Santa Brings Justice Forgiveness
Many of you might know who Gary Ridgeway, the Green River murderer, is.
He was recently found guilty of murdering over forty women in one county of Western Washington, and apparently they are a drop in the bucket. His deal was to purge the area of immoral and unclean persons, and apparently women were the "identified patient".
Anyway, I'm cruising the channels the other day and I come across the phase of the Ridgeway trial where the court tries to offer some restitution to the victims' families by allowing them to speak their minds to the murderer. Prosecutors seeking the death penalty try to get this done before sentencing because it might help if the judge or jury sees what horrible collateral damage was done.
I didn't want to see these people's pain but I felt that twingey sense that we as a society somehow owe it to the victims to endure some of this with their families. So I watched a few, until I started to get nauseated by the burden of sheer evil that these people bear.
One by one, the families step up to the mike and are introduced by the bailiff. They are identified to the court and in this case, the world by their status as survivors of a loved one's murder. ("Jane and John Smith; brother and sister of Dead Girl Smith") I couldn't help but think what a raw deal that is for them, to literally be identified as collateral victims of an intentional murder. How they have allowed Gary Ridgeway access and free reign in their lives through the portal of their hopes. Hopes that he:
die slowly and horribly
burn in an eternal lake of fire (not good enough for him) etc.
The series of speakers I saw were all women. They stood at a podium behind and to the right of Ridgeway, so he had to crane around in his seat to look in thier eyes. Many of them did not look back directly at him, but as they poured out the hate they felt, hoping, I am sure, to pour it ALL out on his deserving soul and rid themselves of it, yet the murderer seemed to... inflate. The more pain and hate they expressed, the firmer his face set. His eyes grew brighter, locked on their faces. He sat up tall and his lips set in what I swear was a smirk. Bushy-tailed, he was.
The women seemed to think that if they simply ramped up the hate, they could get through to the real Ridgeway and he would break down and they would be satisfied. Be he seemed to feed on their increasing hate and pain. Duh, I thought. The man was a woman-torturer and killer. Has there been no counseling for these women before now? Why stand there and reward their loved one's killer with the very portions of their own humanity that he so clearly relished taking from their loved ones?
My heart went out to them, but I was angry with them too. I wanted them to honor their dead loved ones, take the opportunity to show that there was more to that life, than the pain and fear and loss that Ridgeway inflicted. But they did not. They turned, invariably crying, faces contorted, wrecked again (and again, and again) by the pain that they foolishly, sadly hope will go away if "that monster is made to suffer the same way".
Whenever I see or am confronted with a bit of evil I remind myself that this wrongdoer wants the pain and fear of their victim.
I thought "I can't watch these poor people add to their own misery" and went to turn the channel, when an older man approached the podium. He had long, white hair and a long, white beard. He emanated humility. I could see he would be different, and I stayed to watch.
He began by identifying the victim as his child, and sure enough, humbly pointed out that he had not seen her in years, that he had not and she had not... something. Nevertheless, she was loved, and Ridgeway had taken that away. The murderer seemd to sit up and prepare to take this man's humanity, too, and eat it like the others.
Then the murdered girl's father forgave him.
Ridgeway blanched as though he'd been hit in the face.
The gentle man kept talking, continued words of humility and naked sorrow but without pain. Each time he said a phrase that indicated he had no hate nor judgment for Ridgeway, the murderer broke a little more. His face crumpled just a little at first. Tears began. hiccups, gasps.... finally, the old man said sooo gently, "So. You are forgiven." And Ridgeway's face collapsed like a well-detonated brick wall. He buried his face in his hands and sobbed. There it is. That's what those women falsely hoped to create by giving Ridgeway their pain.
The old man went on to note that he did not believe Ridgeway should be kept alive at public expense. Ridgeway started to sit up and dry up a little, clearly hoping for the crumb of mercy that would be this man's wish that Ridgeway die. But no, it was just an afterthought; the old man made it plain he did not wish death nor a life of reflective misery on the murderer. Just peace. And Ridgeway's face collapsed again.
Then I turned off the t.v.
Somewhere I heard a viewpoint on capital punishment, that murderers and victimizers of humanity should not be given merciful death, but should be kept alive and spend their remaining years watching videos of the happy occasions of their victim's lives. Birthdays, christenings, weddings, etc., every waking moment forced to see the life-affirming happiness that the murderer ended.
I agree with this in part. A victim's peace and joy is like battery acid to an abuser. But maybe there is still too much vengeance in that sort of justice. Perhaps a murderer, forced to live without human interaction and just the the gentle phrase "You are forgiven" clanging in his ears for all his conscious life, is justice enough.
I hope for those women-- the collateral murder victims of Ridgeway-- that they stayed to watch his undoing by a sweet and humble old Santa Claus. And that maybe they can now lay down that burden of hate.