A Perfect World

As I've said, repeatedly, I'm anti-death penalty and have very little regard for "tough on crime" rhetoric. But you see something like this:


A 19-year-old man was arrested in connection with a drive-by shooting that killed an off-duty Newark, N.J., police officer who was getting a slice of pizza at a neighborhood fast-food place, though a second suspect who is believed to be the shooter remained at large. 

Rasul McNeil-Thomas was arrested at his home in Newark on Friday. He was charged with carjacking, conspiracy and weapons offenses and was being held on $300,000 bail. There was no immediate word on whether he had an attorney. 

Authorities said McNeil-Thomas and the other suspect stole a car at gunpoint and used it in the shooting; the car was recovered nearby soon afterward. They didn't say what tied McNeil-Thomas to the car or whether he had identified the second suspect. 

Two other customers were wounded in the Thursday night attack that killed 45-year-old officer William Johnson. Authorities reiterated Friday night that they believe Johnson wasn't the target.

And the first thought is base, primal and simple: Why should I have to share the earth with this person? If one is so reckless toward the individual lives within a society, what right has he to remain in that society? 

I think a large share of becoming a mature citizen of the world, is, on some level, accepting its imperfections. It will likely always be true that on some days evil people will commit evil deeds, and we will be utterly incapable of punishing them. Moreover on those days when we can, we still will be incapable of balancing the comic scales. Indeed all our acts to attempt just that, tend to redoubt back upon us.

It is a bitter pill to swallow, and doubly so if you grew up in a neighborhood where such reckless people were known and feared. I deeply feel, and powerfully understand, the urge to play God. But in the end the drama only serves to confirm how mortal we really are.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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