Morally Indefensible

I’ve been thinking about the white cop (not mentioning her name) who murdered Botham Jean, and was (remarkably) convicted for her act, and specifically the behavior of her brother, Brandt Jean, and the judge presiding over the trial(!), after the sentence was announced.

Specifically they both gave hugs to the murderer cop in the spirit of forgiveness.

My take on this is profoundly different from that most of the (white and smugly) media about this, and not because of the “Magic Negro”* aspect of the whole storage. (Both Mr. Jean and the judge are African American)

It’s not that I do not find this criticism unpersuasive, I find it very persuasive, but as someone who can pass as white without trying, I am so completely removed from the black experience to say anything meaningful.

On the other hand I am a Jew, and from a Jewish perspective, or at least MY perspective, (though not just me) I have found the behavior, particularly from the judge, disturbing, and with Yom Kippur coming up, I felt I need to talk about repentance, (teshuva) and forgiveness.

Forgiveness without teshuva is wrong in normative Judaism, and teshuva in Judaism is not the profoundly different from mere regret, or even guilt. Teshuva is about correcting the wrongs that you have done, and correcting yourself so that the wrongs are not repeated, and the harms are remediated as much as possible.

The murderer cop has done none of this, and forgiveness without teshuvah is more than meaningless, it is harmful.

To quote Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Yerushalmi Talmud 4:9, Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 37a, “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”

The cop didn’t just kill Botham Jean, and hurt his brother, and his mother, and his other loved ones, it is as if she destroyed the whole world.

This sort of throw away forgiveness minimizes the whole concept of repentance and the whole concept of forgiveness.

It makes the world a worse place, and it is completely wrong.

*Specifically, it appears that whenever a white person is finally held to account for brutality against a person of color, there the an expectation that some sort heart-warming expression of forgiveness must be made by the victim, or the victim’s family in order to assuage any potential feelings of guilt from white narcissists.

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