To anyone who doesn't understand why we need newspapers, an article in last Sunday's Washington Post Magazine may make you reconsider. In it, Gene Weingarten looked at some tragic cases of parents forgetting their infant children in the car, with fatal results.
It's every parent's nightmare. You're busy. You're stressed out. You're mentally juggling so many balls that, for whatever reason, it slips your mind that your child is in the car. You assume you've dropped her off at daycare or with the babysitter, not realizing until too late that she's still strapped in the backseat.
Although such incidents are hardly common -- Weingarten reports 15 to 25 a year, nationwide -- even once is too much. And the parents who find themselves in this situation can never forgive themselves. The central question of Weingarten's article is whether this sort of catastrophic negligence should be prosecuted as a crime, as it sometimes is.
Count me with those who believe that a parent's eternal self-torment is enough punishment for anyone. Furthermore, the pragmatic reason that we prosecute crimes is to discourage other would-be criminals from doing the same. Can anybody really argue that putting someone in jail for the circumstances Weingarten describes will prevent it from ever happening again?
We're not talking about criminal acts here. We're talking about family tragedy. To further punish someone who will never be able to forgive themselves would be, well, criminal.