We have to forgive to be forgiven

September 10, 2015

Let him who is without sin, throw the first stone.

As most of you know, I was a death penalty lawyer for many years. I discovered that no matter how many people my clients killed or how depraved their acts, there was something vulnerable, something human about them with which I could connect. Sometimes it took awhile to find it. Who are you is a wiser question to ask than why did you do it. Patience, openness and a willingness to listen without judging the answers are invaluable skills. Many clients told me that I was the first person in their lives who showed a genuine and nonjudgmental interest in getting to know them. They told me that answering my questions helped them to discover themselves. I know this to be true: Even though people may commit evil acts, no one is evil.

When we demonize others, we demonize ourselves.

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people during a Bible study meeting in the Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina. He is white and they were black. He entered the church with murder in mind and asked to attend the meeting. They welcomed him.

Last night, Lester Holt of NBC News interviewed Felicia Sanders, who was present and survived the shooting, together with her 11-year-old granddaughter. Her 26-year-old son, Tywanza, died while attempting to shield Susie, an elderly relative, with his body.

In a matter of seconds, a moment of quiet prayer turned into a massacre.

“We were just about to say the prayer to be released,” said Felicia Sanders, one of three people who survived when a gunman opened fire during Bible study at her Charleston, South Carolina, church on June 17.

“He caught us with our eyes closed. I never told nobody this.”

Roof allegedly committed the murders to retaliate against blacks to redress crimes that blacks had committed against whites. No, he did not know whether anyone he killed had committed any of those crimes.

This crime is difficult to comprehend and I am not aware of any evidence that Roof was psychotic or delusional when he opened fire.

I was struck by the friends and family members of the victims who appeared at Roof’s initial appearance in court and told him that they forgave him, despite their overwhelming grief.

Under similar circumstances, I believe most people would want revenge.

Felicia Sanders is an extraordinary human being. She said one more thing that all of us should take to heart and never forget.

“We must forgive to be forgiven.”

Prosecutors announced earlier this week that they intend to seek the death penalty if the jury convicts Mr. Roof of murder.

Felicia Sanders disagrees with that decision. She wants him to live a long time in prison and reflect on what he did and why he did it.


Ignorance and stupidity are killing America

June 23, 2015

I read a compelling article this morning in Psychology Today by David Niose, the legal director and former president of the American Humanist Association. The title is Anti-Intellectualism Is Killing America and I believe he is right. He says,

America is killing itself through its embrace and exaltation of ignorance, and the evidence is all around us. Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter who used race as a basis for hate and mass murder, is just the latest horrific example. Many will correctly blame Roof’s actions on America’s culture of racism and gun violence, but it’s time to realize that such phenomena are directly tied to the nation’s culture of ignorance.

In a country where a sitting congressman told a crowd that evolution and the Big Bang are “lies straight from the pit of hell,” where the chairman of a Senate environmental panel brought a snowball into the chamber as evidence that climate change is a hoax, where almost one in three citizens can’t name the vice president, it is beyond dispute that critical thinking has been abandoned as a cultural value. Our failure as a society to connect the dots, to see that such anti-intellectualism comes with a huge price, could eventually be our downfall.

Meanwhile, most Republican candidates for president flashed their ignorance and stupidity last week by refusing to admit that Dylann Roof’s slaughter of nine black people at a prayer meeting in the basement of the Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC was a racially motivated hate crime and he is a terrorist.

They also deny that humans are causing climate change and global warming that are driving the sixth major life extinction event in world history.

The worst offenders are the racist haters like Roof, who believe blacks are inferior to whites, and the religious fundies who believe they have the right to exploit everyone and everything on the planet because they are saved and God gave humans dominion and control over all living things in the biosphere. Apparently, they missed the part about the responsibility to care for them.

Perhaps, Pope Francis’s encyclical will change their minds, but I would not hold my breath since they hate Catholics along with everyone else who does not belong to their white cults of willful ignorance and stupidity.

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