Chesterton Would Be Proud

From the Wall Street Journal, amidst a whole batch of tales of strangeness which cluster around WalMart like bees on honeysuckle, we have this fetching tale of Small Is Beautiful crime and punishment:

... One of the latest outbreaks of Wal-Mart weirdness took place in June in Texas. A 5-foot 2-inch shopper and mother of two named Monique Lawless, who later told a reporter she was “sick of the lawlessness,” chased down three brothers after she spotted them allegedly running out of a store with stolen beer.
Her actions, which included hopping up and down on the hood of a car, led to the arrest of the brothers, named Sylvester Thompson: Sylvester Andre Thompson, Sylvester Durlentren Thompson and Sylvester Primitivo Thompson. They couldn’t be reached for comment.
Ms. Lawless briefly became a televised folk hero after her hood dance was caught on surveillance cameras and aired repeatedly on cable news shows.
“If you care about your country, you can’t watch a bunch of kids walk out of Wal-Mart with beer and not do anything about it,” says Ms. Lawless, 42, adding that she recently autographed a Bible for an admirer at church.
“Sylvester, Sylvester and Sylvester: their families reached out” to her since the incident, Ms. Lawless says. “That meant a lot to me.”

I like this story for a bunch of reasons.  First, I like it because of the veritable festival of great names involved I mean, hey!, how awesome is it that somebody named “Lawless” took down some crooks and actually said she was “sick of the lawlessness”? They could make a movie out of it just for that. And I know just who should play this woman: Luci Lawless. I think we should petition Congress demanding that.

But that’s nothing compared to the pure magnificence of the Beer Bandits’ names: Sylvester Andre Thompson, Sylvester Durlentren Thompson and Sylvester Primitivo Thompson. How great is that? It’s like something a latter day Dickens would invent (another reason Chesterton would approve). I can’t help but think of the Anything for a Buck Boys on the old Bob Newhart show (“Hi! I’m Larry. This my brother Darryl. and this is my other brother Darryl.”) Durlentren? Primitivo? Fantastic!

But most of all, because I like subsidiarity (the notion that people closest to the problem should handle the problem wherever it is sensible and feasible) I love that this gal just lit out after these guys and made such a ruckus about their petty theft that a little community action, a passerby with a cell cam, and a cop quickly remedied the matter. I also love that the family of these guys did not go all Victimy and drag in the ACLU, Oprah, the odious Nancy Grace, or the Supreme Court. Instead, they kept it local, acted like parents, and even chose to make friends with Mrs. Lawless. Best of all, I like that after doing what she saw as her civic duty, Monique Lawless had no hard feelings and no big ego about it and that she was more than ready to be friends with the families of the (hopefully reformed) bad boys. 

In short, though, there was a bit of law involved here, mostly what occurred was order. And the order came from the hearts of decent people living by charity rather than by mere legality. Law is, after all, what has to be invoked when all alternative remedies have been exhausted. The goal is to get away from dealing with people on the mere basis of legality and get back to dealing with them on the basis of charity. The law says, “If you can’t love your neighbor at least don’t steal his beer.” Charity says, “You stole some beer and you deserve to be busted for that, but I hope you don’t do it again and I forgive you and wish you well.” Monique Lawless seems to me to be a small and beautiful embodiment of Christian charity: one of the countless decent folk out there who do not dominate the headlines, but who keep civilization from conking like an engine without oil. Let us praise her and all such good men and women for their invaluable contributions to the common good.