At 2:15 in the afternoon on March 28, 2010, Conor McBride, a tall, sandy-haired 19-year-old wearing jeans, a T-shirt and New Balance sneakers, walked into the Tallahassee Police Department and approached the desk in the main lobby. Gina Maddox, the officer on duty, noticed that he looked upset and asked him how she could help. “You need to arrest me,” McBride answered. “I just shot my fiancée in the head.” When Maddox, taken aback, didn’t respond right away, McBride added, “This is not a joke.”
Maddox called Lt. Jim Montgomery, the watch commander, to her desk and told him what she had just heard. He asked McBride to sit in his office, where the young man began to weep.
About an hour earlier, at his parents’ house, McBride shot Ann Margaret Grosmaire, his girlfriend of three years. Ann was a tall 19-year-old with long blond hair and, like McBride, a student at Tallahassee Community College. The couple had been fighting for 38 hours in person, by text message and over the phone. They fought about the mundane things that many couples might fight about, but instead of resolving their differences or shaking them off, they kept it up for two nights and two mornings, culminating in the moment that McBride shot Grosmaire, who was on her knees, in the face. Her last words were, “No, don’t!”
His Dec. 23 arrest stunned colleagues and constituents alike, not only because of his squeaky-clean image but also because he’s Mormon and had said he didn’t drink, in accordance with his church’s practices.
Crapo said the night of his arrest was the first time he had ever driven under the influence, but that he has, in the last year or so, imbibed alcohol on occasion. He apologized for that.
“As a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I have endeavored all my life to be an outstanding member,’ Crapo said. “I will carry through on appropriate measures for forgiveness and repentance in my church.”
Interesting that he never asked forgiveness from the Public whose lives he endangered by driving drunk.
The question posed itself acutely on September 11, 2001. People in the United States had experienced the outrage of terrorist attacks on sites of important symbolic value, deaths by the thousands, assault on national honor, ruthless brutality. How were we to respond?
Government clearly had a duty to protect its citizens. Such things could not be allowed. There was not much more could be done to the nineteen individuals who had thrown away their own lives to carry them out. But who had enabled or supported them? Their costs were small. The hijackers had needed only airplane tickets and box cutters to turn the instruments and technology of the powerful against them. Those who had responsibility, though, for providing the minimal expense or for moral and ideological support had to be held accountable, in proportion to their responsibility.
Yet there was a third element besides the perpetrators and their backers. Americans faced a sea of anger, not only from within the Arab or Muslim world but from the countless deprived and dispossessed masses throughout the two-thirds world. Although many nations responded to the attacks with condolences to the United States and condemnation of the attacks, there was no doubt that the attacks indicated that Americans already faced that anger on many accounts. This was a novel situation for us. The United States had been viewed for most of our history, when we deserved it and when we did not, as the great beacon of hope for the world, of justice, of liberty. Now this was not so. We were seen instead as the monopolists of the world’s good, as exploiters, coercive in our dealings with weaker countries, manipulators of their interests in favor of our own. If we did not address the grievances of those who saw themselves as oppressed we would be unfaithful to our own highest principles.
I expressed this on the very night of 9/11, sitting on a television panel discussing the traumas of the day. Another member of the panel, a professor, responded: “If anyone feels that way about us, we must make them fear us!” Without much thought I retorted: “I believe those 19 blokes were trying to do that to us today. Do you care to join them?”
This of course did not please the man who had so suddenly become my adversary. He replied: “For all these years they have told us we should respond to these things by diplomatic means, and look where it got us!” My return: “Our diplomacy must not have been very good.”
Our national response was in fact an effort to make them - all those of whom we asked: “Why do they hate us?” - to make them fear us. Over the years since, it has cost us many more deaths, vast wealth and indebtedness, tremendous limitations of our freedoms, loss of respect even from our allies and the confirmed enmity of much of the deprived world. Many people had hoped that the new Administration might definitively change that, but the world has been much disappointed by us even since.
The deepest wounds feel like they’ll last a lifetime: The absent mother who robbed you of the mother-daughter bond you craved and deserved. The eighth-grade bully who turned the classroom into a living nightmare. The boyfriend who broke his promises and chose her instead.
You feel bitter. You still hold a grudge. But clinging to those betrayals and disappointments, that hurt, is bad for the body and mind. “It’s inevitable that we’ll all be hurt by others, and that it will happen often,” says clinical psychologist Ryan Howes, who’s based in Pasadena, Calif. “People have accidents, make mistakes, behave selfishly, and even intentionally try to hurt one another. We can’t escape it. Forgiveness is a vulnerable act that can feel like it opens us up to more pain. But we need to have a way to process and let go of the effects of injury, or we risk serious physical and emotional consequences.”
Indeed, experts say that forgiving those who have wronged us helps lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart rate. One study found that forgiveness is associated with improved sleep quality, which has a strong effect on health. And Duke University researchers report a strong correlation between forgiveness and strengthened immunity among HIV-positive patients. The benefits aren’t just limited to the physical, either: Letting go of old grudges reduces levels of depression, anxiety, and anger. People who forgive tend to have better relationships, feel happier and more optimistic, and overall, enjoy better psychological well-being.
