I love mysteries. I always have. I devour those newsmagazine shows because, let’s face it, truth is stranger than fiction. I watch the progression from crime to investigation to trial. I revel in good triumphing over evil. Like everyone else, I want to see justice done. I believe in consequences.
But there’s another piece for me as well. I can’t seem to make the scales balance between my heart and my head. I don’t believe in the death penalty. But I don’t really want to pay for the food, lodging and medical care of someone who will rightfully never walk the streets again either. And here’s the real conundrum: if anyone ever killed one of my family members, I would want the death penalty. Immediately.
School shootings, movie theater shootings, mall shootings, abortion clinic bombings, a blast at the Boston Marathon finish line; all this heart-wrenching sadness at such senseless loss and permanent alteration of life. Like everyone else, I am horrified by it, by the scars it leaves on individuals and on society as a whole, by the ramifications in our daily lives, by the way we will never again look at places and events, by our increased sense of vulnerability. Family members left to grieve. Forever. Our collective naivete changed. Forever.
But here’s where I admit that I, once again, can’t balance the scales between my heart and my head; when the perpetrator is young, I hurt for them too. And their families. Their young lives, in one way or another, are over too. Their family members left to grieve too. Forever. Many of the families will blame themselves, adding shame and responsibility to that mix.
I feel compelled to mourn for young perpetrators who have come to a place of callous disregard for life, I don’t see only evil. I also see sickness, delusion and pain. I see a mentally ill or brainwashed or rejected and dejected alienated person who not only destroyed the lives of strangers, but his life and those of his family. I mourn for their loss of humanity. I mourn for the person who could have been.
I’m a Bostonian. Patriots’ Day, the Boston Marathon, evoke feelings of pride. So I was horrified at the bombing there, not only as a human, as an American, but as a Bostonian. Of course I wanted justice. I sat with my heart in my throat both as I searched for friends and family that day, and again days later when they were all in lockdown.
But when I saw the pictures of the two young men that law enforcement were hunting down, I knew I was doomed. I knew that another piece of my heart would break for them and for their families. Maybe it’s because I have adolescent boys and I see that they don’t always make good choices, think things through, accept consequences. Not at anywhere near that level, of course. But I don’t know, I just don’t know.
Because as I watched the story in Boston unfold, I also saw this:
*Two boys brought to this country to seek political asylum who tried to fit in. They did well in school, played sports and were well liked. But they didn’t seem to have developed any deep and meaningful connections in their new home. I heard no stories of best friends, sleepovers, parties, days at the beach . . .
*Two boys who didn’t seem to have familial connections either. Their parents had left them behind to go back to Russia for medical treatment (who leaves Boston to go to Russia for medical treatment?). Their uncle, in this country, admits to being estranged from them for years.
*Two boys whose Aunt’s press conference was a narcissistic, unemotional, self-aggrandizing rant.
*A 26 year old who recently visited the place where he grew up and formed a lot of his belief system and most likely (I’m speculating) fell victim to the skewed ideology of predators.
*A 19 year old, whose (again, speculation) love of an idolized older brother who seemed to be the only emotional connection he had, overshadowed any rational thought of where he was being led.
I’m not making excuses. There are no excuses.
After another ruthless murder and the death of his older brother, I watched a 19 year old hunted down like an animal. And yes, he behaved like an animal. But 19 years old. His life is over too. Any possibility of reconciling his love for his brother with being an honorable person, any future promise, extinguished. He deserves it because, no matter what could have been, he did show a callous disregard for life. I believe in consequences.
I recently wrote about a devastating set of circumstances my son found himself in the middle of. In my piece I do not address the gravity of the social issues at the heart of it all, I explore my feelings from the perspective of the mom of a boy caught up in it, trying to make a path through it. I talk about struggling to come to terms with the impact on my son’s life. I write from this more personal place not to diminish the precipitating act, but because I’ve seen first-hand the ripple affect on all in it’s wake. I’m grappling with the devastation to everyone involved. Yes, including the accused.
I do not condone. I do empathize. I don’t think these two concepts are mutually exclusive.
The national headquarters of a fraternity just shut down an Oklahoma chapter because a video of the brothers chanting racial slurs had come to light. No question that in this instance too there are primary concerns, real, frightening glimpses into what still goes on in our society. And yet, when the kid on that video that went viral was named? I hurt for him too. And for his family.
I know I’ll be judged for feeling this, and especially for saying it in light of the premeditated horror carried out by some and the life-changing devastation brought about by others. It’s not that I don’t “see the forest for the trees”, I do. I see it. I’m just as hurt and frightened by the core issues as anyone else.
But I also feel sympathy for the devil. I’m sorry, I just do.