…on Redemption

My high school was a great place to grow up. The new buildings differed from the old in brick color and smell. Every creed, race, and religion grew up together – the strong defended the weak rather than abused them. We had almost every academic opportunity presented to us, as well as extracurriculars. I managed the school store for a year, the merch store. The first cup of coffee I ever bought was from the on-campus coffee shop run by students with down syndrome. Our school raised hundreds of thousands each year for any charity and, more praiseworthy, had a state finals football team. All american expereince.

Every system has its problematic people. There were a few assholes in the class – most were teens learning empathy. But there was one guy in particular who took the trophy for assholery. An opportunist. We’ll call him John.

I found out later that they expelled John the semester before we graduated. He decided to start making fake $20 bills, buy a coke at the down syndrome coffee shop, then pocket real $19. He did it many times, recorded by the security camera, and investigated by the Secret Service. From then on, that’s who John was to me, outside a few Facebook updates.

Imagine my intrigue when I see him post about George Floyd. He argued that GF was breaking the law and didn’t deserve to be a martyr. He mentioned the rising talking point that “maybe if he wasn’t breaking the law (by using a counterfeit $20), he wouldn’t have been in that situation”.” This is a bad-faith argument.

I haven’t commented on a political post on Facebook ever. It’s unproductive – anyone who posts something aggressive like that isn’t looking for a discussion, they’re looking for an argument. But I saw the post at 2am. I went to sleep, woke up, and typed up a response at about 8am.

Before he deleted the status at 11am, it had ten likes and 119 comments (of which, I was eight). He began by deleting the comments that alluded to his run in with the Secret Service. People were still not supportive, so after attempting to defend his point of view, he ended up deleting it.

There was an excitement to it, I must admit. Especially when you have the high ground, I found myself refreshing and wondering where the argument would go. But there was a second lesson in redemption.

In the six years since getting arrested, John joined the Navy. He served his country, met a nice girl, and ended up married. I’m sure he’s starting a life, bought a car, working hard, thinking about kids. But to me, he was always the shitbag who passed $20s off to kids with down syndrome. He single handedly ruined my perception of our armed forces. Every time I see his name on Facebook, that’s what I think of – screw this guy.

That’s very similar to what he was doing with George Floyd’s name. In using past trespasses against it, he characterized a martyr as an evil man. Without knowing, understanding, or attempting to understand, he danother man’s heart. And that isn’t right – every person has their pasts, but to disregard their present humanity because of it is wrong.

You don’t have to elect them to office, you don’t have to trust them, you don’t need to forgive them. But everyone deserves a second chance at a first impression. John used his to show that he’s still a doofus asshole – he messed up his second shot. But redemption is a long game; maybe he’ll come around.

Thanks for taking a sip,

Alejandro

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