All our futures are carved by a history we did not live, and cannot share. There are some among us who are never able to recover from the trauma of childhood. Murder, death, illness, and sexual molestation, are all dark stars in the sky that look down upon us, and judge us for being unable to comprehend the constellation of their human conclusions.
What, then, do we make of the purposeful, if selfish, destruction of a vulnerable childhood — performed by a trusted adult expected to know better, and determined to kern a better life in agile association? Is there a greater crime against the hope of moral compassion than the sinking of a child’s safe harbor?
I recently came to understand a trusted friend of mine from high school is, and has been for over a decade, a convicted sex offender. That friend is on a list in a national database for the rest of his life. While we weren’t close friends in school, we knew each other by association, and by the convenience of proximity. He was an important figurehead in our class. He was a respected leader. He had a transcribable and vibrant personality. He married his high school sweetheart, and had several children with her. I was invited to their wedding. I was unable to attend.
I just discovered this friend of mine was convicted many years ago — and I don’t know what happened or why what happened — all I know is that we’ve been in touch, infrequently, over the last decade or so in what I now know is the residual aftermath of his conviction. He knew all this time. I did not know. Does one have a human duty to confess a crime before asking for a favor? Of course, but then one must also know the answer will always be, “no.”
I happened upon his conviction when I checked a link on his social media page that was supposed to lead to his business, but instead brought me to a dead page. When I Googled his name, to find his business — the first returns were the sex offender registry. I couldn’t believe it at first. I was a little stunned, and I confess my first thoughts were not of what happened to his victim, or victims — but rather of what happened to my friend. Had he always been a predator? Or did something inside him break hard enough that he had to hurt someone younger to satisfy his needs of inner turmoil?
These are all questions that will go unanswered because I have now disconnected our connections. I can’t be socially associated to a convicted sex offender — former friend or not — because a life must not concede to evil, and there is no reason in the world that can explain away a lifetime database registration as a sexual offender. I feel for his wife — who appears to still be with him — and for his children, who own none of this, but will always be punished for the sins of their father.
As I reflect back on the friend I knew in high school, and the convicted adult he became, I am propelled back through time to the murder of Wendy Hile in Lincoln, Nebraska. Wendy’s rape and murder ravaged us all like a ghost throughout my childhood and, as I wonder in my Human Meme podcast, what must the woman who then married Wendy’s murderer have been thinking when she said, not only “I Do” — but then agreed to bear the children of a murderer? One awakens from a nightmare to envision monsters breeding monsters breeding monsters.
As well, no Nebraska child, or childhood, can ever escape the predestiny of Caril Ann Fugate, and the tragic encapsulation of her childhood, adulthood, and entire life, by Charles Starkweather. The world could kill Starkweather, but forgiving Caril Ann was beyond the scope of human compassion.
We must always be aware that who we were born to be is not always what we become — and that brings hope for the offspring of a murderer, and doom to the well-bred, but broken, innocent who matures into evil with just the right amount of opportunity and preparation.
How do we associate with the predators among us, hiding in the shadows and percolating in the light — is public shaming enough? Is ostracism from the social coil enough? Is there anything large enough to be weighted upon them that could ever resolve the infidelity of an infirm mind set on the destruction of a groomed target instead of the burden of lifting a family?
It is our absolute moral duty to punish those among us who viciously wound others — and once we are made aware of the crime, we are required to report it, and act upon it locally, humanly, and in a court of law — but there is no escaping that dead feeling that everything is made duller, and more tainted, merely by the uncontrolled impulse of a corrupted adult against a minor; and it is the rest of us who are left to pay the punishment of trusting when we should have questioned, of laughing when we should have shouted, and of just going along instead of really knowing, just because it was too consuming to lift our head, and wonder.
If I could ask my friend one, final, question, it would be this: “Now that you’ve ruined the lives of everyone you touched, what is your motivation to wake up each morning to keep living?”
I imagine there is no answer in the world that would satisfy the depths of that knowing.