Book Three:

dave_beard.jpg (51349 bytes)

Skinned Alive
by Melanie Anne

Part One: Innocence Lost

Chapter 51

The Double Edged Sword

July 3, 1995

I suspect these words will have no power, unlike those that came before and screamed with angst. The road is clear ahead, but no destination is discerned.

Boy, I sure would love to lie to you; to say that everything was just Jake and honkey dorey. But 'tisn't.

I'm so enamoured of happy endings; I want one for myself. Ain't here yet.

Listening to the Beatles' "Help!" cheers me up, but only on the surface.

Is writing the only way to get rid of my sadness? And why is there an endless supply? It seems no sooner do I exorcise the demons onto paper but what the seeds of them sink roots to sprout anew.

Is my mind cockeyed? Does it fit and start in chaotic unison only to churn out negatives?

Why can't I tune it to the black sans the red?

Maybe I should write more. Maybe my heart is cast to wane, and only lifts upon the winds of thoughts expressed.

Therapy... simply treating the symptom while the disease ranges free: a wild fire in my soul.

Still, a verbal scab can clot and seal the psychic wounds until that unseen force that tears the mental flesh rips the new skin loose again.

I just read the above to my daughter Mindi, who then asked, "Mel, did you ever have a very bad childhood trauma?"

"My dear," I replied, "I'm still having it."

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As I write I sense my answer lies here somewhere. Is it in the writing or in the sharing of what I've writ? Neither quashes the imperative so the Truth yet eludes. Still and yet, something about this process or its result holds the key.

How long will you folk tarry my melancholy musings? "Can't you just get on with it?" I hear you chant. "When will you solve the damned puzzle and let us get on with our own lives? You've stolen the solutions to our own problems while we have nodded into hypnotic stupor helping you search for yours. While our mental backs were turned the sign we needed passed behind. We looked to you for the pathway and you've led us to a dead end that used to have an opening until you plugged it good.

"Yours is not a finger in the dyke but a thumbing of the nose: 'You'll not get yours 'til I get mine'."

Perhaps you are right. Maybe you should turn back to your own problems - it's not too late for most of you. But then, what if I solve MY problems just after you leave? Wouldn't you just hate yourself if I found the solution and you weren't there to learn it? To share it? To make it your own?

Guess you're as stuck as I am, and just as gullible.

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It's pushing quarter of midnight; time to call it a day. The album has ended, the dog lays on the floor - half in the kitchen and half out. Just like my aunt who died alone at home of a cerebral hemorrhage. It started with a nosebleed. This we surmised after the fact by the bloody pillow on the living room floor and the sullied tissues next to it.

Next, she made her way to the dining nook table, where she sat, then collapsed and fell toward the kitchen, hitting her head on the door jam along the way to be found late that day by us, like the dog, half in and half out, hair matted in the sticky, red goo that had drained from her scalp.

We called the police who called the coroner. We called relatives and made arrangements. But since the phone was in the kitchen, we had to leap over her each time we needed the device. I refuse to step over the dog.

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Have you ever read anything that held exquisite meaning but made no sense at all?

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July 18, 1995

Feelings have changed. I feel as if Dave was my husband, and he was working to provide for my future when he died. He had not provided for me yet, but he left me many raw materials to work with. If I was willing to roll up my sleeves and work at a man's job for a few years, I could use those raw materials to build the future Dave had wanted for me. And that is what I did. I worked hard and long, and used my logic to the exclusion of my feelings. Ultimately, I have now found financial success. Last Friday, I received my fifth quarterly royalty check from sales of the story software, and by far the largest. My wage as a manager there is $36,000 per year, which is significantly more than school teachers make. The last quarterly royalty was $9,000.00! I now have the security Dave had wanted me to have. And so, I can stop using my logic and turn to me feelings, perhaps for the first time. I can stop working like a man, and get back to being a girl. Back for the first time.

Of late, I have made an effort to squash my logic whenever I feel it raising its ugly head. From day one I have done what was reasonable, calculated the potential effects of every action, every activity. That is how I hid in Dave. No one but me knew I was there, inside. But I wasn't in control and I wasn't pulling the strings. I had long ago abdicated and let Dave use his logic to carry on the show. Dave was made of logic. His feelings were dead. His feelings were me.

