Sunday, June 14, 2009

Reconciliation - Not Division

So, yes, we began the Pilgrimage today and photos are posted below. But in spite of the great start, it was with some sadness that this evening I checked out our first news coverage of this year's Pilgrimage.

Now, given how news coverage can be let me hasten to add that it could have been worse. But it saddens me when a reporter uses a person's pain to take a divisive route - in this case pitting one particular murder victim family member against us - especially when a 'higher road' is readily available. Not to mention the fact that this Pilgrimage is about more than ending the death penalty - although it is certainly about that, too!

This one particular murder victim family member deserves to have his story heard and his viewpoints valued. One of our society's failures is in not listening to murder victim family members. Part of the reason we walk is that we believe their experiences need to be heard and valued and their needs need to be known and addressed - and usually our society gives them only tough talk and lip service. On this Pilgrimage, we walk for them as much as for anyone or anything else. As I walk, I'll be remembering many names and faces and stories of murder victim family members I have encountered, including the person interviewed and including some who support the death penalty and many who do not.

My sadness is that the reporter could have interviewed dozens of murder victim family members in North Carolina who oppose the death penalty and support some form of healing and reconciliation, not even knowing exactly what that might look like. They don't want people who kill to be turned loose to kill again but they don't want to heap killing on top of killing either. Unfortunately, this reporter chose to use one person's pain to work a divisive angle and turn a march about reconciliation into a debate.

I actually told the reporter that I know many murder victim family members who oppose the death penalty and I know some of them would gladly speak out against it. I sat in a room with four such people just yesterday. I've heard from some of them that having experienced what they've experienced they would not want anyone to have to go through what they have gone through. And they certainly don't want to have any responsibility for inflicting that pain on another family!

Obviously, however, some murder victim family members do support the death penalty. Just not all of them - not by a long shot.

To learn more, check out one of our co-sponsors, Murder Victim Families for Reconciliation (MVFR) at . Consider coming to Emerald Isle on June 23rd or Kinston on June 24th and hear the story of Linda White. If I am among those who "just aren't qualified to comment on it" (in spite of my years as a family therapist, minister and grief counselor - I admit, I bristle a bit at that comment), then let's hear what a woman whose daughter was abducted, raped and murdered has to say.
(There's a hint at .)

Isn't it time to offer murder victim family members something that really helps them begin to heal and survive the trauma they experience. They don't need our tough talk and lip service.

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