RED DEER, Alta. Sept. 1, 2016/ Troy Media/ – Have you or a member of your family or a close friend ever been victim of a violent crime? Have you suffered a home or vehicle break-in or robbery – perhaps multiple times?
If so, you will probably understand the premise of this column easily, even viscerally.
There is no better explanation for how this world has become so messed up than our desire for an eye for an eye. If you experience violence on your person, or if the safety and sanctity of your home has been violated, it can be extremely difficult to let it go. You can’t return to being the person you once were.
When it seems that the people who commit crimes against us are going unpunished, or the crimes just continue to other families and other homes, it feels like a portion of our humanity has been stripped away. We are left with more animal reflexes.
There are few true innocents around the shooting death of Colten Boushie in Saskatchewan. The racist furor on all social media sides proves it. Violence begets violence, and when the sides are identified by race (as in the Boushie case) or by religion (as in the Middle East), our shared impulses for revenge harden into lines that are extremely difficult to cross.
Boushie, 22, a resident of the Red Pheasant First Nation, was shot and killed at a farm residence near Biggar. He and three friends were apparently seeking help for a flat tire.
Gerald Stanley, a 54-year-old farmer, has been charged with second-degree murder. There is obviously more to the story, but for now we’ll let the courts deal with the details.
Today, we need to look at our human reactions to the story.
This one mirrors another killing in 2008 in Lethbridge, Alberta where George Many Shots was beaten to death by Bradley Gray, a man who was unhappy about petty crimes in the area and the police’s response to those crimes.
His was not the only property violated in the neighbourhood, where a native shelter had recently opened.
Many Shots was assaulted and beaten in an unprovoked attack. He was just the wrong guy in the wrong skin in the wrong place at the wrong time.
After being convicted of second-degree murder, an appeal reduced Gray’s charge to manslaughter. Then the case went back to the original judge for sentencing – and the killing was deemed a hate crime because the judge was convinced Gray simply hated natives and wanted to get his own back upon them.
This is how the cycle of violence is perpetrated. This is how it comes to the point where nobody gets the benefit of the doubt.
Many houses and cars get broken into and it adds up to a lot of victims with feelings of violation. Individual responsibility be damned; at some point groups of victims assume outrage at groups who look like they break into homes.
Our family was rocked by a violent attack years ago. It took years for the case to be resolved. In that time and after, feelings of helpless anger would surface almost of their own volition and suck the energy needed to be a normal, trusting human.
It helped me to volunteer. I advocated for people with brain injuries. I cooked at a soup kitchen. I often wondered if I had worked all day to feed the people who attacked my family.
After a court conviction, we were asked by the media if we had found closure.
There is no closure, not the kind you can lock away and forget. I learned the police cannot bring you justice. The courts cannot bring you justice. They are concerned only with the person charged with the crime.
The only justice is that which you seek from within, however find it.
Homes, farms and businesses get robbed. By people from an identifiable group. The police do not always catch those responsible.
It’s wise to be wary. It’s wise to take precautions. It’s not wise to blame people whose story you don’t know or hate them because of how they look.
Forgiveness? That’s a personal question. But taking an eye for an eye, soon everyone is blind. No one can see that no one is innocent anymore. This blindness has messed up the entire world.
Greg Neiman is a freelance editor, columnist and blogger living in Red Deer, Alta. Greg is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.
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