"I just hugged the man that murdered my son."
May 20, 2011 5:37 AM   Subscribe

A mother talks with the man who murdered her son, for Storycorps.

The two of them founded From Death To Life, an organization dedicated to bringing together the families of victims and perpetrators of violence.
posted by empath (17 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I read the transcript in an e-mail. I think From Death to Life is an important project and support the abolition of the death penalty. However, I wonder if this is a good direction for Storycorps, which traditionally has done oral histories of a more populist strand. What is also troubling is the potential that Storycorps' output may be undermined by allowing external producers to create their own interviews, rather than work off of getting the content first and then working out how they use it, which had been their strategy.
posted by parmanparman at 5:45 AM on May 20, 2011

I heard this one my way to work this morning (NPR drives me nuts, generally, but I always tune in for StoryCorps). Made me weep openly. What humanity.
posted by notsnot at 5:47 AM on May 20, 2011

I too heard this on the drive in. The cynic in me wants to know what the rest of story is. The rest of me (hopefully more than 50%+) was utterly astounded at the humility, forgiveness, and compassion seemingly at work here in both of them.

Datapoint not mentioned in the OP: They live NEXT DOOR to each other now.
posted by webhund at 5:53 AM on May 20, 2011

She's a better person than I would be.
posted by stormpooper at 6:12 AM on May 20, 2011

She's a better person than I would be.
...and he's become a better person as a result.
posted by Floydd at 6:27 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Holy cow. I was going to maybe leave a snarky remark about how we're now just posting Storycorps clips every week, but I didn't have to commute this morning, so I missed this. I'm so very glad this made the blue today or I would have missed it.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 6:50 AM on May 20, 2011

I heard this too this morning. I couldn't decide if it was amazing or creepy and unhealthy.
posted by yarly at 7:38 AM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I vote creepy and unhealthy.
posted by cashman at 7:50 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

That ending. Wow.
posted by grubi at 7:53 AM on May 20, 2011

I vote creepy and unhealthy.

I don't - I vote amazing, and something that, as stormpooper said, makes her a better person than I'll ever be. i guess carrying around that anger, even justified, is taxing.

Curious cashman why you think it is creepy and unhealthy. Maybe there is something in the podcast I missed.
posted by xetere at 8:42 AM on May 20, 2011

parmanparman, would you post a link to the transcript, please? I have a weird aversion to audio.
posted by cyndigo at 9:11 AM on May 20, 2011

Curious cashman why you think it is creepy and unhealthy. Maybe there is something in the podcast I missed.

You ever have that coworker or associate who is mean? They are pushy, yell at people and treat them poorly. Then once every few months or so, they are in a good mood, or do a nice thing or two. Everybody falls at their feet and is happy and tries to reward them for being that way.

You also have people who end up being attracted to those who are harmful and mean to others. Perhaps because of wanting to fix them, or maybe it is because those people are constantly forcefully going at somebody, and people get drawn into that. I have to guess it isn't unlike people who fall in love with jailed criminals who have done heinous things.

He says something akin to "I didn't know how to handle how you embraced and forgave me, because I still haven't forgiven myself" and she calls him son like that's her new son now. And they live next door to each other. And then end the piece telling each other they love each other - there is just an overstepping of boundaries there.

Sometimes that excessive hate ends up just being a powerful emotion felt toward another person. And she describes how she had that feeling toward him for 12 years, and now it is all gone. I don't think it's all gone, it has shifted, because of that intense feeling. The best thing to have, I think, would be an indifference toward him. He did this horrible thing, but I am moving on and letting him live his life, and I am living mine, always missing my son. I half expect to check this out in a few years and see some kind of relationship there. The human psyche works in weird ways. Sometimes when a person is responsible for causing such emotions and pain in your life, weird feelings develop.

So yes - just my opinion, but I personally think creepy and unhealthy.
posted by cashman at 9:49 AM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

She is just waiting for the right moment to utterly destroy him - emotionally, financially, psychologically, and physically. Perhaps.
posted by Xoebe at 9:57 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I understand and respect the cynicism and skepticism in the above comments (being a cynic and skeptic myself), but forgiveness is a powerful thing. Can you imagine the weight lifted off Mary Johnson's shoulders? And I agree that the shared tragedy has made both of them better people.

I wish them both a good journey through life.
posted by bayani at 11:17 AM on May 20, 2011

See also The Forgiveness Project
posted by Roach at 12:20 PM on May 20, 2011

Not sure that I understand the sentiment that this is an unhealthy relationship. After 10+ years in prison, he's going to college and has people around him who are supporting him and engaging with him about his goals. Together, they founded the organization empath linked to above, which reaches out to the families of homicide victims and perpetrators, offering support groups, and engaging with the raw emotions and suffering in order to achieve reconciliation, and forgiveness -- I would imagine that in many or most cases that includes an indifference to the perpetrator, though I'm not familiar with the organization's methods and exact goals.

I was surprised and moved when I heard this on the radio this morning. I wouldn't have guessed at this kind of an outcome between a mother and her son's murderer, but I have never been through anything that relates to the level of bereavement, grief, and other emotions that both of them have been through. She's gone through that suffering (and still goes through it, I'd imagine) and turned her experience into an expression of empathy for the person she hated the most, and for people who are going through the same harrowing loss.

They are both amazing people. It's wonderful to hear about people giving humanity a good name.
posted by anotherbrick at 12:37 PM on May 20, 2011

I heard this on the way to work this morning as well. I just kept telling myself that when this man killed her son, he was but a boy himself (16). I don't think she would be embracing him if he had been an adult when he committed the crime.
posted by UseyurBrain at 3:15 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

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