Over these years, whenever I listen to me head, it is Dave living in there. When I listen to my heart, it is Melanie. This I could not change - not from the inside. But as this royalty payment approached, I could feel a crucial budge. The external world did a flip from threat to security, and the inner world had no choice but to flip to stay in step.

As logical thoughts emerge, I let them flow through me as if there is nothing there to which it can stick. And then, my feelings follow: emotions that were drowned out by the night blindness caused by the luminance of my reason. But with reason gone, a move allowed by my survival instinct only because my situation is secured, the delicate and nuanced essence of my Melanie self is seen, more each day as my inner eye adjusts to the more subtle movements, which had been previously lost in the glare.

I am moved now by attractions and repulsions, rather than by pursuits and avoidances. The world is opening up before me - the same place with different eyes. Aside from that royalty check my situation remains the same and yet it all seems so different, so new, so fresh.

I now go into work because I want to, because I enjoy both the activities and my friends. I find myself stopping to talk with co-workers with whom I have never had conversations. I am giving people hugs and remembering special days and going to lunch with many of those with whom I work. All these things are new, and none of them are planned. They just happen. Just like this entry in my diary: not done because I will have more to publish, but because I felt I had something I wanted to say.

July 19, 1995

I must let go to my feelings. Today they flowed over me, in me, with a chaotic current so strong they seemed to have an aimless direction. Still, part of me is holding on. If only I could think of where it was, which mental muscles are still constricted, I could relax my intellectual grip and let reason sleep.

That great internal forces are at work in me is of no doubt. They are so palpable as to appear external in origin. But the world is not made of emotions but of stuff; or is it? I surely cannot feel them in me. It is more as if I float on them, and would be carried away save for logic's rigorous death grip held fast by cramped muscles I cannot flex.

There is peace, but not as I have known it before. Is it the end of money as a concern? Is is four months now of estrogen alone without progesterone? Why are there always so many variables to consider that although I know some combination of them precipitates my moods, there is not time to unwind their entwined influences before some other incoherent eddy lifts me spinning onto some untested shore?

Stop avoiding, I think to myself. Your whole life has been a headlong rush to get out of the way. But you've tasted that now and the flavor is not sweet. It is, in fact, bland: neutral to the extreme. Before me stand the future, barking like a dog. Behind me lies the past, whimpering to get in. I have shut out both. The present goes nowhere, but then that is always the case, with me.

What does one call a hole when the surrounding earth erodes to meet it? Why question, "Where does it hurt?" to a soul stripped of skin? But yet this is not the whole of it either. The pain I suffered is gone, but not because the cause is cured, but rather that the prickly burr has smoothed.

I have rounded all the sharps that used to prick me. I have filed all the jags that cut. What should we call our prison when the walls lie just outside our range? Just knowing that I'm bound in this emotional purgatory, neither paining nor purring, but devoid of motivation to run.

Chasing the horizon at least brings changing scenery. But when the walls are out of reach there is no direction better than the next.

So, my hurt is gone. But my pleasure does not come. Why?

July 20, 1995

Fits of brilliance darken my mediocrity.

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Everyone wants her, but no one can touch her. She lives in a bubble of obscure notoriety.

(One little prick, and the bubble will break!)

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Self-adhesive Teflon

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July 21, 1995

The mind knows nothing of unity, the heart nothing of comparisons. The mind judges strength against weakness, worth against price, but the heart calibrates the soul. A rich man cries, a poor man laughs; the heart takes no heed of the mind. The mind cannot speak in feelings. No degree of sense can patch a pain of angst. Solutions don't exist for our heart is not a problem. It just is.

Don't think of consequences, don't protect against potentials, don't: take stock, look twice, draw on experience. Throw yourself in the path of whatever attracts you, and though you may die: peace.

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Light the lamps of diversion and march into the dark.

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Step on your heart 'til it squeals.

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Bleed feelings.

