Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Forgive Us

Six hours from the time I am typing this post, John Allen Muhammad will be executed.

John Allen Muhammad was the mastermind behind the DC Sniper shootings.

I was genuinely scared when he and his young partner, Lee Boyd Malvo, slipped in and out of the DC area, seemingly invisible, shooting people indiscriminately. I felt like game for a hunter. A hunter I didn't understand, so I didn't know how to hide. First, there were reports of a white van at all the shootings. Of course there were; every service company has a white van. That didn't stop my heart from beating faster when I saw a white van parked on my quiet little street, however.

From my Metro stop, I had to walk through a crowded shopping area. Then my route became isolated. Abruptly.  I had to climb 86 stairs that crossed a large, tree-filled park. The stairs and path were brightly lit, the park was dark and the trees provided adequate camouflage. At the top of the stairs was a road that lead to entrance ramps to three different major freeways, only 100 yards away.

It seemed a perfect location for an attack.

I stopped staying at home. I packed a suitcase and stayed at my boyfriend's.

I put my life on hold on account of terror.

This time, an execution feels personal.


I am positively sick. I do not, absolutely do not, want this man to be killed. I think it is nothing short of barbaric that we as a collective, as a government, as a people, condone killing someone, anyone.

It is no less righteous if we call it execution. It is still exerting power over another and deeming it lawful to take someone's life.

I will always believe that every life is divine and deliberate. Perhaps that is simply the stronghold Catholicism still has over me. Maybe not so Catholic, I extend this to non-human life, as well.

Obviously, I think the lives Muhammad and Malvo took were also divine. Do not think that I don't care for the families and friends who lost someone dear to them. They weigh heavy on my heart -- my soul -- as well.


Today is a dark day. I feel connected to it. I was more frightened by the Sniper than I was on 9/11 or the weeks following the 9/11 attacks. I have a visceral memory of my heart beating wildly the night I walked up those steps, and then later back down, with a packed suitcase, fleeing from my home.

Forgive us for we know not what we do.


  1. I felt the same way with the execution of Timothy McVey. I just don't understand how a nation that rejects stem cell research on moral grounds reconciles its policy on the death penalty. And I'm not even Catholic.

  2. LoriD - I know. It just leaves me speechless and sick.

  3. Hi sweetie. I'm sorry for commenting anonymously, since I read & comment all the time. But this is a personal issue and I don't write about or even talk about it publically.

    I complete agree with how you feel, appalled and unable to comprehend how we, as a society, could collectively KILL an individual.

    My brother was shot and killed 10 years ago, at the age of 21. I cannot, I will not ever, be able to express the horror and trauma this caused my whole family. I know the judicial branch of our government is set up to make indifferent decisions based on law, and to avoid emotional muddying of verdicts and sentencing.

    I would personally choose to kill the man who shot my brother. I am not that kind of person, believe me, but I would not even have to think about it. It surprises me still, 10 years later, at how strongly I feel in this regard. It's still foreign to me.

    And yet. I feel like carring out capital punishment IS exactly that: giving way to the emotional, the unthinkable sadness of the victims. Even though I want the chance myself at retaliation, I think that we cannot allow each other to go down this path.

    Thanks for writing about it.

  4. Anonymous -

    I am so, so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine the kind of grief and anger this would cause, and I certainly don't think less of you for your anger. Please know that I wish there was something that could be done to help you and your family heal - whatever that may be.

    If I were to lose someone close to me to an act of violence like this, I don't know what I would think. I am afraid I WOULD want the person to die. If someone were to, say, rape one of my sisters, I wouldn't only want him to die, I would probably want him to die in a lot of pain and torment.

    I like to think that I would work to forgive the person, but I don't know.

    It scares me a little. Because the posibility is there that I won't be able to stand by this post, no doubt.

    Thinking of you and your family.

  5. This is a thoughtful post. I think it's commendable that you feel opposed to this man's death despite the fear and disruption he caused to your own life, and the untimely end to so many other's lives. Honestly, though, I agree with you. To truly stand against murder, one must even stand against the "just" part of our own natures that desire to murder in retaliation. Two wrongs don't make a right.

  6. Though I didn't live in DC at the time, I was training for the Marine Corps Marathon. The sniper was caught the Friday I was flying in to run the race. I pondered whether I'd run the race or not if he was still on the loose. Large crowds. Racing through parks. Plenty of opportunity, for sure. Thankfully, I never had to make a decision as his capture took place before I set foot in the city.

    I'm not sure how I feel about his death. In some ways, I agree with you that it's not our place to take away someone else's life. But, I also feel strongly that the money spent on housing that criminal for decades on end could be better spent on other very needy programs. It's not my place to pay for him to live, either.

  7. When I did research on the death penalty for my Criminology course, I found out that we are wasting huge amounts of money housing these criminals. Becuase they get to have more appeals than somebody in jail not ond eath penalty, it uses up more resources.

    I also found out that there are a large number of poeple who are now being vindicated ebcause of DNA evidence, who were given the death penalty.

    Obviously, that second point is very serious because once we've killed somebody, there is no way to make amends if we find out they were convicted wrongfully.

    However, on the other hand, when there's no doubt, like in this case, I find it hard to say there should be no death penalty or that they should be forgiven. Forgiven why? So, they can go out and do it again?

    I don't think I could ever forgive somebody who molests and kills children. I would happily stick the needle in their arm myself.


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