Last night I went to bed feeling anxious. I was anxious on behalf on two men whose lives hung in the balance, their lives in the hands of a single man who has shown no sign of mercy. Though I knew their fate was all but certain a tiny sprig of hope poked through the anxiety.
This morning I awoke with apprehension, turning immediately to my phone to check the news. I felt sick. Despite knowing what I would read, I was shocked all the same, and as I read, sadness set in.
I felt terribly sad for these men who were drug dealers for such a short part of their lives and humanitarians for almost ten years. I felt absolute gut wrenching dismay for the families who wailed as the gun shots rang through the night in Indonesia. And especially for the mothers who watched on helplessly, unable to protect their sons as their healthy bodies were riddled with bullets. As they lay dying for reportedly up to 35 minutes, bleeding to death on the killing field.
And then I felt searing anger at a government that could no longer hide the flaws in its justice system, but willingly proceeded to murder eight people. At a man who had the power over life and death and chose the latter. And at the heartless comments made by my some of my fellow Australians as these families were ripped apart.
I’ve written about why the death penalty is wrong, but today has brought with it greater context. These boys were children for a decade, obnoxious teenagers for eight years, young men who made stupid decisions for a small handful of years, and death row prisoners that rehabilitated other inmates for ten years. In the context of a life, what they did was wrong but it was only a small part of who they were. To endorse or even tolerate the death penalty means that the sum of a life is no more than its worst moments. I cannot accept that and still have hope.
These lives had value. At the time of their death they were a net gain to society. I understand the urge to see paedophiles’, rapists’ and murders’ lives ended, especially when there is no remorse. But these men, flawed as they were, found a way to better their corner of the world. It’s the very definition of hope, and it was put to death at midnight last night.
Further, we are all connected. As surely as their stupid decisions may have harmed the lives of others, so to will this act of violence. Eight families will never be the same. Little sisters will grow up without big brothers. Big brothers will agonise over their protective instincts towards their little brothers. Cousins and extended family and friends will exist in a blinding media spotlight. And mothers will live with tortured souls that will never be healed. The responsibility for that rests solely with the Indonesian government, who in a terribly misguided attempt to save Indonesians from their own addiction, have murdered eight people. They have become the evil that they supposedly fight.
If only we lived in a world that believed that the act of violence and felonious wrong doing is so unacceptable that we would not stoop so low as to avenge those it hurts through violence and wrong doing.
Feeling anxious, apprehensive, shocked, sad and angry I decided to run. I ran hard. I blasted my headphones and ran. In running, I found some perspective. I felt grateful that I have the freedom to run. Grateful that I grew up in a family without serious financial constraints and never felt the burden of making a quick buck. Grateful that I never felt such tragedy that I would see drugs as an escape. Grateful that I was born in a country that abolished the death penalty decades ago. Grateful that my own children are alive and well.
There but for the grace of God go I.
I no longer feel angry at the appalling lack of due process shown by the Indonesian legal system, or by the callous disrespect for human life shown by the Indonesian President. There has been enough anger and there is an abundance of hate. But I don’t think the sadness will go away for some time. We are in a battle for humanity and we are losing. Though hope still remains for most of us, it will take far more compassion than our damaged race seems capable of to save it.
Rest in Peace Myuran and Andrew. Though your lives were flawed, there are many who have taken more and given less than you.