By Jason Menard
Like Michael once said to Paul, “I’m a lover, not a fighter.”
I don’t believe in violence as a solution to conflict.
I don’t believe in guns as I firmly believe that they have no other purpose than to kill.
And I don’t believe in the death penalty, as not only is one wrong conviction too many, but I don’t believe we have the right to sit in life-or-death judgment over someone (although I have proposed another option in the past.)
But as firmly held as those beliefs are, there are situations where my resolve and my faith in the system would be sorely tested. And that’s if anyone touches my daughter.
Today various news agencies reported that a Texas man who beat his daughter’s rapist to death will not be charged. As the story is told, the man was informed by a witness that his daughter had been abducted. Hearing his five-year-old daughter scream, he ran to the site and struck blows to the back of the rapist’s head and neck.
As a result of the father’s actions, the rapist died. And this 23-year-old father could have been charged with manslaughter or murder.
As much as Texas law may permit the use of deadly force to stop a sexual assault, the grand jury was likely swayed by the father’s immediate 911 call and efforts to save his daughter’s rapist’s life. They were likely swayed by his legitimate concern for the life of the very man whose act may have ruined his daughter’s.
I think many will say that justice was served. There are many out there who believe that no man capable of raping a five-year-old girl can ever be rehabilitated and reintroduced to society. And for all my high-minded thinking and pontificating about due process and letting the system work, all I can think of is the fact that there is no way that I’d be able to convict this man of any crime, should I find myself on that type of jury, because I would have done the same thing.
What’s worse is that I don’t know if I’d feel the same remorse as this father does.
Any parent has to deal with this fear on a daily basis. In many ways, it’s irrational – after all, abduction cases are rare (although not rare enough), and the odds of your child becoming a victim are minute. But as any parent will say, minute odds are still too many.
I grew up in a time where my friends and I would ride our bikes throughout our neighbourhoods and downtown. We’d spend all day at the local park, rarely checking in at home (other than to eat, of course). Our parents knew where, in general, we were, and they knew when we were to be home.
Today, many parents are another abduction report away from tagging our kids with a GPS chip. Walking to the park or the school alone is forbidden and even doing so in groups is a tough call. Our children are being robbed of the childhoods we enjoyed, but – in many ways – justifiably so.
Pedophiles aren’t like peanut allergies. The latter has seemingly exploded over the past 30 years; whereas I believe that the same proportion of the former existed back when we were kids. The only difference is that our 24-hour news cycle and instant access to information courtesy of the Internet has changed our frame of reference.
Before, we heard rumours and knew only what went on in our community, or what we saw on the local and national news reports. Today we’re inundated with everything from minute-by-minute Tweets of abductions to urban legends from all corners of the globe.
Today we feel we should know better: that if our child is abducted, it’s somehow our fault for not protecting them properly. But we have to face facts. All we can do is our best. Murders happen. Rapes happen. There are bad people out there. The best we can do is to teach our children to be aware, give them the tools of self-sufficiency, and hope that they apply them if, in the worst-case scenario, they are confronted by this type of predator.
Combine that pre-existing feeling of fear, and mix self-blame, anger, and unimaginable loss and you have a recipe for violence. I’d like to think I’d be forgiving and trust in the system. I’d like to think I’d know that one person’s death would not bring back my loved one.
I’d like to think all of that because I know I wouldn’t. While my head doesn’t agree with vigilante justice and killing, my heart – in this case – certainly might. I don’t know how I’d react; and I hope with all hope that I never have to find out.
In the end, we shouldn’t celebrate the fact that this Texas father avoided being charged with killing someone else. One person’s death is never something to be cheered. And I can’t say that I agree with his actions.
But I sure as hell understand them.