I know the world is waiting to hear that Derek Chauvin is guilty of murder. There will be cheers of victory when he is sentenced. I, for one, do not feel this way.
I don’t for a minute wish to exonerate Chauvin. What he committed was a truly tragic act. But neither, for me, is his condemnation something that I feel I should celebrate.
On the morning of May 25, Derek Chauvin woke up to do his job as a police officer. Never in his wildest dreams did it enter his head that before the day was out, he would be ousted from his trusted position in law enforcement and subsequently charged with murder.
As Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck, it may never have entered his head that Floyd was about to die. Clearly, he had to be tone deaf to those around him, loudly as some of them protested. He had to be desensitized to anything coming from Floyd himself. But the question is, Why?
The capacity to see beyond Floyd’s crimes to the heart of this black man is the real issue. The compassion and spontaneity that can change everything in a situation of this kind were nowhere in site. Instead there was a situation that Nicole Daedone describes as “a deadly earnestness, graveness, and a masquerading of the villain and judge in the form of the victim or the savior.”
Who was the victim, and who the savior, in this interaction between Chauvin and Floyd?
Corrupted “good,” which we have here in this and at times other enforcers of the law, operates through the sadistic and punitive elements of individuals who really have no idea who they are, or of who those they arrest for crimes really are.
Assuming the prosecution wins its case, there will be a sense of advancing political correctness. If the prosecution by chance loses, political correctness will swing in the other direction.
Says Daedone, “The corrupted good uses moral outrage and political correctness, while it masks, justifies, and exalts hatred—only now it is hatred of the perceived oppressor. It justifies legislating tolerance, when in fact it is organizing hatred.”
“Because its only tool for working with the discomfort of being human is a hammer, it makes every expression into a nail,” she further writes. There are images of the crucified Jesus here. “It is the savior and victim co-opting the villain role, run amok with legislation that looks like it is working with the law but has in fact co-opted it.”
You would be on the side of justice to cheer and celebrate if Derek Chauvin is found guilty. But you would not be on the side of divine love. More than half of America claims that this is a Christian nation. I wonder whether, at a time like this, they recall that it is for the likes of individuals such as Derek Chauvin that Jesus gave up his own life.
It’s clear also that Jesus’ words from the cross apply here, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Clearly Chauvin had no real consciousness of what he was doing, or he would have stopped dead in his tracks.
I don’t know what penalty should be applied if Chauvin loses his case. I equally have no idea what ought to happen if he is acquitted. What is a loving response that sows compassion, not further hatred, at a time like this?
Can we forbear our cheering and sorrow with Chauvin if he goes down? Isn’t that what Jesus would do?
Our system does not have an answer for situations such as this. On the contrary, on several fronts the system stands guilty for why such horrors happen in the first place. The courts are the modern-day battlefields in which the victor takes all and receives a hero’s welcome.
As long as people are baying for blood, we will never find a merciful way to treat those caught in a situation such as this. But baying for blood is all our society knows at a time like this.
I understand our system on a highly personal level. Many years ago, I was counseling a couple in which, out of the blue, an argument erupted between the two of them. In front of me, one shot the other, paralyzing her from the waist down, then shot herself through the stomach.
So great was the vitriol between the two sides at the trial that one of the individuals who was family to the paralyzed woman tried, in the courtroom, to throttle me because I had said during testimony that both the victim and her assailant needed extensive help.
I understand the depths of feeing involved. As each of the lawyers went at the other side, each trying to make a name for themselves, the thought of what was truly best for the individuals involved was the furthest from everyone’s minds.
The conviction of Derek Chauvin is not something to rejoice over, it’s a signal for deep soul searching on the part of the American people. How did we end up with a society in which someone does the proscribed acts Floyd engaged in, with an officer who cannot see straight—cannot see the humanity of this man, despite his failings—and ends up murdering him?
People are right about one thing. It is America as a society that is on trial, but for very different reasons than the majority assume.