Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Closure

Closure -- that dreaded word, flaunted by death penalty proponents and the victim's rights movement, a piece of bogus pop psychology that somehow made it into our political and legal discourse. In case you were wondering, there is no evidence whatsoever that the execution of killers, whether watched or not, helps the victims' families recover from their loss. And now comes law professor Jody Lynee Madeira with Killing McVeigh: The Death Penalty and the Myth of Closure, a serious look at the relatives of the people McVeigh murdered in Oklahoma City. When they found healing, it had nothing to do with the machinery of justice. In his Atlantic review, Andrew Cohen highlighted this passage:
One of the most spectacular participant experiences with perpetrators' family members arose out of media interview with McVeigh's father. Bud Welch [the father of bombing victim Julie Welch was struck by a television interview with Bill McVeigh [the bomber's father] about a year after the bombing in which he was "physically stooped in grief"; Welch explained, "He had a deep pain in his eye that I recognized immediately because I was living that same pain at that same moment," Then and there, he said, "I knew that someday I needed to go tell that man that I truly cared how he felt and did not blame him or his family for what his son had done."
The two men eventually met at McVeigh's home:
One particular photo of Tim soon caught Welch's attention, and his gaze was repeatedly drawn to that image. He eventually realized that he had to say something about why he was drawn to the picture. "Finally, I just said, 'God, what a good looking kid," Welch recalled. His comment was greeted by silence; finally, Bill McVeigh looked at him and said, "That's Timothy's high school graduation picture." At that moment, Welch related, "There was this big tear that rolled out of right eye, down his cheek. And I could see at that moment that this father could cry for his son."

Reflecting back upon this meeting, Welch said: "I think what happened that Saturday morning in western New York is that I found a bigger victim of the Oklahoma City bombing than myself." While Welch has had numerous opportunities to talk about [his daughter Julie], he emphasized, "Bill doesn't have a chance to ever say anything positive about Tim."
Cohen writes:
What happened inside the kitchen of Bill McVeigh's house that September day is how and why tortured people achieve a measure of peace from the torment in their lives.
It is not revenge that heals us, but compassion.

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