On Sept. 6, 2018, Amber Guyger walked into the home of Botham Jean and murdered him.
The 31-year-old Dallas police officer surely never planned to kill anyone when she came home from work that night, still in uniform. She entered Jean’s apartment believing it to be her own. Once inside, and upon finding someone else there, she drew her gun and shot him.
It would have been a grossly disproportionate response to the circumstance even if her mistaken belief had proven true. Jean, unarmed and eating vanilla ice cream on his couch, was a threat to no one.
To make matters worse, prosecutors argued that Guyger also subsequently failed in her duty to resuscitate her victim. As he lay dying, she was texting her partner.
This week, Guyger was duly convicted of killing Jean and sentenced to 10 years in prison. She was also graciously, undeservingly, yet rightly forgiven for what she had done.
Jean’s younger brother, Brandt Jean, went so far as to hug her in the courtroom and to wish “the best” for her, despite the astounding suffering that he and his family have suffered as a result of her actions.
Brandt explained his display of mercy and forgiveness in terms of his Christian faith. “I love you as a person,” he said to his brother’s killer, whom he had never met before.
“And I don’t want to wish anything bad on you.” Indeed, this forgiveness, freely given, is a key element of Christianity. It is embodied in Jesus’ command to “forgive your brother from your heart,” even in spite of a myriad offenses, lest you be judged harshly for your own sins.
Yet this isn’t the only reason we need such forgiveness. One need not be Christian nor even believe in God to understand that society can hardly function in the here-and-now without a deep commitment to forgiveness.
When we discuss the sharp divisions in American society today, we are really talking about a political sphere that seethes with resentment and cannot forgive. Ideologies have taken shape on the basis of pure resentment based on racial, class, gender, and ideological differences.
It is understandable, if regrettable, that people hold on to grudges even based on personal wrongs, and what greater wrong could anyone commit than to take away one’s beloved son or brother? But they also hold grudges based on others’ supposed collective guilt, which they impute to the innocent and guilty alike.
In the tiny world of grievance-mongering, an extraordinary and laudable personal display of forgiveness like that of Brandt Jean is out of place. There is no grace, redemption, or forgiveness even for those who find themselves “canceled” over old tweets, let alone those who wrongfully kill another person.
Yet the entire project of identity politics, and this is by no means limited to the political left, especially not today, thus attempts to channel prejudicial hatred under the guise of justice-seeking. Someone white/black/male/Muslim/Christian or on a police force wronged me or someone like me, and I will make sure that every last one of them pays.
Brandt Jean is an example for everyone who wants a country where we look for reasons to love and stand up for our neighbors instead of looking for any available excuse to hate and resent them.
The Washington Examiner