truthful perceptions…mississippi

“I do not ask y’all to forget, but I do ask y’all to forgive…”

Just in case you missed it this past week, with all of the plethora of events taking place at blinding speed across both the Nation and World.  From the Terrorist Massacre at the Jewish School in Toulouse France to the Military coup by mutinous soldiers ousting the President of Mali. From the major 7.4 Earthquake in Mexico to the continuing loss of lives in the ongoing civil war in Syria.

In this country the top news stories will range in diversity from Presidential campaign politics, 100 Bison making a comeback in Montana, Occupy Wall Street protests, Whitney Houston’s toxicology report to the sports driven madness of the NCAA tournament, and that’s just the National news.  Not the multitude of local news taking place in our individual cities from all the negativity that’s fit to print to the arrivals of new movies to celebrity driven music concerts. Of course without question the most dominating ongoing national story playing itself out in Sanford Florida is the fight for Justice For Trayvon Martin.

Yet, there was another story in the midst and madness of all the others that was just as telling, just as significant and just as much of a human interest story as one can find.  It calls upon the basic tenets of ideology from which the foundation of this Christian-Judeo nation principles itself on. The backdrop could not have been any more serious, any more dramatic than the realism that often sparks the question of whether you’re having a surreal experience.

A Jackson, Mississippi courtroom lay the setting for what could only be a day of both reckoning and the realization that no winners would emerge from the outcome. On one side was the defendant, a White Man, 19 year old Daryl Dedmon was just found guilty on two charges of Murder and for committing a Hate Crime.  He was sentenced to two life sentences with Prosecutors and Federal Officials leaving the door open to the Death Penalty.

The sheer viciousness of his actions in killing 47 year old James Craig Anderson, a Black Man, on June 26 2011, Dedmon along with seven other teens viciously beat Anderson and if that wasn’t enough Dedmon then got into his Ford pickup truck and ran over Anderson’s body several times in a hotel parking lot which according to the medical examiner was the fatal act. The crime shocked the Nation and a expeditious investigation lead to Dedmon’s arrest.

On the other side of the aisle was the Anderson Family. Their grief stricken spirits was still present after all of these months and the sincerity of love for their beloved family member was very much available for all to witness.  Prior to sentencing, Dedmon was allowed to speak. He shared of his spiritual conversion to Christianity and the youthful ignorance he possessed as the main culprit behind his evil rampage on that fateful night. He summarized by saying “I do not ask y’all to forget, but I do ask y’all to forgive..”  

Now it was the Family’s turn to address Dedmon and the court to express their outrage, their pain and what understandable punishment that could be levied against Dedmon to the fullest extent of the law.  A visibly shaken Barbara Anderson Young, sister of James spoke on behalf of the Family and James’ estate. She spoke eloquently from a prepared statement and gave all of whom were expecting her to be the channel of our wrath, an impromptu Bible study lesson on Forgiveness direct from the heart of the Gospel of JESUS Christ:

In her letter, Young quoted Coretta Scott King in explaining her opposition to capital punishment: “An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of human life.”

“Our opposition to the death penalty is deeply rooted in our religious faith, a faith that was central in James’ life as well,” the letter continues.

“Our Savior Jesus Christ rejected the old way of an eye for an eye and taught us instead to turn the other cheek. He died that we might have everlasting life and, in doing so, asked that the lives of the two common criminals nailed to the crosses beside him be spared. We can do no less.”

But the family goes on to explain that there is another reason for their opposition, one that is tied to Mississippi’s racial past.

“We also oppose the death penalty because it historically has been used in Mississippi and the South primarily against people of color for killing whites,” the letter states. “Executing James’ killers will not help to balance the scales. But sparing them may help to spark a dialogue that one day will lead to the elimination of capital punishment.”

“Those responsible for James’ death not only ended the life of a talented and wonderful man. They also caused our family unspeakable pain and grief. But our loss will not be lessened by the state taking the life of another,” the letter reads.

Well there you have it. In the wake of an average news-week cycle of hate, war, cynical and hypocritical politicians dominating the airwaves, children dying, natural disasters and the like. Quietly and with stoic dignity the Anderson Family represented not only James C. Anderson in the much deserved honorable legacy of his life, but kept to the core of his and their faith to transcend the vengeance they and we all felt for those responsible for this heinous act of murder.

In the state of Mississippi, a capital murder conviction carries the death penalty or life without parole. Those convicted of murder can petition for parole starting at age 65. Let us hope the State will grant the Anderson Family request and for the next 46 years Daryl Dedmon will try to understand the depth of forgiveness and love given to him, that his own hate produced. IJPN.

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