Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Executioner's Song

The man found guilty of masterminding the DC-area sniper murders in fall of 2003 was put to death by the Commonwealth this evening.
Yesterday I found myself sitting in the Barnes & Nobles next to the "sniper Depot" reading about the father of one of the victims and remembering that distant October. We lived in Ohio at the time, but even there we wondered about copycats every time we filled our gas tanks or walked across large suburban parking lots. I was bringing a busload of Presbyterian peacemakers down for one of the first major rallies in opposition to the drumbeat of war in advance of the invasion of Iraq, and I recall the deep sense of relief we felt when the sniper arrests were made during the week before we headed down.
All of those memories are incredibly vivid even now, and none of the events touched me personally.
The father believes tonight's execution will bring "closure," but closure is a myth that sells pop-psych books not a reality that brings comfort six or seven or even seventy years after a devastating loss. Grieving never ends as long as memory endures. It is part of what makes us human, and part of the human condition of living always in the valley of the shadow of death.
Each of us bears our own scars from the particular paths we walk through this lonesome valley. Another's death will never remove the scar he caused. There is only moving with and through the pain of the wound until we find some deeper path where the suffering and scars inform instead of debilitate.
The cross of Christ offers deep wisdom to those who walk the lonesome valley in the company of Jesus, but that's a sermon for another day.
And so I sat sipping my mocha and wondering what point it serves to execute anyone.

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