(potential trigger warning as this post contains info about a hate crime/murder case)
A while back I viewed a documentary regarding the murder of a transgender woman (the Wikipedia article regarding the victim is – horrid, so I won’t link here). The movie was mostly about the “gay panic defense” and its implications in assault or fatal crimes against trans* people (talk about dehumanizing). Three men were brought to trial for this murder. During the course of trial, mistrial, and appeal two of these men appeared overcome with genuine remorse as the proceedings unfolded. Of the three there was one man who never expressed any such thing as far as I could tell. He remained remained remote and, to project my own reading, defiant to the end of the process – or at least the end of the documentary.
I don’t remember any of the pleas nor the severity of the charges against each man (I only know they were not all the same). Besides a lot of lawyers and legal people, the movie also showed a great deal of footage and interviews with the family of the murdered young woman. As can happen in these cases, the mother of the murdered woman became a huge legal advocate and has gone on to do so much for the law with regards to these cases and the horrid gay panic / trans panic defense. So, during this film one got to watch the mother grow, too. Despite her incredible strength and all that she learned, at the end of the documentary she expressed she was willing to meet with and talk to the two young men who’d expressed remorse and sorrow. She wasn’t willing to meet with the one who had not. Not that he had asked, as far as I know.
I found myself thinking about this a lot. Did the mother only find herself able to forgive those who expressed remorse? Or did she come to forgive the third man after the shock of the disappointing legal proceedings lessened?
Some people don’t forgive no matter what the offending party does or doesn’t do. Is it easier to forgive when there is some remorse expressed or a public record? Is it only possible to forgive if someone has apologized sincerely or well enough? Or if they’ve been incarcerated, punished, or killed in proportion to their crime or offense?
I don’t think so. I think forgiveness lies within our own power. I think it is accessible to every human being. We have to believe it is possible. We have to want it. Unfortunately, I think the latter needs to come before the former. That is why so many do not forgive. They do not have proof before they commit. Most importantly, they are not able to see, or willing to admit, how sick their unforgiveness makes them.
I know forgiveness is possible because I’ve seen other people do it under the most extraordinary circumstances.
I have been thinking of writing a book about forgiveness. It would be an independently punished work – of course. I see and hear a great deal about it every day and the subject is an immense one. I wouldn’t be able to write from any kind of professional perspective whatsoever, nor a religious or a scientific one. Usually when I start to go down the list of types-of-experts I am NOT, I start to think, “why should I even write about it?” And you may find this ridiculous, but I worry about trying to write about forgiveness. I worry that it smacks of pride to think I have anything worth saying – and that I will be punished somehow by having something horrible happen to someone I love. I can’t help it; I am to a degree superstitious.
Regardless I remain intrigued and think about forgiveness daily, lately. I am an expert on only one thing: my life’s experiences. I would like to help people if at all possible.