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Grope

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Plead

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Pray

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Yearnings

that should move

me to seek, leak

onto the page,

leaving me

empty.

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Damn the words.

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July 22, 1995

It occurs to me that I am trapped halfway between male and female mental sex, much as Anne Rice's Lestat is trapped between the animalistic world of vampires and the world of human feelings. I have been raised, trained, and appreciated for my logistic abilities, driven by the underlying intuitive reasoning of my sensual mind.

I shall jump ahead: I have not completed my transition. If my story were to end now, it would have an outcome of "success/bad" in story theory terms - the same outcome as in "Remains of the Day". I have achieved all that I desired and all that was asked of me, but I have yet to find peace.

I cannot find peace as long as I remain 'twist twain. In fact, I am less happy, less fulfilled than when I was Dave. In those days, there was an emptiness at the heart of me, but I could at least engage in activities that fully occupied my attention. In those days, I could be happy for a while. In these days, I am never empty, but the price to pay has been a complete dearth of truly happy days.

I stand on the fence and others marvel that I don't fall off. Don't marvel. I CAN'T fall off!!! Lord, I want to set foot on one side or the other so badly that I would probably accept a life sentence as a male for the privilege. Again, like Lestat wishing to be human again. And, like Lestat, I would no doubt regret such a decision as soon as it was made. One can learn from stories, if you don't require that what you learn is true. Sometimes lies are more useful.

What I want is to be a woman. Just a woman. Simply a woman. Nothing more, nothing less; no strange history, no current entanglements (to paraphrase George Washington). But I can't jump down. I don't want to leave my family. I don't want to leave Mary because I can't bring myself to cause her the pain of loneliness that I suffer. How can I ache from such suffering and accept my trading it to someone else as the condition of joy? Could I find joy with such a price attached? How can we accept Jesus and allow him to die for our sins and still find bliss? Will he take our torment at having ransomed him to save our souls as well? What an endless chain in a hall of mirrors such reasoning invokes.

No, I will not give pain to ease my suffering. So I am stuck on this damnable fence, eyeing both sides jealously, even while those on firm ground exalt my public achievements and laugh behind my back. (Don't laugh as my paranoia - I've heard you laughing, which is why I'm paranoid.)

I used to fantasize and yearn for a car accident that would force sex-change upon me, even through this gruesome means. Now I fantasize for amnesia that would steal my past, leaving me in a different town where I was unknown. I could start anew. I could build on me instead of what they have made of me.

I post my pages on the World Wide Web as a plea, as a broadcast: touch me, feel me, heal me. Who's out there? No one in particular.

Is there an end? Will I be fish or foul?

Must I somehow embrace the aura of a transsexual and relish it with full devotion? Must I change so much that I no longer would want to be man or woman but strive to set myself apart as that odd blending of some of each?

I don't want this, yet it may be my only answer. Evidence: with every diary entry I write, knowing full well it will be published, I extend that semi-state farther into the future and solidify the impressions of the growing community of those who read my work that I am not qualified to be fully male, nor capable of being truly female.

I did my own grave. I light my shorts on fire and run frantically in circles chanting my own name as an oath.

Can I put out the fire? Will someone smother me out? Or will I simple extinguish when there is nothing left to burn?

July 23, 1995

My daughter has left for camp, and I fear for her life. I love her so; I bind myself with insufferable fears each moment she is gone from me. I know this is all unreasonable, but what should I expect? For weeks now, I have been struggling to undo my reason - to leave it for the simple world of emotion: what I feel, is. What else matters?

Just moments ago, I finished reading Anne Rice's "Memnoch, the Devil", perhaps the last of the Lestat novels, if the concluding words are a true indication. By the time my words of this night are finally published, some three years will have passed, or thereabouts. So, spilling out the ending of the book now, will do no harm then.

I had written a critique of the previous book in the series for our Story Software Journal. Again, assuming the future, I imagine most of you who read this will know of the story software, the new theory of story I co-created along with Chris, implemented into software of the same name. In the critique, I complained that Ms. Rice in the fourth book of the series, "The Tale of the Body Thief", she had allowed her anguished hero, Lestat, to find peace without sharing the mechanism though which he achieved it. I drew comparisons with Virginia Woolf's similar conclusion in "Orlando".

