I’m of two minds about Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide, which is something I never thought I would say. On the one hand, he was portrayed as pond scum, his alleged victims will now never have to worry about recriminations or retribution and the taxpayers don’t have to support him for the rest of his life in prison — a point my uncle always makes in defense of the death penalty — which is surely where Epstein was headed.
But leave aside the vast right- and left-wing conspiracy theories about the rich and powerful who may have offed him, the federal investigations into whether or not Metropolitan Correctional Center officials turned a blind eye to his suicidal mindset — it appears two correctional officers may have lied about checking on him — and consider instead whether or not we should’ve extended to Epstein the dignity he allegedly denied to his underage victims. If life is valuable, then isn’t all life valuable, whether potential as in a fetus or criminal?
Did we have a moral, ethical, spiritual obligation to keep Epstein alive so that he could hear his accusers and defend himself against them? Aristotle would say yes. In her lucid new book “Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life,” which I am rereading for its many pearls, classicist Hall explains that for Aristotle, the path of happiness, which everyone can trod, lies through virtue. Don’t we owe it to ourselves always to do the right thing even if the person we’re treating fairly doesn’t?
The problem is that intellectually this makes sense; emotionally, not so much. The woman who informed me of Epstein’s death was practically gleeful, and I must admit to a certain schadenfreude as she delivered the news. It’s just that there have been so many instances of sexual assault and harassment (et tu, Placido Domingo?) that there is both a certain numbness and contradictory revenge factor at this point.
Now all we can do is investigate what happened, including the role any of Epstein’s colleagues or friends might’ve played in his sex trafficking, and see that the victims still have their day in court.
Epstein is dead. His case continues.