Recently I was asked at a public discussion of crime and punishment at which I was a speaker whether I thought it was right that the government (in Britain) had made it illegal for an employer to ask a prospective employee whether he had a criminal record and, if so, its nature and extent. This is a question that I have turned over in my mind, or at least let bubble away in my subconscious, ever since, for it in turn raises several interesting and important questions.
Most of the people in the audience, I suspect, thought that the rule was right, for it is both just and merciful (rarely are the two qualities so neatly conjoined) to give criminals who have purged their legal punishment a second chance. The idea of redemption is perhaps a legacy of Christianity even among those who are themselves not Christians. And the notion of forgiveness is especially attractive to people who do not want to appear primitively vengeful. Working as I did in a prison for many years, I often tried to put myself (mentally) in the position of a prisoner leaving prison: where would he go, what would he do, how would he keep himself in a way that did not involve crime?
With regard to the latter question, a couple of statistics are instructive. The prison department in Britain once published the ages at which adult prisoners were received into prison: 97 per cent of those who had committed burglary, and 98 per cent of those who had committed robbery, were between the ages of 21 and 39. This meant, or suggested, that criminality, at least of these two types, ceased spontaneously at the age of 40: assuming, of course, that it did not mean that the burglars and robbers had simply become more adept at crime and therefore evaded detection.
Crime in general is a young man’s game; but the fact is that if former criminals can keep themselves after the age of 40 by some legal means of other, they could have done so before the age of 40 also. In other words, their recidivism (for most of the criminals in prison are recidivists and not first-timers) is the result of a lack of will, not a lack of opportunity, even if, as has sometimes been suggested by those who want to ascribe crime to anything other than the decision of the criminal to commit it, the change in their conduct at the age of 40 is ascribable to falling levels of testosterone. In other words, no special efforts are necessary on behalf of prisoners leaving prison, even if nevertheless some such efforts ought to be made: eventually they will do everything for themselves.
But let us return to the questions of justice, mercy and forgiveness, tackling the latter first. The willingness and ability to forgive or overlook is essential to good human relations because we are none of us angels, we all do things we should not, and some of us even have habits irritating to those closest to us (in my case that of never passing a bookshop without buying a book, which my wife finds very irritating). If we did not have the capacity to forgive, every argument would end in divorce or murder, or at any rate in some very unpleasant consequence.
Americans relish the cycle of public apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation. It makes us feel cleansed, as if deplorable events never happened and, even though they did, that we are the better for having recognized and expiated them. Confession runs deep in our culture; absolution, too. As a result, almost no offense is beyond repair, and the more public the admission, the more complete the pardon. The ritual is often carefully choreographed and, at its pinnacle, becomes an Oprah moment.
Not all acts, of course, can so easily be absolved. When a nation apologizes for slavery or genocide, who offers forgiveness? In 2005 the Senate apologized for its failure to enact antilynching legislation. (Twenty senators did not sign a statement supporting the measure, many of them from states, like Mississippi, where lynching occurred.) Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thought the act “better late than never.” But James Cameron, then 91 and a survivor of an attempted lynching in Marion, Ind., in 1930, reminded everyone that the apology “won’t bring anyone back.”
These tropes of apology and forgiveness become especially animated in discussing the civil-rights era. Those who fought for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s are aging, and recent setbacks in racial and social justice are disturbing. It makes Americans want all the more to believe that the battles were not for naught, that beliefs and practices have changed, past injustices been rectified, and a brighter future lies ahead.
David Margolick’s engrossing new work, Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock (Yale University Press), takes up these issues directly. Margolick, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair,is the author of several books, including, with Hilton Als, Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song(Vintage, 2001), and Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and a World on the Brink(Knopf, 2005). In his new work, he peers into the lives of two women forever framed in a photograph taken on September 4, 1957, on the first day of what would be a tumultuous year at Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., as nine black students sought to desegregate the all-white school.
Elizabeth Eckford was almost 16 years old and entering 11th grade. From an early age, Elizabeth was a loner, preferring the company of books to peers. She wanted to be a lawyer one day, and the better facilities and opportunities available at Central, she hoped, would make whatever difficulties she faced worth the desegregation struggle…
I thought this was a beautiful story, and I hope this young man will live a life deserving of the forgiveness shown him - and it appears he is sincerely trying. Read the whole story here.
(CBS News) MINNEAPOLIS - In Minnesota, a young man was murdered and his killer was sent to prison. Then, as CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports, the story took a surprising turn.
In a small apartment building in North Minneapolis - a 59-year-old teacher’s aid sings praise to God for no seemingly apparent reason. Indeed, if anyone was to have issues with the Lord, it would be Mary Johnson.
In February 1993, Mary’s son, Laramiun Byrd, was shot to death during an argument at a party. He was 20, and Mary’s only child.
“My son was gone,” she says.
The killer was a 16-year-old kid named Oshea Israel.
Mary wanted justice. “He was an animal. He deserved to be caged.”
And he was. Tried as an adult and sentenced to 25 and a half years — Oshea served 17 before being recently released. He now lives back in the old neighborhood - next door to Mary.
How a convicted murder ended-up living a door jamb away from his victim’s mother is a story, not of horrible misfortune, as you might expect - but of remarkable mercy.