Nothing is really black and white

The closest I’d been to a criminal was as close as I could get to the TV, that is until today. A few hours ago I found myself inches away from a murderer. Let me rephrase, I found myself inches away from a man who had committed a murder. (I’m still trying to figure out the difference in those words.)

I found myself accompanying a photographer friend from work to a press meet. I wasn’t sure what the occasion was and was a bit surprised to find myself in a room crowded with equipment that flashed names of news networks and symbols of the press.

A gentleman in a suit was sitting at a table and explaining the circumstances that led to the prisoner’s imprisonment. In a fit of alcohol induced rage, the man who had endured years of his daughter and grandchildren being abused, killed his son-in-law with the assistance of a friend and then hung the body.

The convicted man was brought into the room with his hands cuffed and a printed white sheet of paper pinned to his shirt stating his name and crime. Murderer. The word weighs heavy with malice, bitterness and evil. The man I saw before me did not personify any of the traits I associate with the word.

The man looked so timid and although he confessed to his crime it was difficult for me to picture the fellow stabbing his son-in-law with a small knife, nor could I conjure images of him hitting the departed in the stomach with a beer bottle.

I have decided that reporters are vultures. I saw signs of a predator in the journalists, the cameramen, the mics, the flashes and in the slew of poorly worded questions that the man in handcuffs was assaulted with. The entire room lacked professionalism and the air was heavy with men (and a few women) who didn’t care for the individual that was seated in front of them. All they wanted was to ravage the story and carry into words and footage whatever drama they could draw from the feeble man.

With no questions, no pen or paper in my hand, I kept my gaze steady on the man and I willed him to look at me so that somewhere in the crowd, amidst the media beasts ready to pounce on him, he could see kindness. But he never looked at me. In fact, for the most part his eyes were cast down and in answering questions his voice was small with fear and uncertainty.

What is a man stripped of dignity?

There was one reporter in the crowd whose voice lacked a commanding tone when posing a question. I am happy that the reporter works with me and that he was perhaps the only other person to see that perhaps the handcuffed shell of a man before us was human and not just a story for tomorrow’s paper.

As the prisoner was led out, he passed me and my heart lurched knowing that he had killed, that he had caused death, but even that didn’t prevent me from seeing a person who was scared and … uncomfortable.

No doubt, he committed the crime, no doubt, he was guilty but seeing as he lacked the cold hearted indifference of a “criminal”, I question the circumstances that led the man to making a brief appearance in my life.

What’s there to a life where you’re forced to find solace in locally brewed alcohol? What joy is there in marrying your daughter off only to watch her suffer at the hand of the man you’ve entrusted your flesh and blood to? Above all, I wonder, is the suffering he will endure in jail worth ending the suffering of his daughter.

How do you punish someone for trying to protect the ones they love?

I don’t know what the sentence is, I don’t know what came to be of the daughter he rescued (?), all I know is that what I saw upset me deeply and what bothers me the most is that I’m certain I am the only one who is unsettled by all of this.

Here is the link from today’s paper regarding the man:

  1. how you are able to capture the essence of the room and the situation (no, not the crime) is a gift … and i am glad that if nothing else you fixated your gaze on him and showed him kindness (that he may or may not have seen), but this piece is really moving.

    i thought i’d procrastinate from my assigned reading and surf the web, and in a few hundred words that took just a few minutes … you have expressed the emotion behind this human act. anger. rage. regret.

    but emotions followed with grief, regret and shame. your questions are honest and for all the answer you won’t receive, the questions are honest.

    justice. peace. mercy. …. what are we without these?

  2. Roni said:

    Sometimes we only need to hear one voice of reason and compassion to help the rest of us remember that we are still humans.

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