But now, with this concluding volume, she has done the honorable thing: Realizing she did not herself know the path to peace, she has asked the unanswerable questions on the grandest stage any of us can imagine and left her hero without hope, having seen more than anyone of us could hope to experience and still not able to resolve the ultimate paradox nor fill the eternal void.

Yet, I find myself not moved to the degree I would have expected. My own questions, reflective as they are of this cosmic harmonic, are edging ever closer to satisfaction, even as my personal void materializes ever more toward fulfillment.

Simply, I know why I angst, to use the word as a verb, which is surely how I have experienced it. And knowing why carries with it's inverse, "why not". Or, how not to why.

There are many technical explanations I could give, and no doubt will at some time in the future. But those are, after all, only explanations. What I want to share is not a description of what, and thereby leave you all in the same quandary as Ms.s Woof and Rice, nor simply restate "what" and throw the question back in your laps merely more ornately stated.

No, what I seek is to describe how I came about the peace I finally feel growing within my soul, not to provide a path to follow, but to shed some light on the terrain. For each of us must find our own path. It is not the role of the luminary to pave the way but to shed enlightenment that makes the journey less murky and the footing, therefore, more sure.

I am not at peace yet, mind you. I have only begun, but I can feel it building. And this time it is no casual euphoria that fools one into stuporous complacency, but a true and real shifting of the inner sands. So, here is my path that you can easily follow, but will mean nothing to your life, your soul. But in my description, perhaps you will see some resonance in your destiny that makes your direction more clear. If not, well, at least I have my path.

When I was a young boy, I loved. I did not know hate or fear or longing. These I needed to learn. Or perhaps "needed" is the wrong word, for it implies some betterment by having learning them or at least a lack in not knowing them. In fact, the learning of these three attitudes was the essence of my deception. And only now, by forgetting my education, can I lose what I have gained, and thereby gain what I have lost.

I can honestly say that before I went to kindergarten, I never had an ill thought toward anyone or anything. This is not jaundiced hype, but a true appraisal, as far as my memory extends. In fact, the very concept that someone might intentionally want to do harm to another was quite simply inconceivable to me.

As I look back now, I can easily appraise the wrongs that were done to this innocent boy, simply because he was the perfect target. But rather than being subjected to premeditated violations I was more accurately the victim of an all-pervasive atmosphere of meanness and cruelty for which I was wholly unprepared. Since I had no mental tools available to perceive the wonton infliction of pain, I fashioned my own explanation for what I saw: that somehow there must be some reason for what must surely be normal behavior, and through some mistake, I had not been informed of what this was.

For a time, I actually believed it had been taught at school during one of the days I was sick. Later, I just assumed I was different than everyone else, and therefore was personally at fault. Being strong of will, however, I made it my cause to learn to approximate through actions what "everyone else" seemed to do by instinct. If it did not exist within me, perhaps I could mimic the results through observation and practice.

Believe what you will, but I truly and consciously made this decision in kindergarten: to study the actions of others in the hope I could clothe myself in acceptability and avoid the confession that I was not a complete human being.

Now, I can see that indeed there was something missing in me. The same three things: Hate, fear, and longing. But I was a keen intellect and an inspired mimic. It was not long before I fashioned a false personality from what I had seen and synthesized. To keep this program running, I installed it in my brain as my sense of self, relegating my true state of being to a mental warehouse where it would keep, undisturbed and slumbering, never at risk of interfering with the illusion.

The story of my progression to and through sex change surgery (which many of you have no doubt read) is the story of that slumbering self reawakening to claim center stage. That impetus got me through the physical shift, built the story development software, and discovered Mental Relativity. Success in all I attempted. But what it could not do is solve the initial riddle: why was I different?

My heart had come back to me, and yet I still possessed the knowledge of pain and suffering, the desires to do ill to others that I had fashioned within myself. In other words, I reclaimed what I originally was, but could not shed myself of what I had become. Both came to uneasily co-exist in my mind: my true self in my emotions, my pseudo self in my reason.

