Would You Forgive Somebody Else’s Killer?

Maybe it’s just as well that I don’t have television any more. Yesterday at the hotel, N. and I decided to use the rare opportunity to watch some TV. It took us all of 10 minutes to turn it off and go back to our books. What made us realize that this TV watching session was a waste of time was the following exchange.

During a late-night talk show at CNN, the host showed a clip of George Zimmerman’s testimony and asked his guests (who identified as some sort of legal and political experts), “If you were Trayvon Martin’s parents, would you forgive the killer?”

The answer of all three “experts” floored me.

“I want to say that I would be able to forgive. . .” one of them started saying.

“We all want to say that we’d forgive,” the second “expert” agreed.

“Yes, everybody wants to believe they’ll forgive in such a situation,” the third chimed in.

These people sound like they are from a different planet. What kind of a monster can come up with something like this? Who the hell do they think they are to forgive anything on behalf of a murdered person? The boy is dead. He is lying in a grave, rotting. How come anybody thinks they have the authority to forgive or not forgive the murderer?

If, God forbid, somebody murdered a person I care about, I hope I would have the presence of mind to remember that I’m not the victim here and it is not up to me to forgive a crime committed against somebody else. Unlike the CNN’s weird experts, I definitely don’t want to believe I’d become a holier-than-thou jerkwad who’d rack up sainthood points by forgiving a crime that robbed another person of a life.

21 thoughts on “Would You Forgive Somebody Else’s Killer?”

  1. I think its not so much as forgiving someone else’s killer in the place of that someone else but rather forgiving them for what that killer did to you by killing someone you love. If someone were to kill one of your loved ones I would think that you would be in a position to say whether or not you forgave them or not.

    Also bear in mind that forgiveness is supposedly divine which is why a lot of people often say, “I would like to say I would forgive….” (just as people in a position to save a life say, “I would like to think I would help….”).

    I’ll admit if it were a loved one of mine that had been killed I would probably answer the same as they did.

    However let us not confuse this with the people who think they have the authority to forgive Chris Brown after he attacked Rihanna. That’s got nothing to do with the personal lives of most people which I agree that its pretty far out there that people write whole posts talking about how they would or would ever forgive him. But when its close and personal I think those people are in that position.

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    1. Erm, Chris Brown didn’t kill Rihanna. I’m not sure why bringing her up in this context is even valid here. Is it because they are both people of color and the Martins (and arguably, Zimmerman) are also? You know what, individuals who are members of minorities are not interchangeable.

      Re that CNN thing: I see that question/technique brought up all the effing time and it makes me want to throw chairs. Interviewers love asking that question and Americans love answering it because they think it makes them look “deep.” You know, oh wow man, I’m here talking about forgiveness and stuff just like Jesus did.” It’s a shallow status game for shallow people. The point isn’t that one shouldn’t forgive killers of one’s loved ones — the point is anyone who asks a stranger if they would do so if they were these other real people who really exist who this happened to should be told to stuff their question where the sun don’t shine. It is simply none of TV Audience Person’s business to decide whether the Martins should forgive their son’s killer.

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      1. ” I see that question/technique brought up all the effing time and it makes me want to throw chairs. Interviewers love asking that question and Americans love answering it because they think it makes them look “deep.” You know, oh wow man, I’m here talking about forgiveness and stuff just like Jesus did.” It’s a shallow status game for shallow people.”

        – I know! They want to tickle their nerves and offer a pleasing experience to the viewing audience at the expense of a person who actually is dead and people who actually are grieving. Bleh.

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      2. Erm, Chris Brown didn’t kill Rihanna.
        I don’t recall saying he did.

        Is it because they are both people of color and the Martins (and arguably, Zimmerman) are also?
        No. The reason I brought it up was because it was the first example of a someone having a major crime committed against them where outside parties put themselves in the position of thinking the perp needed their forgiveness. Which goes along with what you say about there being real people that it happened to.

        As in some talkshow host asking me if I could forgive Brown when forgiveness in that specific case is Rihanna’s place and her place alone (and in the general sense of asking a person that never been assaulted like that when there are countless people who have been assaulted like that).

        You know what, individuals who are members of minorities are not interchangeable.
        You know what, I didn’t say they are.

        Re that CNN thing: I see that question/technique brought up all the effing time and it makes me want to throw chairs. Interviewers love asking that question and Americans love answering it because they think it makes them look “deep.” You know, oh wow man, I’m here talking about forgiveness and stuff just like Jesus did.”
        Which is what I was trying to get at when I said, “Also bear in mind that forgiveness is supposedly divine which is why a lot of people often say, “I would like to say I would forgive….” (just as people in a position to save a life say, “I would like to think I would help….”).”

        So in summation.

        As loved ones whose son was murdered I do think that Trayvon’s parents have business talking about whether or not they can forgive Zimmerman.

        As for the folks on this show I’m with you when you say this, ” the point is anyone who asks a stranger if they would do so if they were these other real people who really exist who this happened to should be told to stuff their question where the sun don’t shine.” Its ego stroking. They want to sound all deep and divine on such a question when there are real people who, I think, are in a position to actually answer it (Trayvon’s parents).

