False equivalencies happen often. There is one false equivalency that infuriates me, for lack of a better word. It occurs quite regularly. At first, I denied its existence and pretended it was white noise. Yet, as time passes by and this goddamned equivalency keeps showing up in casual conversation, I decided I would take a crack at it. So, here it goes, I’ll just let it out:
WHEN WE UNDERSTAND SOMETHING, WHEN WE FIND THE ROOT CAUSES OF SOMETHING, IT DOESN’T MEAN WE MUST EXCUSE IT.
There is a big misconception about these two ideas and their meanings. I have limited space and limited time so I will do my best to explain in a nutshell a broad subject. I will use an example to illustrate my point. Keep in mind that other subjects could be used, some with less controversy but if you’d be kind enough to bear with me, it will be over in a few minutes.
Numerous studies have conclusively shown that most people (not all) who commit violent sexual crimes, namely rape, are people who themselves were sexually abused as young children. It means, the perpetrators, at some point in their life, were victims themselves. They lived through unspeakable trauma and their humanity was destroyed forever. They grew up being routinely abused and that abuse became all they knew, and therefore, it became their reality.
Let me repeat to clarify the previous paragraph’s whole meaning: today’s perpetrators are yesterday’s victims.
Now…Science and studies have explained what happened to them, what made them who they are today. Nothing could be sadder than a child being abused sexually, physically or psychologically. There is nothing more sickening than hurting children, who helpless and the weaker members of society. They look to adults for guidance, protection, love, care but sometimes, unfortunately, they get abused. That is the kind of crime that I couldn’t forgive and probably never would.
The same people (the perpetrators) sadly grow up to commit crime themselves. They become perpetrators. Are we going to excuse the acts the perpetrators commit? FUCK NO! Absolutely not! Admittedly, we know where they come from, how their psychological profile came to be what it is today, we know the genesis of the evil acts they inflict on others. We know why they usually have antisocial behavior, why they lie, cheat, steal, manipulate and hurt others. We have figured it out. But what now? They get a pass? FUCK NO! They don’t. They were yesterday’s victims and today’s perpetrators. They automatically get our sympathies for what happened to them and should get our condemnation for what they are doing.
The perpetrators are accountable for their acts, as painful as it might sound to sensitive ears. They might not be able to tell good from evil and vice versa, they might have some mental disorder such as depression, sociopathy/psychopathy, schizophrenia, and so on but they did something wrong. They have hurt people. We cannot excuse the crime and we need to make sure they don’t do it again. Who knows who else they might hurt if they were not stopped or apprehended? Oddly enough, it isn’t their fault, but what about the victims, today’s victims? Is it their fault? Were they asking for it? No, they weren’t. Should the perpetrators be punished? Yes, they should and that is up to the courts, not me.
I am saying all this because the subject came up while I was talking to a friend of mine, whose name will, as usual, remain anonymous. As I love hearing people’s point of views and perspectives, I talk to a lot of people and do my best to listen without judging their opinions. But, on this one…I say again, FUCK NO!
My friend has the highest empathy threshold I have seen in my entire life. My friend spends her time looking for root causes of problems, which is one the most important emotional intelligence trait one could possess. However, that quest for the issue’s genesis usually ends with my friend empathizing too much with the perpetrators. As if, during that quest, they end up almost, I insist “almost”, forgetting about the crime itself and especially the victims. Her passionate need to understand is commendable. The Gods only know how much I admire her for that. Yet…there is such a thing as too much empathy.
I am guilty of that myself. I have explained many times the reasoning of some deranged person and therefore, I end up inadvertently, of course, making people look at me with disbelief. Empathy isn’t the same as excusing one person’s sins or misdeeds. Understanding who they are (their childhood and their trauma) doesn’t absolve them from their actions. Empathy must go towards the victims, which leads us towards a predicament; today’s perpetrators are yesterday’s victims. In the end, they are all victims, right? The most recent victims haven’t committed a crime though or yet…See how complicated life can be?
Understanding something is courageous, noble and the biggest display of empathy a human being might be capable of in their lifetime. Let’s just make sure we don’t excuse the most repugnant crimes and misdeeds in the name of “understanding.”
Keep in mind that this can apply to any part of life. Some people will hurt you, lie to you, use you, abuse you, cheat on you, steal from you, manipulate you. I am positive if one dug deep enough, they would find where the motivation to wrong someone originated. Should we absolve them once we understand? I say FUCK NO. Understanding doesn’t mean absolution. Understanding is however the first step towards absolution. All will depend on the perpetrator’s willingness to seek absolution, to apologize and finally, it would be up to the victim to accept their apology and forgive them. That last part isn’t easy at all.
Understanding a person isn’t synonymous with excusing their dark side or accepting their maladjusted and sometimes dangerous behavior. Let’s just make sure we understand our fellow brothers and sisters. Let’s make sure we understand their motivation, their intent and what pushed them to commit their deeds.
Yet, I insist, in my humble non-expert opinion, understanding doesn’t equal excusing it, or pretending it never happened. Having a rough life doesn’t entitle people to inflict pain and suffering on others. I stand by this and I don’t expect people to agree with 100% or support me.
Just one man’s opinion.
Now smile and go on with your day.