Making sense of forgiveness
|Nesima Aberra||Oct 4, 2019|
On my mind
I am still struggling to articulate my thoughts after watching the brother of Botham Jean, the man who was shot in his apartment last year by Amber Guyger, a Dallas police officer, then hug Guyger after she is sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Social media is a strange place where we process such intense emotions around people we have never met and build fantasies out of other people’s nightmares. We love seeing cops hand out free money to people who think they’re being pulled over, young children of different races embrace each other in public, and non-Muslims stand up for visibly Muslim women when they’re being harassed. We are touched by these gestures. We celebrate these moments. We gather these events and tuck them away for safekeeping, eager to pull them out again when the harshness of the system overwhelms us and we want reminders that everything is not so bad. We think that maybe one day if we find ourselves in those situations, we hope we will embody such grace or encounter such kindness. After all, we must be the change we want to see in the world.
And yet…do we change? Does anything change?
I don’t mean to diminish the significance of forgiveness on an emotional and spiritual level, but it seems to me that we rush to make individual moments of forgiveness equal to collective accountability. Forgiveness is an admirable action, however we know from history, it does not replace justice. It is not the same as reconciliation or rehabilitation. Justice is a much longer process that requires the perpetrator of the crime to admit fault with sincerity and for tangible steps to be taken that actually address the root of the problem.
Now, I believe that the compassion Botham Jean’s brother showed towards the woman who took his brother’s life is his own choice, but it doesn’t relieve the rest of us from paying attention to context of that crime and the criminal justice system as a whole. His mother stressed that in her remarks. I don’t see as many people jumping to share her words of anger, hurt, and demand for accountability…
I think that’s what is so troubling about the validation of the hug as genuine as it may have been. It’s a tremendous display of compassion, but are we also willing to validate tremendous displays of pain, hurt and sorrow? We want to be a part of forgiveness perhaps so that we may be forgiven for what we can or cannot do around senseless violence, but why don’t we want to acknowledge our part in the pain it causes families every single day?
What I actually found more surprising than the brother’s hug was the judge’s response. I’m not sure what the code of conduct is for judges in a courtroom, but giving a hug and a Bible to someone you just sentenced to prison? Has that happened before?
All in all, I am reflecting on what the ultimate lesson will be from this tragedy and the responsibility the media has in reporting on events like this. I find the words from these folks particularly moving:
Bobby Allyn@BobbyAllynWow I've never seen this before at a sentencing hearing: Botham Jean's brother asked the judge if he can hug Amber Guyger after a jury sentenced her to 10 years in state prison for killing his brother. He said he forgave her and they embraced as sobs rang out in the courtroom https://t.co/7Mux7Tk03o
What I’m noting
How The Good Place taught moral philosophy to its characters — and its creators // One of my favorite shows that is full of dark humor, silliness, and ethical quandaries. I haven’t been fulfilled by such a smart and whimsical show since Pushing Daisies. If you haven’t watched The Good Place, you can catch up on Netflix and join in on the final season.
Ousman Darboe could be deported any day. His story is a common one for black immigrants. // Growing up black and undocumented in a heavily policed neighborhood is often a ticket to the prison-to-deportation pipeline.
The Rise of the “Getting Real” Post on Instagram // On the one hand, I love that people are being more authentic on Instagram. On the other hand, being more authentic and relatable is now becoming contrived because it does better for influencers. Sigh.
How to Succeed When You’re Marginalized or Discriminated Against at Work // This is a great read that addresses how privilege often plays a role in whether the typical productivity advice actually applies to you. If your needs aren’t being met at work or you’re struggling with priorities and management, this article might help.
Before the internet broke my attention span I read books compulsively. Now, it takes willpower // So this story is painfully me. Joining a book club and getting e-books from the library is helping me fight back against my short attention, but it’s so sad to think about how many books I used to consume every month pre-internet.
Is everyone mad at me? // If this is something you wonder about often (guilty!), now is a good time to reflect on why. “Perhaps we are right to worry that others are secretly mad at us but aren’t saying anything about it, because we know ourselves to get secretly mad at others and not say anything about it, either.”
Lastly, I hope you enjoy this parody of investigative podcasts as much as I did.
That’s it for me. I’m heading out to the Bay Area tomorrow morning for this banquet (which I’m told is now sold out!!). Hope you all have a good weekend!