Friday, January 17, 2014

Bright Lines

When I arrived at work this morning, I learned about a tragic family murder/suicide involving a former colleague with the sheriff's department. I didn't know him. At most, I crossed paths with him a few times.

Last night, our presenter at the library spoke about the shift in early detective fiction from an assumption that crime is rooted in societal ills to a depiction of criminals being inherently evil. Did the shift result from our wanting to believe that we are always fully capable of rising above our circumstances? That we are not capable of committing a heinous act, only others are?

I call false choice. Isn't it usually some combination of the two? If we put all the blame on individuals, we risk losing our capacity to empathize. If we put all the blame on society, we risk becoming disempowered as individuals.

When a case like this happens--when a law enforcement officer who is held in high esteem by his peers becomes a most heinous law breaker--what do we make of it? Do we draw a bright line and say we are not him? He likely had drawn that very line for himself when he worked with inmates at the jail. And yet, in the blink of an eye, he crossed it.

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