Thursday, December 06, 2007

Conflicted. . .

Today, Robert Latimer was denied day parole and I really do not know what to make of it. While I was initially in favour of him going to jail when he was convicted, I am not so sure anything is gained by him being there now.

You see, I understand his position. While I do not agree with it, I can understand the reasoning behind what he did. He was faced with a horrible choice - the choice between ending a life or maintaining a life that is hardly a life at all. It's a heartbreaking, horrible decision to have to make. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves.

I have worked with and been around people who are not very different from his daughter. People who are alive mainly because of the wonders of modern medicine, but wind up suffering the profound silence of the profoundly disabled. Lives of pain that can only be guessed at and feelings that can only be divined through close attention and hope. You find yourself looking for the smallest gesture, the faintest expression, grasping for a connection that you have to believe is there.

But 'there' is a hard place to pinpoint when dealing with such severe disabilities. And at times, you have to have doubts. You have to wonder sometimes if you are doing the best thing for these people by continuing the struggle.

For me, the answer is always yes. Why? Because there are breakthroughs, however fleeting. Because a hard won smile or even a glance is worth so much effort and struggle. Because these are people whose lives are far from normal but who are people nonetheless.

I believe that, mercy or not, Robert Latimer committed an act of murder. I am glad that he was convicted and punished for what he did. Mercy can only cover so much, especially when dealing with crimes against those who are without a voice. What has me conflicted is the punishment. What are we gaining by keeping him in jail? Do we really believe we are protecting the public by keeping him behind bars? How do we justify keeping him behind bars for as long or longer than people who have murdered for profit or out of anger.

Today, the parole board said he could not be granted parole because he has not exhibited remorse. Like it was that simple. Like it was all some movie where truths come in black or white and never gray. This strikes me as horribly wrong and overly simplistic. I mean, if it was always about remorse, people like Karla Homolka would never see the light of day.

Me? I have no doubt that this act, however wrong, was an act of love, an attempt to alleviate pain and suffering. I have to believe that. As such, I believe we need to treat this case differently than other crimes, mandatory minimums or not.

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