And it wasn’t meant to in ANY way, I know that, but still it did. And trust me, this person, had NO WAY of knowing I (or anyone) would or could be offended by what she said.
A girl I went to school with, and am friends on Facebook with, posted this article about a man in our area that committed a series of robberies. I’m not going to lie, this article, just the title, put a lump in my throat the size of a grapefruit. It was so familiar. I’ve seen this before. But with my brother’s name. The account of his robberies. His bad choices.
Anyway, she posted this and wrote “Good.” And yes, it IS good that they caught him. And it IS terrible that he did this. It was wrong. It was illegal. He should be punished. I whole heartedly agree with that one. I firmly believe my brother did something VERY wrong and that he DEFINITELY should be punished. That doesn’t mean that I WANTED him to go to prison by any stretch of the imagination, but I knew that this was how the law worked and there was no way he’d get off with anything less than prison time. I also knew this would change my life and my way of thinking. Because I had just discovered that all criminals aren’t terrible people. All criminals are someone’s family. A mother or father. Sister or brother. Son or daughter. Wife or husband. Cousin. Aunt. Uncle. Each criminal means something to someone out there. There is someone missing them and waiting patiently for them to come home (most likely, because it isn’t true in all cases. Which is super sad).
Then, as a comment to her own post, she wrote “Looks like hes a crackhead or something by the look of his face…what a freaking LOSER!”
What. The. Hell.
I was offended. Maybe I shouldn’t have been. I mean, I don’t know this guy. But I can relate to this story. And to his family for what they are about to go through. The sleepless nights. The nightmares. The constant fear and worry. The hope that you’ll see them alive on the outside one day.
The article is brief and gives a basic account of the crimes he committed for which he was arrested. His mug shot? Yeah, it’s bad. But it’s a mug shot people. They’re all bad. I won’t ever forget my brother’s. He looked like death. But also? He looked terrified. He broke my heart in a picture I’m sure he thought no one would ever see. I cried for HOURS when I saw that picture. HOURS. I laid in bed and cried my eyes out. Staring at his picture. The first time I’d seen him since he left my house that Sunday. The first image I had of my brother, the felon.
So, I made my own comment on her post. I’m not sure what made me do it really. I wrote, re-wrote, re-wrote again and then paused and debated whether to hit cancel or post. I don’t want her to feel terrible, I really don’t, but I want her to understand that it isn’t all black and white and what you read in the paper isn’t always the whole story. So this was my comment - You shouldn’t pass judgment like that. Yes, he’s done something wrong, will be punished and will serve his time. Take it from me, the sister of a felon, you might just offend someone by making a blanket statement that he’s a loser because of a mug shot and an article in the paper that in no way can ever tell the entire story.”
Because the paper will simply cover the facts as they know it. They portrayed my brother in a terrible light. I suppose the fact that he held someone at knife-point does sound pretty horrible, but still, that was not my brother. Not the brother I had grown up with. The brother that I knew and loved. That loved with his whole heart. That never thought before he acted (hopefully he learned that lesson!). The brother that cared. That was always there for me when I needed him. Nothing about my brother was put into the paper. Just the information, the facts, about the crimes he committed. And that’s ok. Because that’s how it is.
The point? Don’t pass judgment. Especially on someone you don’t know and a story you don’t really know. And when you see an article like this in the paper? Pray for the family. They’re the victims no one thinks about.