What Do We Value?

Last weekend, a replica of an historic covered bridge was destroyed by an arsonist. I live in Madison County Iowa, the home of several historic covered bridges and they’re kind of a big deal here. This bridge was actually a replica of one that had been destroyed by arson about a decade or so ago. Our law enforcement community has made two arrests and I’m sure they are continuing their investigation.

While I am deeply saddened by the Cedar Bridge burning, this has made me even more painfully aware of how much our society values things over people. Everyday I work with victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, domestic violence. The perpetrators of these crimes seldom see much for jail time. Slaps on the wrist are quite common. Meanwhile their victims are stripped of their innocence, their dignity, their sense of worth and sometimes their long-term well being.

I often wonder how a society that values things over people can possibly endure. When a person who cheats on taxes receives more prison time than a person who rapes his child isn’t there something wrong? When a person who burns a bridge receives more jail time than someone who perpetrates domestic violence for years on his partner and his children does, it cements the notion that children are not valued, women are not valued. Things are valued.

When I hear that it will cost a million dollars to rebuild a replicated bridge, I wonder how far that million dollars would go in this county to provide desperately needed mental health services.

I do think people need to be held accountable for what they do. Please don’t hear otherwise. I’m proud of the law enforcement community for their quick and thorough response to this crime. They’re pretty amazing! (I may be a little biased.)

I am very conflicted though. I have read through many many posts and comments seeing rage and hate and desire to see just punishment. A seventeen year old and a twenty five year sentence. Tomorrow I’ll be face to face I’m sure with any number of perpetrators from whom I need to protect a precious child and there will be no outcry and no sentencing and my heart will continue to question our priorities.