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Defending the Guilty

By Roy D. Follendore III

Copyright (c) 2003 by RDFollendoreIII

How do you defend the guilty? Maybe you don't.  Maybe you can't. But maybe we should. 


July 11, 2003

Doug Williams did it.  There can be no question about it.  He walked into an office building and shot five fellow workers in Mississippi. He was just another sinner, an "evildoer," a "deadender."  Someone said that at least this one took his own life.  Someone else says that they wish he had lived so that he could be put to death by the State. 

The truth if it were told is simply that in most ways he was a man, just like all others.  Like his girlfriend said, he was also a victim who could be kind.   He was definitely a lost person who was not found in time, another human being who fell through the cracks, and he was certainly a misfit.  The people he killed did not deserve what he did to them, but when you think about it, he also did not deserve what he did to his self.  Mr. Williams initiated the deaths of others.  He neither gave nor received mercy in his final actions and that point became the ultimate distinction that separated him from those who were the innocent victims and he as the murderer.  

Passing judgment on others has become an institutional part of our media culture.  We forget too easily that absolute judgments are mechanical all or nothing, zero sum processes.  Absolute values can never cover the range of human error, misjudgment, and insanity that exists. The intelligent person recognizes that good does come from bad and bad from good.   The bad seeds are always planted best by the good.  Man's constant struggle to remain on the side of what is good is therefore paradoxical and this is why mankind allows itself to justify the ultimate murder of war.

The natural reality of existence does not require such judgments by us.  Individual human beings may choose to simply respond to the conditions which surround us at the moment.  One may imagine the heroic sacrifice and cowardly actions that would exist in situations if that happened.  But the truth is that it would not be much different than our day to day society.  Few human beings, if any have the discipline to be constantly aware of their larger actions or global motivations.  Maybe they should be made constantly aware but maybe they should not.   In Mr. Williams case, it was his constant awareness of what he thought was a "global conspiracy" against him that was reported to have driven him to take the actions that he did.  His insanity occurred the instant he could no longer reason, not when he began to question his reasoning.

If man is to survive this mechanical concept of society that we have adapted and evolve into a larger social being, then we must understand this one point.  The defense of the guilty becomes the prevention of such future failure.  As a society we must not merely condemn the guilty in order to forget, but learn the far more difficult discipline of forgiveness through intellectual understanding and positive action




Copyright (c) 2001-2007 RDFollendoreIII All Rights Reserved