December 28, 2006

Balancing Acts

Ah, the Post-Holiday Airing of Guilt. This, I understand, follows the Airing of Grievances. With a Christmas that we celebrate, I feel I owe it to... well, call it kharma or what have you. Too much of a good thing can be just as bad for you as too much of a God thing.

Speaking of which, over the course of the last month, I've dicsovered that I have my very own proselytizer! I was shoveling snow off the walk (a la Norman Rockwell) and noticed a gentleman in a suit with a small boy walking down the street. Past him, two teenage boys were walking on the other side, holding bibles and tracts. I was hoping the kids would stop by, as I hate being too harsh on a person in front of their child; but my hopes were dashed when all I got was a quick nod as they went past. I was rejected by my soul's potential saviours!

Isn't there a rule about that somewhere?

Ends up I was just being overly touchy, as two days later the usual man dropped by. I described my concerns, only to find that he had told people in his church (hall?) that he was to be the only person to visit my home.

He even brought me a gift: the 250-page book "Life - How did it get here? By evolution or by creation?" The number is a teeny bit desceptive, as it's designed to be pocket sized and has lots and lots of helpful illustrations for anyone who's not quite sure what the words mean. Huge margins for my notes, too! I'm not sure if he knew just what he was giving me, but I've had a wonderful time with it on the way to work: correcting misused quotes, updating the scientific impressions, berating the philosophical points...

Giving a "scientific" religious book published in 1985 to someone who occasionally wanders off to see what silliness Answers in Genesis is up to this week, it's a bit like, well, playing DOOM in God mode (so to speak); or appearing on Celebrity Jepoardy; or possibly as challenging as dropping a ball in a downward direction.

It's been a nice little vacation, in other words.

But then I got a reminder of one of the more depressing chapters of my past: a person I used to know had another parole hearing, and was turned down again. Apparently, the semi-local paper decided this was newsworthy enough to publish. Fair enough: blood sells, and it was quite the little story; what with the "two goons hired by a manipulative mastermind to murder his mother and grandmother" plotline, and the "corrupted innocence" perspective (they were teenagers). Slit throats, crowbar beatings, blood-spattered rooms all made their appearance, as did a confession from one of the three.

But not from my acquaintance.

Which brings us to guilt.

He has been turned down for parole a few times now, with two things cited most frequently (other than the escape attempts, which the wardens apparently frown on): a bad attitude towards authority, and constant declarations of innocence. Those declarations seriously limit what programs you have access to, as they are designed (or at least intended) to be there for the use of felons who wish to re-enter society, and that requires remorse and an acceptance of guilt, which he declines.

Do I think he did it? Yes. But, just like with O.J., I wasn't in the courtroom that convicted him, so my opinion ends up being just that. Yes, I know many details of the case, enough to reach a decision of my own, but I don't know all of them.

Pretty standard tale, really; but just outside that story stands his parents. His parents have sold their house and have worked for the sole purpose of trying to get his conviction overturned. Over the years, this has reached more than $500,000 in costs to them. But here's the question: is it worth it?

Again, I'm working on the assumption of his guilt. But his parents have little choice, from what I can see. Their only son has been arrested for murder, and continues to maintain his innocence. It's an interesting question of "what would you do", isn't it?

It's all very well to say: "You have to stick up for your buddies" or "Blood is thicker than water"; or, conversely: "The law is the law" or "You do the crime, you do the time". But what would you do if someone you loved, family of friend, was convicted of a crime while swearing up and down that they didn't? Is there a price you would put on that? How about if there was a single, fixed cost for making the conviction simply go away? Would you pay it?

The closest I ever came to that situation myself (other than the typical petty larceny of childhood) was another friend's father. He was a preacher who got himself into a sex scandal, if you could believe it. Being a Revivalist of the Baptist variety instead of a Catholic it was with two young women, and well back before he was married, and the women were of legal age. But they were also under his responsibility, and he abused his authority. I was asked by his family, who I liked quite a bit despite thier religious views (I can be awfully magnanimous that way), to write a letter begging leniency for him, as he had led an expemplary life since the crime. And by nearly any standards, he had: solid job, lovely wife, tremendously sweet and lovely daughters, and an utterly psychotic son who I hung out with. And I mean "psychotic" in the nicest of ways!

I found I couldn't do it.

Would I have written such a letter if he had protested against the charge? If he decried them for bearing false witness? I don't think so, but I don't know.

He's a good man, who made a stupid, stupid mistake many years ago; but it was a mistake that affected at least two other lives, and if they needed his conviction to bring closure to themselves... Can you pay for your sins?

Typical wintertime question, eh? I wonder why Canada hasn't turned out more depressed philosophers. Or do what the U.S. did: turn the thought into a sit-com.

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posted by Thursday at 11:27 pm


Blogger Gazetteer said...

Tough, tough question.

But if viewed as an extension of original sin leading to the requirement for ultimate forgiveness, well....?

Now, of course, I wouldn't have gone that way except, well, isn't that Yankee-Doodie version of 'My Friend Earl' just an extension of the original British version?


10:20 am  
Blogger Thursday said...

Gaz -

You have no idea how rarely I consider U.S. sitcoms in biblical terms.

Thanks for that. I think.

8:49 pm  
Blogger Gazetteer said...

No thanks required.

Just don't be asking Freakin' Freddie Silverman for forgiveness when the time comes.


(glad to read your Dad's doing well)

12:38 am  

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