Pity for a Bigot
Now that the trial of Edgar Ray Killen is over, I have a few thoughts on the trial and the murder of the three civil rights workers. There are tons of editorials and blog entries about how late this ruling is, how this will go a long way towards racial reconcilation and so forth. I think it would be fair to say that there is very little love for this man. I do find it hard not to have feelings of contempt for this man, and this comes from someone who takes the words of Jesus who says "love your enemies." However, when I look at pictures of Mr. Killen, another emotion comes to mind.
You see an old man in a wheelchair ravaged by age. But he looks far older than his eighty years. You see no hint of joy and happiness in his eyes. What you see is a life that has been shaped by hatred. He looks rathered distored by prejudice and bigotry. Eighty years wasted.
I pity him because he has chosen to live a life that was less than fuflillng. He put his energies into diving people instead of building up. I pity him because he chose to hate and that hate robbed him of life. He chose a road that lead towards death and that death happen long, long ago.
Mr. Killen will now spend the rest of his short life in jail. It is just and necessary. But I won't take any joy in it. Instead I feel sadness for a man who could have chosen to learn to love those who are different and instead chose a way that lead to death. This is what hatred does; it kills not only the object of that hatred, but the person who hates.
I never know if such trials ever really heal anything. There can't be any closure for such crimes, no price that could ever be enough. All we can say is that justice was finally done, and crime was finally answered for.