Sunday, August 30, 2009

Closure And Forgiveness

What better forum to stake out an unpopular personal opinion than a blog?

That word "closure" causes my bile to rise and skin to break out in a rash. It usually appears in newspapers at the time of jury trials when victims or families of victims are seeking a maximum penalty for the perpetrator.

"Justice", they say, "must be served.” Is this not the Old Testamont trade of eyes and teeth? The concepts of justice, closure and revenge have become conflated.

When the octogenarian driver lost control of his car and ran into a Farmer's Market killing a dozen people the survivors demanded "closure" as if his incarceration would bring the matter to a close. It wasn't enough that the man would never drive a vehicle again.

When the Lockerbie terrorist was recently released to die at home it caused a public outcry. The man will be dead by year's end in any case. How does the cruelty of punishment by the state serve to balance the equation? It serves only to perpetuate the cycle. Ideally the matter is settled only when forgiveness and redemption are extended.

I am not arguing for the release of all convicts. Clearly some are incorrigible sociopaths and need to be separated from society. However I submit that we have become a fear-based nation, armed as no other. Given our recent war crimes with elements of sadism along with a criminal justice system disproportionately administered a correction is in order. Punishment rather than rehabilitation seems to me our preferred design.

A few years ago a drunk driver killed a student in Santa Barbara. The mother of the victim expressed her grief by testifying on behalf of the accused. She did not want another life wasted behind bars.

This act of transcendence was her way of finding meaning in the tragedy. As our consciousness evolves I would hope that society embraces this notion; that we seize these occasions as moments of transformation. The quality of mercy is twice blessed........upon him that gives and him that takes.

Final thought.......... I'm coming to believe that life offers us moments when we can become more fully human; opportunities not to be squandered. It may be people to love or simply to meet, soulfully. Forgiveness is a form of giving and what we receive in that act is even greater.

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