Ever seen something on the news and said “Man oh man, if I could get my hands on that guy, I’d…?” Did it make you feel better…give you a sense of control? Did it, perhaps, make you feel less vulnerable?
I have heard these comments so many times, and most of the time I shrug it off, but sometimes, just once in a while, I want to truly challenge these remarks.
“Really?” I would say. “What would you do?”
If someone bullied your child, hurt your mother, broke into your home…if someone made you extremely angry for whatever reason, what could you do?
It feels so much better to think that we would take revenge and make the other person suffer more than we suffered, to be the boss in control of the situation!
Reality is so very different. We don’t live in a society where we can just do whatever we want without consequences. We can’t practise “an eye for an eye” and live happily ever after.
One of the hardest things for me has been watching James as I hear other men profess how they would take matters into their own hands and evoke their own justice. Somehow these statements imply that we (him), as victims of crimes, should have done something differently, that we should have sought out those who killed Stefanie and taken revenge, as if James wasn’t “man” enough to take matters into his own hands.
Of course, I know that most people only say these things to express their very human outrage and empathy with us as victims of such a senseless, brutal crime, and also because often in this country people feel our justice system is heavily weighted on the side of criminals. Still, somehow our impotence becomes highlighted by these remarks and begs the question, “what would most of us do”?
First of all, no one knows what his or her reaction would be in the face of any situation. Taking the law into one’s own hands is one route to go, but what would be the consequences? There could be a temporary feeling of satisfaction that comes with revenge—inflicting severe pain on a deserving criminal—but what then? Would it really teach them a lesson so that they would never offend again? Would it change anything…magically restore a beloved life? Would we feel better about ourselves for having sunk to the same level of depravity and inhumanity as the one who hurt us?
I seriously doubt it. What I do know is that in our society, if we were to do anything like that, our own lives, already turned upside down, would be ruined. I would have been mortified if anyone had harmed a hair on the heads of the two who killed Stefanie, especially if it had caused the legal case against them to be thrown out of court. Every “t” had to be crossed and every “i” dotted exactly right, and thank God it was.
How much more difficult our lives would be now if one of us had wound up on trial for aggravated assault or even murder? I imagine a life as a single parent, raising 5 children, already profoundly affected by violence. What a terribly personal way to learn that two wrongs never make a right, to say nothing of the lesson in morality we would have taught our children.
Reading this might make you wonder if something has happened recently to inspire this blog post, but that isn’t so. I was simply thinking about all the different ways we re-victimize ourselves after a tragedy and this is just one more that we would do well to work through. No one needs to feel shame along with profound grief.