Justice and Intent

When discussing the topic of justice, besides the element of the event of offence, another element is typically intent. In this case, a father inadvertently left an infant in his car. He was supposed to drop the child off at daycare but forget and instead drove directly to work. The temperatures were hot, and this contributed to the death of the child. Upon discovering this, the father suicided.

I have copied the story below in full, as these things have been known to go missing every now and again.

A Virginia father died by an apparent suicide after finding his child dead inside his hot car, authorities said.

It appears the father accidentally left the 18-month-old in the car for at least three hours on Tuesday, leading to the child’s death, Lt. Col. Christopher Hensley of the Chesterfield Police Department said at a news conference.

When the child didn’t arrive at daycare, the father apparently realized the toddler was in his car, Hensley said.

Around noon, family members called police to report that the father was talking about dying by suicide in the woods behind his house. The father was the only person home at the time, Hensley said.

Responding officers found the car in the driveway with an open door and an empty child seat, Hensley said.

Officers went into the home where they found the dead 18-month-old, he said.

As officers continued to check the perimeter, they found the father dead in the woods from an apparent gunshot wound, he said.

Hensley called it a “horrible tragedy on so many levels.”

This marks the eighth child to die from a hot car this year, according to national nonprofit KidsAndCars.org. More than 1,000 kids have died from hot cars since 1990, the organization said.

Click here for tips on how to keep children safe from hot cars this summer.

ABC News

An interest of mine is justice, hence this post. I’ll get to that, but there is also a narrative of social priorities to extract from here, too.

The first is that we live in a society where 18-month-olds almost need to be separated from their family. Of course, the privileged can defend that they have sitters or au pairs or nannies. In the past, there were extended families and Clinton’s Village. Each has its plusses and minuses. I am not a fan of the idea of women serving as baby factories, pumping out babies and serving their plight as wage slaves, but that’s not my call. I also understand that raising children is not the most mentally stimulating activity, but that’s beside the point.

In this case, the father was more focused on getting to work than the welfare of his child. And given the outcome, it’s obvious that he had feelings for the child—although perhaps it was more the fear of the repercussions of being blamed. One can’t know for sure, but I’ll opt for the charitable rendition.

Let’s return to justice. Justice is the sense that one gets one’s just desert, but what is just and what is desert? In the artificial form of justice purportedly practised by lawyers and jurists, this man would not likely be held responsible for legal reasons without even having to plumb the depths of philosophical reasons.

It’s been said that karma operates with three levers:
intent, action, and reflection.

In this case, intent appears to be absent and reflection seems to be apparent in the outcome. The action was the lost life of an infant, a human life. Equally weighted, he’d be one step back and two steps forward, so his register would not be in the black. But this is not how he judged himself.

Even given the karmic model, it’s easy to imagine the reactions. As easy as it is for me to sit back behind my keyboard and be dispassionate, I can imagine the mother not being so reserved. Humans are blame-machines. I’ve been spending the past three or four months researching this topic peripherally with a focus on human agency, but in a reductionist model, humans seem to need to blame. And if there is no object, they have no qualms about making one up. Humans are good storytellers—more so, story-receivers—, but let’s not get distracted. He knew he would be blamed. Not least of all, he blamed himself.

Although I don’t subscribe to the notion of self—or even of intent—, it seems obvious that this father did. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if this were me—and I don’t want to try. But let’s not lose sight of the complicity of society that forces humans to make a choice between family and survival.