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      3. You must be very young if you think that the Chris Brown/Rihanna thing is the “first example” of anything. People have been playing the “I forgive these people I don’t know for crimes perpetrated against other people I don’t know” for a very long time.

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    2. Yes, but a person is dead and one is concentrating on the harm done to oneself? How self-centered is that? It’s like saying, “I forgive this criminal who stepped on my toe on his way to start a mass shooting.”

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      1. Yes, but a person is dead and one is concentrating on the harm done to oneself? How self-centered is that?
        Depending on the event in question I don’t think its self centered (to a point mind you).

        It’s like saying, “I forgive this criminal who stepped on my toe on his way to start a mass shooting.”
        On that case yes I agree. But if one of those mass shooting victims was a loved one of yours then I don’t think its too far of a stretch for you make it about you to a point. Sure you aren’t the primary victim but that killer took something very important from you.

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  2. I don´t see the point. Forgiveness is in fashion but this is because, supposedly, if you don´t forgive you stew in rancor and desire for revenge. I don´t see why – just don´t forgive and move on, instead of trying for force yourself into some emotional straitjacket.

    What I do admire is not taking revenge, not supporting the death penalty for someone who kills your family member, etc. You don´t have to forgive or excuse to act civilized.
    I am betting the same people who clamor for forgiveness also clamor for «closure» by which they mean revenge.

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  3. Most people who’d be offended by that exchange would focus on the idea the question seems to pressure Martin’s parents into stop agitating for Zimmerman to be tried. Or the very act of an apology, whether genuine or fake, should be accepted and therefore should stop the legal processes or mitigate any sentence he might receive.

    If you focus on the victim of a killing and say the power to forgive only rests with him/her, then you can’t really have a position either way, because a dead person cannot do anything, and theorizing about ghosts and/or afterlife is a convenient way to project your desires onto them.

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  4. “If, God forbid, somebody murdered a person I care about, I hope I would have the presence of mind to remember that I’m not the victim here and it is not up to me to forgive a crime committed against somebody else.”

    “God forbid?” I thought you were an atheist. Anyway, Zimmerman is entitled to a presumption of innocence. He might have killed in self defense. There’s plenty of evidence that’s what could have happened, so let’s not assume it was murder at this point.
    The CNN question is bizarre. How many people really care or know anything about whether you can hypothetically forgive? It’s a pseudo- profound question that doesn’t result in any information being conveyed. It’s intended to show that the questioner’s heart is in the right place. The question isn’t worth your time thinking about it.

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      1. I was referring to the fact that you used the term “murdered” rather than “killed.” I read it as being an accusation against Zimmerman. My point was that murder hasn’t been proved.

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        1. “I was referring to the fact that you used the term “murdered” rather than “killed.” I read it as being an accusation against Zimmerman. My point was that murder hasn’t been proved.”

          – Maybe it’s because English is not my first language but I don’t see a difference. The point is that the victim is dead and it hardly matters to him now why he’s dead and what led to the death.

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  5. If, heaven forbid, I were in a similar situation or even much less harm done situation to loved ones or me, I would never forgive. Never. And say it on TV too. I also don’t understand since when forgiving killers (*) or even serial rapists started being in fashion, the correct thing to say/do. Why should you forgive, if another person doesn’t deserve it OR if you don’t feel like it? Seems to me pretending to forgive is more damaging than honestly expressing one’s feelings.

    I think in Israel you wouldn’t hear talks about F on TV, though I may be mistaken since I never watch TV. If I am right, may be it’s since Israel isn’t composed of mainly Christian population. And talking about forgiving terrorists, which killed one’s relatives, is weird. The idea seems unhealthy to me in some way.

    //supposedly, if you don´t forgive you stew in rancor and desire for revenge

    //I am betting the same people who clamor for forgiveness also clamor for «closure» by which they mean revenge.

    But if the killer is dead, you don’t have to forgive anybody and don’t have to stew in anything since he has already gotten the ultimate punishment. Talking about “forgiveness” together with this kind of «closure» is simply absurd.

    (*) what would guests say about Muslim terrorists? Is F-word granted only to “correct” criminals?

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    1. “If, heaven forbid, I were in a similar situation or even much less harm done situation to loved ones or me, I would never forgive. Never. And say it on TV too. I also don’t understand since when forgiving killers (*) or even serial rapists started being in fashion, the correct thing to say/do. Why should you forgive, if another person doesn’t deserve it OR if you don’t feel like it? Seems to me pretending to forgive is more damaging than honestly expressing one’s feelings.”

      – EXACTLY!

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    2. I’m with you, El; I see no point in forgiveness. If the killer wants forgiveness, they can ask God for it. That person would get nothing from me; she or he would have already taken away too much.

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  6. You must be very young if you think that the Chris Brown/Rihanna thing is the “first example” of anything. People have been playing the “I forgive these people I don’t know for crimes perpetrated against other people I don’t know” for a very long time.
    You know when I first read this I went back up to show you were I said “….first…that came to mind….”. As in that was the first major incident to come to mind. And then I saw that I didn’t.

    So no I’m not young. I need to check my work better before submitting though.

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