This was my personal paradox of God and the devil. Emotion was my God and Intellect my devil. And they fought for my soul.

At times I thought I would be destroyed, ripped asunder by conflicting parts of myself. In that, I am sure I am not alone. Whether one starts pure and become tarnished or starts in pure evil and becomes tarnished with good, the soul is drawn and quartered by Knowledge, Thought, Ability, and Desire: the true Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

I yearned for a mate, a soul-mate who would hold me, hug me, protect me, comfort me, and in this again, I am far from alone.

Now, if I were Woolf or Rice, I would either stop here and leave you all with the message: you are not alone - I suffer as you suffer, so take heart; miserly loves company. Or, I might state that I woke up one morning and the pain was gone! Isn't it miraculous? Isn't it wonderful? Isn't it the granddaddy of all lies?

I almost lied like that to you. Do you remember? I always told the truth, and ALL of it, as far as I knew, until the end of the story of my transition. Then I concluded by saying that I had no regrets at all, and brought closure to the tale by insinuated that I was at peace. I knew I would be misunderstood, or perhaps more accurately, that I would be properly understood in my misdirection.

I had found no peace there, only satisfaction at having completed a job well done. But as I've said, satisfaction grows from logic, and logic is the devil's tool. At least, it is the tool of my devil.

Forgive me for that small variance from illuminated truth, I beg you, as I could not have brought myself to continue this journal if a direction toward resolution were not at least indicated. What purpose could there be in flagellating my soul before the reading public. This is a diary after all, not some fictional journal of a lord turned lady or a creature of darkness.

But I am on the verge of divergence, and do wish to share with you how I turned the corner and am merrily trodding down the street I now transcend on the way to that golden future we all seek for ourselves and those we love.

There! Did you notice? I gave it away. Right there in the last three words of the last paragraph. If you had been me, you would have caught it right off, but think... I told you my path was not yours.

"Those we love". As that innocent child I had no yearning to be loved, no fear of not being loved, no hate of those who did not love me. The notion of love coming TO me was not even an issue. My heart rejoiced whenever I saw love, wherever I saw love.

I'm not talking about giving love either. Certainly not the sacrificial kind of martyrish love my mother drained out of her soul until it killed her. No, I mean passively observing love between one person and another.

I just didn't see the hate. How could I, being so focused on the love?

But how can one survive without being on guard against the hate, you ask? One can't. I told you I was an innocent. My mother protected me and I remained innocent until I went to kindergarten where I was unprotected and innocence was lost. In learning what I became, I was not consciously aware of the quite instinctual nature of my efforts as a manifestation of an organism to protect itself. Previous to that time, I had simply not needed protection, so I was open, caring, loving.

If all of us were allowed the luxury of being so, no one of us would have need of protections.

But are not protections the nature and essence of everything in our world? And are not all protections based on logic, after all?

But what of natural hate? Do I not believe in some essential evil in humankind? Some desire to perpetrate pain? No, I don't. Is that naive? Good! It is a step closer to innocence.

Another Woolfe said, "You can't go home again." I say you can. You may be weathered by the journey, but you can get there if you try.

There are those who have been fooled into thinking right is wrong. And there are those who have been convince that wrong is better. The best most hope for is to believe that right is best, but can't stand against wrong. But how about believing in right and just leaving it at that. We don't have to compare it to anything. We don't have to weigh it in the balance. We just have to focus on it.

And when we do, we open ourselves as easy prey to the unseen attack from the viscious. But what of it? When my life is over, do I want to think with my dying thought of what I have accomplished, of what I have learned? Or would I rather live each moment full if heart, in peace so great that even death itself, or pain or torment cannot dislodge it? How weak is that, to triumph over death itself?

So for me it is an easy path now. I don't have to look for love for myself. I don't have to sacrifice to bring love to others. And I will turn my thoughts from hate, hating, and being hated more each day.

Fighting violence with violence is the ultimate self-deception. Fighting power with power is no less so. Power itself contains the implicit notion of control over others, which to my thinking is quite unacceptable.

