Yesterday, I did a post about how forgiving the judicial system is in Lithuania, where an 85 year old Nazi was given a free pass because of his age and because he no longer posed a risk to society.
After reading my post, Kathryn, of Suitable for Mixed Company, shared a link in the comment section to another post on a psychologist's website. That post concerned a Dr. Phil show in which he urged a family to forgive the young woman who murdered their son in cold blood, admitted to it, made constant snarky cracks about it, and walked away with a slap-on-the-hand 12 year sentence. Dr. Helen's take on the matter mirrors my sense of things:
Dr.Phil insists that forgiveness is the only solution that will make the pain go away. It's no wonder that people think psychologists are a bunch of self-righteous ninnies who are one brick short of a load when it comes to common sense. It seems to me forgiveness in this case is just another name for a "get this girl out of jail free card." Especially since the conversation from the killer's parents then turned to "how would Brandi serving all this time really help the situation, after all, the victim is already dead." I have heard this over and over from attorneys, social workers and family members in the course of when I am doing an evaluation with a defendant who has been charged with murder. Forget about the victim–he/she is long gone and there is no reason the perpetrator should have to be put out too much by spending all that nasty time in prison.
I think aside from nicely stating the obvious (obvious, at least, to sane, normal people), Dr. Helen's paragraph exposes the problem with a therapeutic society. Forgiveness is a personal emotion. It is, in a sense, the antidote to anger. It is, therefore, the victim's right to forgive, and the victim does so for his or her peace of mind.
Society has a different responsibility. Society doesn't have a "peace of mind." Instead, society's goal is social order, which is achieved through appropriate punishment for actions that injure society. (And, of course, society has an interest in rehabiliting those who can, in fact, be rehabilitated.) Judges, being neither victims nor priests, have no business granting forgiveness. And when judges cross the line and do think they get to wave their hands and wipe out sin, it's no wonder the true victims can't get over their own anger. Indeed, that's precisely what the victim's mother said:
"Let me tell you some things that she said to us,” says Dr. Phil. “She said, ‘There is no way Brandi could not have known that she hit him. She said that he jumped in front of the car, but Daniel would have known better than that. There is no doubt in my mind that this was intentional. There is nothing you could ever say to bring my son back. You don't realize the pain that you have caused our family. And I could never ever forgive her. She got a break in court, a slap on the wrist.'
"'We were told that it was going to be first degree murder with no chance of parole. And then she only got 12 years. Every time we entered the courtroom, we were ridiculed. Brandi said, “He got what he deserved.” I will never have any grandchildren from Daniel. I will never see my son graduate from high school. I will never see him get married. I think her mother is a piss-poor mother. I don't care how much I love my child, I would never lie for him. She has ruined our lives.’ What do you say to that?”
What do I say to that? I say, Mom, you're absolutely right. Another overreaching courtroom in a therapeutic society forgot it's own role, and stole away a right unique to one victimized by a crime.