childhood friend, Bryant Allen, who gave reports saying King was beaten, thrown around, taunted, and threatened excessively. Growing up my parents always told me to be careful of what I did in the public eye. They kept pushing that I should be especially careful because I am an African America male, with long hair who is somewhat built; all traits that can be seen as a threat. Black males in America make up about 12 percent of the total population but more than one third of the population in prisons. A study done by the Bureau of Justice “showed that thirty-two percent of all African American males will spend time in prison at some point in their life.” (Crf, 1) Incarceration rates are a lot higher for minorities because most people in power of courts and government are run by older Caucasian males.

 If I had the chance to change the system so there was equality between police officers and minorities I would first start at educating both sides. Most of the time, incidents between police officers and minorities happen because of misunderstandings or confusion. Police officers need to be educated on common behavior, language and intentions of minorities. In certain cases police departments come out saying that there deputy or chief was “confused on what they were doing” or “didn’t know what was said”. On the other hand, minorities need to understand that police officer have certain duties and sometimes don’t mean any harm by patrolling and interacting with the community. There is a great divide between the minority community and law enforcement which can slowly be changed by educating. In Conclusion, the justice system today is bias and has holes. If we adopted the Hammurabi system in today’s world, we would see a lot less felonies, less people in prison, and a more equal justice system.

Works Cited

“The Color of Justice.” Constitutional Rights Foundation, https://www.crf-usa.org/brown-v-board-50th-anniversary/the-color-of-justice.html.

-Dakare Coston

Word Count: 546

“But he is a good person,” is a Get out of Jail Free Card?

In 1754 BC, the first law code was published; it is known as Hammurabi’s Code. The code is a strict, written document that outlines all of the consequences for crimes. Today, our written law is ever- present and, in a perfect America, it is fair. However, that is not always the case.

In 2005, Essex, Massachusetts Judge Elizabeth Fahey would make a sentence she would soon regret. Michael Boutchie was a white man accused of drunkenly and under the influence of drugs raping a sleeping friend. After a jury found him guilty, prosecutors recommended him for six to eight years in prison. This already below average sentence was alarming to the public, but Judge Fahey believed differently. Although she addressed his offense as serious and scarring for the victim, she was persuaded otherwise by some people of Essex. Michael, having been a born and raised Essex citizen, had connections that others in the county did not: former teachers, coaches, family, and co- workers. Apparently, over thirty people who knew Boutchie wrote the judge. Many claimed, “He is a good person”. Consequently, she only assigned Boutchie five years of probation the area’s judges often issue a sentence of ten years. Whether it be nepotism, race- related or otherwise, she succumbed to pressure from others. In her statement, she wrote that his drug and alcohol problem was a significant factor in the crime and that is was the reason for his behavior. She finalized her statement with, “I am hopeful that, if he can eliminate his substance abuse, he can become a law-abiding, contributing member of society”.

            Unfortunately, wishful thinking is just that: wishful. Three years later, Boutchie was heavily intoxicated when he was reported as sexually and non- sexually assaulting a friend’s girlfriend. After another court session, he was sentenced to only two years in prison.

            It is blatantly unfair that because Michael Boutchie was from the area and had people on his side to write letters that he was let off easier than others have been. The worst part is, finding a case like Michael Boutchie’s was frighteningly easy because there are so many like it.

Hammurabi’s Law code was magnificent in the way that it was the first of its kind, but it opened our eyes to the great divide it allowed. For example, it wrote out how specific social statuses would repay for their crime dependent on their wealth.  In this way, our laws really are not that different from Hammurabi, but almost worse. Hammurabi was blatant in his law code in showing that people of different classes are treated differently. It was written in the law and therefore people were expectedly treated differently. In American society, we write about fairness for all in every document, but fail to uphold that standard in every case. From school district to parents’ identities, we can compile vast lists of inequalities in court sentences.

            So, how can we fix this as a society? I propose a stricter, less malleable, and uniform code given to judges. For example, judges in America have much leeway in sentencing. As seen in the Boutchie case, the prosecutors recommended six to eight years in prison, and the Judge did not comply. By tightening up the regulations, it will demand fairness throughout America for all people. Things like rape and assault should not be up to the hands of a judge with mail from the defendants’ friends and family. There needs to be consistency; consistency is the key.  

Source: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/07/06/how-dozens-convicted-rapists-mass-have-avoided-prison/lHPMoqQHnuNCsQH2txM3AN/story.html

Ava Harding Words: 594

Code of Hammurabi: A Modern Babylon

The Code of Hammurabi specifically constitutes punishments for people based on their social classes in the hierarchy. Unfortunately, through the Code, it is evident that people in a lower class or a minority, suffer from more crude punishments than those in higher classes. This Code is one of the earliest examples of a person being considered innocent until proven guilty. Based on the Constitution, most of the codes listed in the Code of Hammurabi would be deemed illegal however, there are some similarities in the punishments.  There are modern examples of a crime that was punished disproportionately because of a person’s race and economic status.

Over a period of time, there have been numerous examples of crimes that were punished disproportionately because of race and economic status. In 2013, rich caucasian teenager Ethan Couch, was involved in a fatal car accident,killing four people. Normally, one would be convicted for vehicular manslaughter due to drunk driving. Also, this conviction holds a twenty-year sentence. According to NewsFeed: The Affluenza Defense, instead of receiving this lengthy sentence, he was awarded with only ten years probation.

At the age of nineteen, African-American Ramad Chatman “was convicted of breaking and entering for stealing a television worth $120… He was identified later without the knowledge that he was a suspect.” According to The Root, court papers show he paid his restitution and attended every hearing. During the trial, there was no evidence found for the case; no weapons, no video, etc… Based on this article, there is not enough evidence to prove he was a suspect in this crime. Chatman was found not guilty however, he was sentenced to seven years in prison.

These cases are proof that race and economic status are less of a priority for African American people. Using the cases listed above, a rich caucasian teen who killed four people while being under the influence received a lesser sentence than an African American sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing with minimum evidence. This is unfair treatment and punishment based on race, as well as economic status.

Overall, our laws are not different from those of Hammurabi in the sense that if you commit a crime or hurt someone, you have to pay for what you did by facing the consequences. However, as you delve deeper into each law, the laws are noticeably different. For example, if a woman hates her husband and does nothing wrong but she is neglected by her husband she will leave and live with her father. Nowadays, that may happen but, usually the couple will get a divorce if the marriage fails. Another example in the Code that mocks the punishments in third-world countries, is “if a man has destroyed the eye of another man, his own eye shall be destroyed.” In third world countries, it is very common that if an individual steals something, his hands will be cut off, or if a man were to rape a woman, his genitals would be cut off. Most of the code listed follow the same principles of our laws now, but the actions now are less abrasive than the Code of Hammurabi.

Ways to improve the system involves reconstructive efforts to habitualize substantial punishments to everyone no matter the race or social status. It is indisputable that race plays a major factor in our court systems. I believe it is best for prosecutors and judges to be given information blindly, without knowing the race and economic status of the individual prior to making convictions. This would result in a more fair and unprejudice punishments for all. 

— Kolbi-Monet Green

Word Count: 600

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