One is the death penalty, because they are determining right now if the Boston bomber will live or die. The other is transgendered people, because of Bruce Jenner’s two-hour interview the other day when he confirmed the worst kept rumor this year.
The Boston bomber trial had left me as ambivalent as other murder cases in my life. Frankly, I have no understanding of how anyone can do such a thing – kill and maim innocent men, women and children out for a day of enjoyment. Why? But this phase of the trial –determining the punishment -- brings out my ambivalence on the issue. Do I want to determine who lives or dies? No. But do I want to be sure there is a penalty strong enough for the most heinous crimes against society and humanity? Yes.
Should the bomber die? I read about some of his victims who have said he should not because it would mean they repeatedly would need to relive that horrendous day as the bomber goes through year after year of appeal after appeal. A continuing onslaught of news stories so the issue never goes away publicly. As if they aren’t reliving it often enough already. Then there are those victims who want to see him put to death for his crimes. And there are those who feel if he is killed for his actions, he will become a martyr in that impossible world of people who just want to bring terror – and death – to Americans.
I’ve always struggled with the one side of me who believes folks like Tsarnaev should die for the types of crimes he committed. There is no doubt of his guilt, as there may be in other murder trials where society may be putting to death the wrong person. In this case, there is no such doubt. Was he a victim of his brother’s influence? Personally, I don’t think so because he placed that bomb right behind a young child, knowing what it would do that little body when it went off, and I don’t think “big brother made me do it” is a sufficient defense. Even the “unformed” 19-year-old mind should know better. Then again, should a just society commit a murder to punish someone who has murdered? A conundrum not easily answered.
That trial won’t determine what I think about the death penalty overall because if I’ve gone this long not being decisive, I’m not sure what would sway me now. If a loved one committed a murder I would not want him or her killed in return. On the other hand, if a loved one were killed, I’m pretty certain I would want the ultimate revenge because going to bed at night knowing the murderer also was going to sleep only to wake up the next day, would make me crazy. Even if he were in solitary confinement in prison. He still gets to breathe while my loved one doesn't.
Count me ambivalent overall. In the case of this particular 19-year-old, if I were a juror and I heard folks who lost a loved one or a limb say don’t kill him, jail him forever, and others who said kill him,I think I’d vote for life in prison. He’ll have a long life of punishment for sure.
Bruce Jenner is someone who, before i knew about his personal identity struggle, I never took a liking to. I’ve been “exposed” to Jenner for decades because he is about my age and went to high school in a town near where I grew up so his athletic exploits attracted even greater visibility via the local media. I also felt he was an arrogant, self-aggrandizing person back in his post-gold medal days. But i must admit, i had some of those feelings when i read about him in high school. (Now, could some of that have been jealousy over his outstanding athletic abilities and his good looks? Maybe).
But to see him go through such a personal struggle publicly also put me a little in awe of the strength that must take. Transgendering is not an issue I’m totally comfortable with but that is because I don't fully understand it. Watching the interview with Jenner taught me more than I knew before 9 p.m. EDT Friday. It doesn’t make me totally comfortable with it but it certainly served to educate me. Add that to recent reporting on hate crimes against transgenders and young children apparently struggling with their gender identity and my knowledge base has improved. I'm less confused but still not totally comfortable with it.
Like you, I have good friends who are gay. If you asked me 50 years ago what I thought of gay people, that teenager likely would have giggled internally wondering how men can be so “girly” and women so “butch.” That was society's reaction or defense mechanism. On the other hand, I had friends then who I suspected were gay, and were, and it never made me feel any less of them. In fact, it made me feel sad that they couldn't be who they were and are. One friend killed himself when he was a teenager. We never knew why. I think he was gay, but I’m not sure.
Fifty years later I have a far deeper understanding of gay people because they are my friends and most don't hide their sexuality. They’ve been over for dinner. I’ve gone drinking with them. I’ve worked with them. Hell, once I even unintentionally outed one at an office get-together because I assumed everyone knew and I made a passing reference to it. Don’t ask me today how I could even have thought that was appropriate. She hadn’t openly admitted it yet, though. Fortunately, she’s a good enough soul that while she was clearly startled when I did it, she thanked me later. Not sure I deserved thanks, in fact I get a pit of embarrassment in my stomach as i write this . But thank you, my friend, for doing for being the classy woman you are.
I feel extremely happy when a gay friend tells me he or she is going to be married because it gives me a very warm, good feeling inside that their lives can now grow as mine has, and not in secret. When I read about a gay couple that has been together for decades but felt they needed to hide that partnership, it gives me a very warm feeling when they finally can legally get married and hide no longer. So I put my ignorance on transgender folks in that same category. It confuses me because I know so little about it.
I’m paying close attention to the coverage, analysis and color stories being written on these two issues, because I’m trying to learn.