Unforgiven: not to mention their names

Who would want to do THAT?

why forgiveOne of the realities of our current world is that there will be mass casualty events, usually with firearms, but occasionally with vehicles or other weapons.

It has become de rigueur not to mention their names, the names of the perpetrators, or alleged ones. The theory is that we should instead remember and honor the victims. I get that. Why give the villains their fifteen minutes? Yet as a librarian, withholding the facts makes me unsettled.

I remember a play the youth of my church presented this spring called Shooters, which did mention the gunmen by name. As this Boston Globe opinion piece notes, not naming the gunmen runs counter to “society’s basic need to try to understand what turned this fellow human into a killer.”

A group in my church has been reading a book called Why Forgive? by Johann Christoph Arnold (2010). Each chapter speaks to the harm caused by various people. Someone shot and paralyzed for life, or abused by her alcoholic mother, or escaping the Holocaust.

The question, in time after the atrocity, is “Now What?” Will “the cancer of bitterness” – the title of the first chapter – overtake the victim? Will they be Blaming God? Or can they/we be Ending the Cycle of Hate, by forgiving? Sometimes Reconciling Is Impossible but it is Not A Step, But A Journey.

I was intrigued by a 60 Minutes segment from May 12, 2019: Crime victims get chance to confront perpetrators through special program.

Scott Pelley: “When we heard about The Restorative Justice Project, it was hard to believe and we certainly didn’t understand it. The program at the University of Wisconsin Law School introduces victims of violence to the convicts who committed the crime. Our first reaction was “who would want to do that?” And to what end? It was only after we met these families and the convicts that we could see what a life-changing experience could come from the most unlikely of meetings.”

For most crimes, these people are going to eventually end up being released from prison and come back into the community. So it is important for both the victim/survivors needing closure and the criminal seeking redemption to figure out a way forward.

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