Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It made me stop and think

A few decades ago, a good friend of mine, and his girlfriend broke up. They had been together for several years, and were quite close, but circumstances were such that it was time for them to split apart. They still had places in their hearts for each other though, and even after they moved to different states, they kept in touch once or twice a year.

A few years passed, and they had not spoken for a while. Then one day, my friend received a letter from his old girlfriend’s sister. Before he even opened the letter, he sensed that she was no longer alive and the letter confirmed his sad intuition. Her next-door neighbor in a violent act murdered her, and I don’t know many more details than that.

My friend has often been an eye-for-an-eye type of person. For several years, he actively petitioned the Governor of the state where she lived, pushing for the death penalty for the murderer. For a long time, I secretly disagreed with what he was doing and with his grim death-row outlook. Finally, it was on my mind so much that I asked one or two friends what they thought of the situation. One woman said that if somebody murdered her, she would be proud that an old boyfriend would take such a chivalrous stance to avenge her death. This made me stop and think; to the point that eventually I started shifting my belief system about the death penalty - at least enough that I started respecting my friend's fortitude and resolution, dedicated to someone he once loved. After all, how could I purport to understand how he feels, when I’ve never experienced somebody that close to me being murdered?

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1 comment:

Helen and Harry Highwater said...

Well-written and appreciated. Vengeance is your friend's goal, and that's a perfectly understandable motivation. It's human nature and arguably admirable, and how could anyone not acknowledge and respect such an emotion?

Fortunately for the sake of justice, our society doesn't leave decisions of life and death retribution in the hands of furious ex-boyfriends. He's free to write letters and hold rallies and do whatever he can to urge the end he wants, which is as it should be. The judge, jury, and governor are supposed to be motivated by a desire for justice, which is easily confused for vengeance but isn't the same thing.