sábado, outubro 13, 2007


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The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. O vento assopra onde quer, e ouves a sua voz, mas não sabes de onde vem, nem para onde vai; assim é todo aquele que é nascido do Espírito.

     John 3, 8.

"I'm believing that God will turn this around for good."

     Denise Sandy.

Wish to Forgive in Son's Death Will Be Tested, Michael Brick, New York Times, October 10, 2007.

The hallways of the State Supreme Court building in Brooklyn are crosscut passages of venom and condemnation: on one floor, police officers daily stare down a man charged with killing one of their own; on another, a man accused of strangling a college student recently received letters that called him "a no-good son of a bitch." Not even the judges are fully exempt. Justice Albert Tomei, taunted by a brutal rapist one day last year, sentenced him to "a place that is cold and heartless and not very humane, where you will spend the rest of your life thinking about what you did."

And yet here comes Denise Sandy: the forgiver. Against this backdrop, she seems profoundly out of place. Lost, maybe.

For the past month, Mrs. Sandy has been watching the trial of two men accused of killing her only son, Michael J. Sandy, 29. Last October, prosecutors say, Mr. Sandy was lured from his home in Williamsburg to a narrow beach near Dead Horse Inlet in Sheepshead Bay, a meeting place for gay sex. From there, Mr. Sandy was chased into traffic on the Belt Parkway and struck by a car. Five days later, after his brain shut down, his family removed a respirator and let him go. "It was an awful decision we had to make," Mrs. Sandy said.

Prosecutors charged four young men with hate crimes, a distinction that can affect sentencing, for selecting their robbery target by sexual orientation. One of the men, Gary Timmins, pleaded guilty to attempted robbery as a hate crime and testified for the state. A second, John Fox, 20, was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime. A jury is deliberating on murder charges against Anthony Fortunato, 21, who was tried with Mr. Fox. And Ilya Shurov, 21, is set for trial next.

Through a year of pretrial hearings and through three weeks of trial, Mrs. Sandy has ridden from her home in Bellport, on Long Island, to take her seat in the courtroom pews. At 54, she is a small woman, frail-looking even, all lambent curls and narrow bones tucked into modest black suits. Her eyes are downcast and she seems to almost shake, but she never flinches from the testimony describing her terrified son's last moments.

All along, her attendance has been singularly consistent. At times she has been accompanied by her husband, Zeke Sandy, grief counselors and campaigners for gay causes. And when she has spoken, she has spoken of forgiveness. After a pretrial hearing in February, Mrs. Sandy joined her son's friends outside the courtroom to answer questions from reporters. The friends spoke of retribution and punishment, common sentiments along these corridors.

"Our friend can't come back," said one of the men, Christopher
Wilkins. "They shouldn't be let out." But Mrs. Sandy took a different tone that day. "I'm believing," she said, "that God will turn this around for good."

Two months later, in April, after videotapes of confessions were played in the courtroom, Mrs. Sandy said of the defendants collectively, "I don't think he meant harm. It just got out of hand, probably got out of control." She continued: "We've got to be forgiving. I believe so."

Then came the trial of Mr. Fox and Mr. Fortunato. Mrs. Sandy heard witnesses describe her son running across three lanes of traffic, screaming, waving his cellphone. She heard them say he was chased and punched. She heard them say his pockets were rifled. She heard them say the defendants laughed it all off. On Sept. 19, she gave her own testimony. She stood and waited to take her oath, hands folded, then answered questions from a prosecutor.

In the present tense, the prosecutor asked: "Who is your child?" Mrs. Sandy said: "It was Michael Sandy." Speaking slowly and clearly, she gave the bare facts of her son's occupation and sexual orientation. She described seeing him the day before he was struck on the parkway, then seeing him later in the hospital. "He was hooked up to all kinds of machines," Mrs. Sandy said. "So he was very bad."

Then she watched as a court officer marked a photograph of her son as Exhibit 19. She handed the picture to the judge, wiping tears from under her glasses. And when the first verdict was returned, the jurors gave Mrs. Sandy a new hard decision. They acquitted Mr. Fox of murder charges, sparing him a sentence of life in prison. But they convicted him of manslaughter, a crime for which the judge has broad discretion in sentencing.

So at a hearing on Oct. 24, Justice Jill Konviser-Levine will for have to decide what term Mr. Fox gets — anywhere from 5 to 25 years in prison. Her decision will determine whether Mr. Fox walks out of prison to start life as a relatively young man or as a 45-year-old. Before the judge passes sentence, Mrs. Sandy will have her own chance to speak. Most people use this ritual opportunity, known as the victim impact statement, to berate those who have done them harm, to lament the lack of a working state death penalty or to wish the offender a long and miserable life.

Outside the courtroom last week, Mr. Fox's father said he hoped that Mrs. Sandy would choose a different path. Seeking her forgiveness, he said that if he could, he would give up his own life for her son's. Mrs. Sandy has made no commitments. As her husband also spoke of the good that might one day come of all this, she spoke only of the jury's verdict. "I can't say if I was satisfied," she said, "or dissatisfied."

I'm thinking that, of course, the media love this story. A black woman forgiving the white men involved in her son's death. But really, what she will say finally has not yet been said - that will come later this month, maybe. And meanwhile there are spins upon spins.

I'm remembering an evening, back in 1970 or so, when I arrived in Winnipeg (or maybe it was Calgary, it was a long time ago), and I came into a friend's house and the television was broadcasting the news. It was of a youong girl, Cristal or Kristal, who had been recently raped and murdered; and there on the screen were her parents, a couple of young blonde Mennonites (as I remember) pleading publicly with the murderer to give himself up - because he must be suffering the torments of Hell; and more, that they had forgiven him and would try to help him.

This memory is old but it comes to me often. I have tried googl-ing to find some details but I have never discovered a trace of the story - maybe it is all in my imagination now.

It sticks because the urge to forgive is there in human hearts when you would least expect it - 'like shining from shook foil.'

I have not been successful at it though I have tried. I still wake in the night with the desire to smash ancient enemies. But there it is again - the urge that is, just the urge, and for this I thank God.

God’s Grandeur, Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

What comes to mind is Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzifal, which is half-assed on-line by Google, and Ibsen's Peer Gynt, which is; here and here.