Forgiveness Does Not Preclude Accountability
By Carmel Mawle
“Thoughts and Prayers.”
On the surface, these words may seem heartfelt and well-meaning. But context is everything. “Thoughts and Prayers” spoken vapidly by our representatives in response to mass shootings becomes worse than meaningless. The words become tantamount to “I want to seem caring, but not endanger my funding from the NRA.”
“Unity and Forgiveness.”
Who could oppose “unity and forgiveness?” Here again, it’s all about context. After years of divisive rhetoric, voter suppression, and then (after losing the presidency and control of the Senate) encouraging an armed insurrection to overturn a democratic election, we have to ask why these criminals are now calling on “unity and forgiveness.” Of course, they are appealing to those of us who believe and work toward those values in hopes that they will not face the consequences of their traitorous actions.
I don’t believe their expropriated words are completely meaningless. “Unity and Forgiveness” is a way forward out of the darkness of these last four years. But before forgiveness there must be accountability. Our president and every representative who perpetuated the lies that encouraged the deadly attack on our United States Capitol must be held accountable. Every news (or entertainment) agency and social media that carried these lies and incendiary language must be held accountable. The police who aided the terrorists, and of course everyone of the terrorists who breached the building should be held accountable. Their prison terms should reflect the damage they have inflicted on our democracy.
One line of thinking about forgiveness is that the guilty party must first repent and ask our forgiveness. And it’s true that does make it easier to forgive. That said, I’m not sure what the odds are that people under the influence of our unrepentant president will ever come to that point.
I’m not an expert on forgiveness, but I’ve found something that usually works for me. It’s more along the lines of “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” To loosely paraphrase MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, people who have all the facts will generally make the right decision. I believe the majority of people who marched on our capitol were deluded. They believed they were acting as patriots to “stop the steal.” They truly believe that immigrants and people of color are going to destroy the “America” they are uniquely entitled to. For that, I can pity and, in a sense, forgive them. They are the products of a concerted effort to spread lies for financial gain. They know not what they do. I hope they’ll have enough time in prison to see the error of their ways.
For those who knowingly perpetuate those delusions, I have a harder time with forgiveness. Still, I believe that the desire to hoard wealth, no matter who it injures, is another kind of delusion. It is a sickness. And when I think of it in those terms, I find some level of compassion for them. Yes, even forgiveness. Which is not to say that I will not be relieved to see every one of them behind bars. I doubt that they care whether we forgive them or not. Their primary concern is that they won’t face any consequences for their acts of sedition. But for me, for those of us who hope to regain confidence in our democracy, for our own peace of mind, I believe finding a glimmer of forgiveness will help us heal.
Let’s look forward to the new administration and do what needs to be done to find internal balance and peace. Forgiveness is not for those who have injured us, it is for us. Let’s begin the healing process and prepare ourselves for the work that lies ahead. For there will be much.
Carmel Mawle founded Writing for Peace ten years ago with the idea that creative writing can develop greater empathy and contribute to a more peaceful world. She serves as president of the Board of Directors and writes from her home in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Writing for Peace Welcomes Lia Purpura to Sunday LIVE
Join host Juniper Moon when she welcomes essayist, poet, and translator Lia Purpura to our Sunday LIVE Reading. This Sunday, January 17th at 8pm ET.
Lia Purpura, the award winning essayist, poet, and translator, joins Sunday Live. If we’re lucky, we’ll hear some of her newest work–poems from It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (Penguin) and essays from All the Fierce Tethers (Sarabande Books).
Her awards include Guggenheim, NEA, and Fulbright Fellowships, as well as four Pushcart Prizes, the Associated Writing Programs Award in Nonfiction, and others. Her work appears in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Orion, The Paris Review, The Georgia Review, Agni, Emergence, and elsewhere. She lives in Baltimore, MD, where she is Writer in Residence at The University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She has taught in the Rainier Writing Workshop’s MFA program, at Breadloaf Writers Conference, The University of Iowa’s Nonfiction MFA program and at conferences, workshops, and graduate programs throughout the country.
Join Sunday LIVE Reading Zoom Meeting at:
Meeting ID: 875 2664 6096 Passcode: 757763
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