I wrote this after reading War and Peace at work today. I already forget the context, but there was a mention of the Codex Justinianus, which, I believe, was a part of the Roman law, which needed to be updated. The law was a significant part of Rome’s success, and is what makes our country as great as it is.
The success of the system also relies on the people buying into it, which, arguably, is what also causes many of the issues we’re faced with today. I started thinking about this more and what it would be like if we lived in a country that was actually interested in helping those who found themselves in significant trouble. This is what I came up with.
We live and die by The Code. It’s been passed down for generations. No one has ever felt the need to break it. We all see the beauty in it. Perfection is hard to accomplish, but this is the closest anyone’s ever gotten. What we’re still struggling to understand is why you feel the need to break away from it.
We’re not here to punish you. You think there’s some sort of conspiracy against you, against everyone, but if you actually read The Code — you’ve read it, right? — you’d know we’re all looking out for you, for each other. We’re here to get you to understand why we value the code so much, and why we take these kinds of…concerns so seriously.
You ask, “If The Code is truly perfect, why are you so worried one nobody could ruin the whole system?” You ask, “Only God can be perfect, so how could I be more powerful than God, the only one capable of ruining what you’ve all created?” What you need to understand is that no one thinks they’re better than God. And you certainly aren’t. We don’t even claim The Code comes from God. All He did was give us the ability to create The Code, which is why we’re thankful.
The Code is a system of checks and balances. Not one person has complete authority over the other. We all believe in the code because there is no one author. It’s amendable, too. We choose to accept the code isn’t always perfect, and will need to be changed from time to time. What makes it perfect is the effort we put into it. If one person doesn’t put the effort in, it fails.
If a store owner is getting robbed, and he doesn’t feel that his life is actually being threatened, he doesn’t have the right to shoot the robber with the 12-gauge The State supplied him with. Even the robber understands that he can’t just walk in and shoot the store owner in cold blood. Not only will he have to live with the fact that he killed a man knowing his life was never in any danger, but the whole town will make sure you understand the gravity of your crimes.
You say you had the right to defend yourself because the store owner had a gun behind the counter. You say you had to rob the store because The Code keeps people like you from making it to the top, that there’s a bias against those who question The Code publicly. The Code protects your right to speak your mind, but you don’t have the right to do so in a way that harms everyone else.
We’re going to use you as an example because, to be honest, we learned something from you. You have just as much of a right to protect yourself as much as the store owner, but you can’t twist The Code to work in your favor by putting yourself in a situation that could get you killed on purpose.
We appreciate the fact that you brought this kind of scenario to our attention. Someone with twice the brains you have could make this same kind of situation look a lot more natural and we would let a guilty man walk. You’re free to go, but the store owner’s needless death cannot go unanswered. You can walk, but you have to work. The State will give you a job and give you a place to live in the West District. You will be subjected to routine visitations. You will also see a psychiatrist twice a week.
If you don’t comply, you must leave The State and fend for yourself in exile. If you wish to change your Not Guilty plea to a guilty plea, and apologize to the family, you will receive a life sentence; however, if you exhibit good behavior, and your apology today is sincere, we will review your case halfway through your sentence and you will have the opportunity to walk ahead of schedule. Your future is in your hands, and you can thank The Code for that.
If you’re interested in submitting your own flash fiction piece to Come and Go, please see my submission guidelines on my website and send me an email. I’m very open to all topics and genres. I’d love to keep adding to the collection of submissions I’ve already received.