It's hard to tell exactly why the story of one American, currently cowering in fear of the rattan cane that awaits him in Singapore, has captured so much attention. Was it because of public interest, or was public interest generated because the media picked the story up?
For whatever the reason, the story of 18-year-old Michael Fay has been constant grist for talk-show monologues, newspaper articles and editorials and lunch-time conversation.
Fay was arrested in Singapore in October for 53 counts of vandalism, including spray-painting cars. After pleading guilty to reduced charges, he was sentenced to four months in prison, a $2,230 fine and six strokes from a cane made of bamboo-like strips. The punishment usually leaves permanent scars and has been labeled torture by human-rights groups.
Today is the deadline for Fay to appeal for a presidential pardon. If that fails, he will then serve out the part of his sentence he dreads.
Perhaps the story of Michael Fay has been so prominent because it raises questions about America's values. Many Americans, more than could have been expected, have responded to the story with support for the Singapore government. Fed up with crime at home, the idea of real punishment is appealing.
Most Americans, however, feel the punishment is cruel and not appropriate to the crime of vandalism. In fact, many have expressed outrage over Singapore's willingness to flog an American.
The very real fear of one 18-year-old human put aside, the controversy here at home over Singapore's justice system has displayed America's hypocritical nature. Those who support the caning seem to like the idea out of pure vindictiveness, but they certainly wouldn't want vandals in the United States to be flogged.
Still more hypocrisy comes from those who are wailing about the fate of one American who was, after all, caught breaking the law. The punishment that Fay is not looking forward to has been around in Singapore for a long time. If Americans are concerned with human rights, why do they only object when it's an American who is getting flogged?
This hypocrisy is the true reason Fay faces the cane in the first place. Living in another country, under different laws, he should have made himself aware of the consequences of his actions. Assuming he would be treated by Singapore courts the same he would be treated in Suburbia, U.S.A., was pure stupidity.
That doesn't mean there is nothing wrong with justice in Singapore. But for Americans to expect special treatment when they go abroad is the height of arrogance. Read Next Article