Friday, May 15, 2015

Tear Down the Lighthouse



Two citizens gazed out from the rocky shore onto the tumultuous sea before them, waves raging and winds roaring with the sudden storm's siren song, hauntingly intoned with the howling shrieks of errant travelers who now faced imminent death. They had ignored the lighthouse.

Opponere: I think we should tear it down at once!

Avocat: Tear it down? Why would you tear it down?

Opponere: Well, sir, are you blind? The tragedy before your very eyes should convince you. Do you not see that the lighthouse does no good as these dying souls attest. Its light was insufficient to warn them of the danger they faced, and now they perish. We should tear down the lighthouse.

Avocat: Sir, that is a fool's bargain.

Opponere: Call me a fool if you will, Avocat, but the vivid proof and sad truth lie before us: the lighthouse did not deter these poor souls from their own destruction.

Avocat: I call you not a fool sir, but a friend with a foolish notion. Just because we see these souls drowning by their own neglect of the radiant beam, to say that we should tear down the lighthouse is to forget one thing.

Opponere: Prithee, and what would that be?

Avocat: It is this, sir. When a shipwrecked sailor perishes, it is a frightful but spectacular event that alarms and saddens our whole village, and we think, "How terrible! The lighthouse neither deterred that captain's ill-fated choice nor prevailed to save his ship." But, Opponere, do you not see this truth? That while we sleep through many dark nights of storm or still and then awaken to a new dawn, and no cargo is washed ashore, no broken hull lies upon the craggy rocks, no heartbroken mother weeps, and no body floats lifelessly upon the briny deep, we never hear that noiseless testimony to the lighthouse as a radiant deterrent. For, you see, the sailor who sees the lighthouse and heeds its warning is always silent and unknown. I am quite sure, sir, that for every ship crushed upon those rocks, a thousand have turned the rudder and set the sail aright, cautiously passing by this rugged shoreline. Tear the lighthouse down, Opponere? No, sir, for it has guided many a soul to a safe haven.

Author's note: Now read the parable again, understanding that the lighthouse is a symbol for capital punishment. The two names, Opponere and Avocat, are Latin derivatives that respectfully mean "opponent" and "advocate." I am indebted to the vilified J. Edgar Hoover for the original metaphor.