Whose job is it to forgive and forget?

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. 

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  • jg

    The usurping power of the judiciary endangers our civic future as a nation You do well to confront it. Judicial bullying grows each day. Too often we are told that unelected officials will decide how we, the common people, live our lives.
    And not to question.
    But we should question. As Alan Keyes remarked on the steps of the Alabama statehouse, ‘our nation was born as a rejection of autocracy. We will not accept a reimposition of that by those figures who sit on a bench.’ (from my memory of his address at a rally to uphold the public place of the Ten Commandments).
    Some of my Catholic friends have raised the idea of judicial insurrection, that is, a refusal of the people to validate court decisions in vital areas. I would submit that criminal justice system, or lack thereof, would be an appropriate place to make such a stand.

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  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    Back in the Wild West, the people would lynch child molestors and rapists. A guy don’t just come into a town, kill like 10 guys, and everyone says “oh, go ahead, no problem with us, you’re too short/stupid/big for us to punish you”.

    It is hard to take extra-judicial measures when the law will lock you up for harming the killers.

    The police would have to refuse to let people out of jail when the judges do short terms. that has its own problems.

    I don’t favor insurrection so much as I favor the President and Congressmen destroying the careers of this judges, charging those judges with aiding and abetting felons.

    I have to say, however, that the prosecutors are some dumb dudes. They are too sure that they will win. Sun Tzu said that those who expect victory at all times, don’t know what the heck they are doing. Don’t tell the victim’s family that you will get “first degree murder”, when you know the jury can decide on anything.

    I say this because there was a sadistic rapist that sought out a middle class small town woman, and locked her in an abusive relationship with him. Then he killed her with the help of his girlfriend in a house, that he “scream tested” by having his (other) girlfriend scream inside while he was outside. This was after he set up sado-masochistic fantasies while he was sexually abusing her for hours before he got rid of her, once and for all.

    The prosecutor was stunned when the jury said “not guilty”. Six months later, the guy that bought the house found pictures that the girlfriend had taken of the crime under the floorboard while he was recarpeting. Due to double jeopardy, the rapist-murderer walked. The jury said they did not feel any guilt, because there was nothing the prosecutor provided them that they could use to do a guilty verdict.

    The system is not perfect. The moment any human believes he will win for sure, that is when he will be defeated. Only when the enemy wins, can you use his over-confidence to defeat him.