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Column: Societal sense of right and wrong may suffer the same fate as nickel Cokes
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

I don’t know if we have a right and wrong machine. If we do, I can assure you it’s in need of adjustment.

I’m not quite sure where we are dispensing our right and wrong information. I have my doubts that it is happening in the home. It may be happening at church, but the number of people who take their children there is on the decline.

I was watching the news the other night and they showed security camera footage of a mob of about 80 people entering a San Francisco department store and taking what they wanted. This was not in the middle of the night, but during regular store hours. In fact, several employees of the store were injured in the melee.

We have seen events where people throw bricks, chairs or other objects through plate glass windows to gain access to stores. Some have set buildings on fire.

No one seems to be willing to hold any significant number of people accountable for their actions. They should be sent to jail.

I remember one day I was in a hardware store and there was a key blank laying on the floor. I put it in my pocket with the intention of giving it to the clerk. I walked out of the store and realized that I still had the key.

I shuddered with fear. I could see myself being pictured at the end of an episode of “Dragnet” with my name being changed to protect the innocent. I wasn’t sure I was innocent and I thought I might become the first 11-year-old at a state prison.

My hand was trembling as I went back in the store to give them the key. When I started to give the clerk the key, I felt tears coming on.

“I didn’t mean to take it with me,” I said. The man smiled and dusted my hair with his fingers. He walked over to the Coke box and gave me a bottle of Coke. No dragnet, no handcuffs, no change of names. While it really wasn’t wrong, I felt a sense of guilt.

Some of you may remember guilt; it was that feeling we had when we did something wrong. I think it has gone the way of the nickel Coke.

These folks today weren’t guilty of taking a useless key blank. They were taking expensive designer jeans and handbags that cost more than a week’s pay. The police called it looting. Some guy who had an advanced degree after his name said we should be careful in calling them looters.

I agree.

We should call them thugs, criminals and thieves. They should put them out on a chain gang and have them do some sort of manual labor.

California has a law that specifies you can’t be charged with shoplifting unless you take more than $950 in merchandise.

Police have said that the looting, shoplifting or just plain old thievery resulted in over $1 million in merchandise being taken.

If authorities can positively identify the offenders, then they ought to go out to the redwood forest, pick up a limb and give them a backside reminder of right and wrong.

Oh, but this was in California. Never mind.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns publish weekly.