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Spirituality

Bitter Justice: A Mother’s Intuition

Nancy Lee Harper | Jan 30, 2015

PART 1 IN SERIES Reward and Punishment

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Nancy Lee Harper | Jan 30, 2015

PART 1 IN SERIES Reward and Punishment

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

The phone rang at our home in Portugal.

My husband took the call.

Silence–for what seemed like an eternity–then my husband handed me the phone, without a word.

It was our first-born son, crying.

This sounded serious. I thought, ‘I hope he didn’t accidentally hurt anyone, and that he’s alright.’

“Mom,” he said through his tears, “I’m okay, but I just wanted to let you know that I was in an accident.”

I could hear the severity of the tone in his voice. My stunned brain gradually took in his words as his story unfolded:

He was driving a bus to Canada to pick up a band for a musical tour. Accompanied by the band’s manager, a young woman I’ll call “J”, the pair had stopped for a late dinner in Chicago. Although dark, they parked the bus in a well-lit parking lot.

But even before they could disembark, an armed teenager entered the bus and demanded money. They gave it. The teen complained at the paucity of the pickings, and demanded more. When it was not forthcoming, he attempted to shoot “J”–twice. Luckily, the gun didn’t fire. The teen became angry and hit her in the head, knocking her to the floor of the bus. Blood flowed.

He then pointed the gun at my son.

gunpointAs in a dream, my son saw the entire event in slow motion, perceiving the situation as surreal, and believing that the gun was a fake. Anger boiled up in him, and he pounced on the teen and pinned him to the floor.

At that point, the gun fired.

The bullet exited the side of the bus and must have passed between our son’s legs, sparing his life.

The pinned teen cried out for help to two passersby, but instead they called the police.

Apprehended and put in jail on a million dollar bail, he wound up serving several years on a simple assault and battery charge. Then he was released.

But wasn’t this a robbery, and an attempted homicide? Wasn’t this a miscarriage of justice, to let someone off so lightly for trying to kill two people?

Justice is one of the pillars of the Baha’i Faith. Baha’u’llah, more than any other founder of a world religion, repeatedly emphasized its importance:

Justice is, in this day, bewailing its plight, and Equity groaneth beneath the yoke of oppression. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 92.

There can be no doubt whatever that if the day star of justice, which the clouds of tyranny have obscured, were to shed its light upon men, the face of the earth would be completely transformed. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 219.

As the body of man needeth a garment to clothe it, so the body of mankind must needs be adorned with the mantle of justice and wisdom. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 81.

There is no force on earth that can equal in its conquering power the force of justice and wisdom…. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 219.

Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 4.

I told my son that God must have other plans for him, because it seemed truly a miracle that his life had been spared. I tried to stay strong for him and not show my quivering, vulnerable emotions.

I hung up the phone and sat down on the edge of the bed, stunned. In a flash, I remembered an earlier dream, perhaps a month before, in which I saw my son fly through the air during a dark night. At the time, I had a very bad feeling about that dream, and I had increased my prayers for protection for him. I felt very anxious and often nervous during that time, to the point that I fell and severly sprained my ankle. I knew something would go wrong, but not what.

Flash-forward twenty years: “J” is contacted by lawyers to ask if she and our son would like to testify against the same person—who stood accused of multiple murders in a serial killing spree.

Was the first sentence just? I don’t know the reasons for that “light” punishment–perhaps his age, his record, the current state laws. For whatever reasons, the first sentence miserably failed to deliver justice. I, unlike the parents of the people this man eventually murdered, will forever be grateful that our son’s life and that of his colleague were spared. But I hope that our system of justice can one day deliver more of what it’s named for:

O people of God! That which traineth the world is Justice, for it is upheld by two pillars, reward and punishment. These two pillars are the sources of life to the world. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 27.

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Comments

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  • Lilian Shinde
    Jul 30, 2016
    -
    What about "hidden criminals"? Those who do not actually kill people, but kill people's dreams just by sitting in University Piano examinations and being extremely unfair? What punishment would they deserve for their unfairness? They will simply keep hiding themselves behind the establishment, acting as a group to hide what it was a terribly personal judgement taken to be in agreement with one of their "clan" members - with life consequences for the student? I wonder how many more articles on piano pedagogy you will still have the courage to write? I would hope you take this topic ...on reward and punishment to reflect on your own conduct as a university teacher and how without a gun or a bullet you have with a high degree of unfairness inflicted so much suffering on someone who actually trusted your integrity. But of course, the truth is that you don't really care anyways. Why should you? and perhaps as well as the person you mentioned in the article - he probably doesn't really care either.
    So there is a degree of criminality resemblance here - with some being more sophisticated and perhaps unaware of the level of harm their actions can cause. I know you will never admit it - but so that you know, I know the truth and so does God.
    I wish you all the very best and that may you be enlightened with the Bahai teachings at a deeper level.
    Read more...
  • Feb 1, 2015
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    The nightly news here in Chile usually has minors caught for every crime and then released, listing their previous captures and crimes. There is zero justice to either change their path, or for their growing string of victims. ..or the very reputable police, working at this with what motivation? A man has just been charged for killing joined by other enraged citizens an armed youth who robbed him 15 times.
  • Feb 1, 2015
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    The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world but it hasn't helped the cause of justice. However those countries with good education and social welfare systems have largely eliminated crime.
  • Jan 31, 2015
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    Well, I really do not know what to make of these tragic events but I do know that we at this day in age are still very primitive in our concepts of Justice. I have been born into all of the best that our last century had to offer for white middle and upper middle America and Canada. I only know that our current systems for the most part have been build on super structures and cultures that have repressed, abused and created enormous ghettos of pain and massive injustice for the majority of peoples of the non-white ...not middle or upper classes of America and Canada. Until every child is born into a world system of "equality" where every child is born with the same rights and privileges, and advantages of education, health care and moral development that I had...then we are so far so very far from Justice and we will continue to encounter violence and insanity such as we see everyday on our streets and in our communities...Pray, teach and strive for transformation and courage.
    Read more...
  • Jan 31, 2015
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    A very strong argument for justice. we need to realize that justice is an expresion of love. Thank you.
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