Won't hate run rampant if we do not respond to it? The current action films would have us believe that. I don't anymore. Now, I can't expect myself to lose my taste for the thriller any more than I lost my taste for beef when I determined that all animals were God's creatures. I still eat the little beasts and enjoy it.

Hey, I don't have to be perfect to like myself. I don't have to be a saint to do more good than harm. For me it is enough to simply look more intently for the good. Logic can compare one thing against another, but the heart is a singularity, and if I spend a moment contemplating good, there will be no evil in it.

Of course I will then follow a few evil thoughts, having been tarnished as I was, but I'll steer myself back to the good, and the percentage of that perspective in the mental mix will increase to the detriment of the other without any attention having been paid to the dark flipside.

There is limited enough mental real estate that if something new moves in, something old must move out. This is true only of the heart. The intellect has limitless terrain to entertain an ever increasing variety of contemplations.

Now does this make sense to you? That I can be at peace not because I have achieved nirvana, but because I know which way to grow? My heart is joyous in this, perhaps someday to be truly happy.

I can tell you this: just seeing the love between mother and child, father and child, father and mother, child and child, recharges my batteries, gives me strength at no one's expense, and leads me to share some of my surplus with others in the same way.

It's an inanely simple little throw of an internal switch that took me 42 years to find. Having faced the crossroads, a point at the center of a surrounding horizon with no features and not a clue as to which way to go, a direction is now clearly marked.

I've come a long way to get here. I've a long way to go. But this time, I know that each step is in the right direction. And how do I know this? My heart tells me so!

Well, there it is. I imagine it's not your answer, but then I told you that going in. And you don't even have the satisfaction of having me lie to you about how it is all better now in a good, logical, binary sense. No, I've just found out who I really am, and now I'll effortlessly guide who I'm being ever closer to who I am.

Just because something cannot be completed does not mean it is infinite. I suppose none of us can resolve all inequity in our lifetimes, no matter the resources or the time. My angst is not over, not by a long shot, but on any day it will never be as bad as the day before. Sadness may be greater, hate and fear and longing may rise and fall. But all of those are tangible, logical things that can be dealt with. Angst is the name of the void, and no matter the momentary state of things, day by day that void is being filled.

July 24, 1995

If there is a name for my religion, it is "Hodgepodge", and it's chief deity is Willy Nilly.

July 29, 1995

I just saw a picture in the paper of a small, Siamese kitten with an oxygen mask over its face, and a benevolent fireman tending it. My son, Keith, also saw the picture. I could tell he shared the same feeling of compassion and joy that the kitten would be okay and that someone had taken time in the midst of the chaotic terror of a fire to rescue and care for the innocent animal.

I realized that we were feeling the same thing, my son and I. Or if not exactly the same thing, an emotion similar enough to seem to have no discernable difference. We both felt that it was a good thing that an innocent caught in a bad situation should be rescued.

I think this may be a human-wide trait, not just a cultural norm. Yet, then my thoughts turned to the phrase, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." In other words, the innocent must be punished if they transgress. This cannot be an intrinsic human trait.

How we have twisted ourselves into such obscure contexts that our code of ethics demands acceptance of ideals in direct opposition to our inherent human qualities!

Oh, yes, it makes sense that we cannot have people claiming ignorance and getting off the hook, for there is no way we can tell if they were truly ignorant of the law or just using ignorance as an excuse. So, if we are to give the law and its deterrent punishments any power at all, it must be applied equally to the knowing, premeditated perpetrator and the innocent as well.

Unless... unless we have accepted a given called "the sanctity of the law" that is no real absolute at all. Why do we demand that the law be uniformly applied? If it were not, than some would be persecuted and others favored, leading to all kinds of abuses. So, instead we apply the law equally, and thereby create all kinds of abuses by punishing the intentional and accidental violators equally - as if the person who accidentally breaks a law would be deterred from accidentally breaking it again by more punishment than the personal sorrow they might feel at having offended others through their negligence.

Regulating people's actions sounds noble in theory, but only if the opportunity for leniency is available depending upon the context in which the crime is committed can justice hope to prevail.

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