Monday, November 15, 2004

Hostility House

Why would persons representing a religious group (I won’t say what faith or denomination, but you can probably guess who), decide to set up a “hospitality house” for the purpose of comforting friends and family members of condemned murderers within walking of a state prison (where executions are performed) and not do the same kind of thing for families and friends of victims of other violent crimes?

It’s hard to be sure what possesses or motivates some persons to do the things they do. Some choices we humans make are signs of wisdom. Other choices that certain persons or groups tend to make are indicative of indifference, desperation, and ignorance or are just plain unfortunate or misguided. It’s not good judgment or wisdom that drives persons to do bad deeds or reward bad behaviors that much is sure. And “meaning to do well” is not an excuse for a poor performance as a human being or lapse in judgment. As the saying goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. It’s also worth saying that “some folks just take a different road”.

Obviously the decision to set up a “hospitality house” only for family members and friends of convicted murderers (to the exclusion of other deserving and disadvantaged persons and groups) has to be driven by something, but what? It’s easy to see that there is a need for persons to visit and communicate with convicted felons (not just murderers on death row) so what is it about a death sentence that makes it more “special”? Murderers sentenced to “life without parole” have friends and family who wish to visit them? Why no offers of “hospitality" for them too? It is also self evident that all of us, who are alive today, will die one day and inmates who die naturally in prison are just as dead as those who are executed. So have these persons, who created a “hospitality house” excluded otherwise deserving persons from their thought processes or dismissed their needs? Perhaps, but maybe the real motivation behind their veil of “hospitality” is to make a statement against a punishment (death penalty), by not providing a service to others they know to have a real need. It’s the exclusion of certain persons who might disagree with them that sends the message they really want to communicate, not the service they promise to provide to persons who are related to condemned murderers. Maybe “hospitality house” is a misnomer and “hostility house”, more appropriate?

Does anything prevent these persons from offering “hospitality” as they see fit? No. Nor is anyone proposing to actively protest their actions or shut them down. They are entitled to express their views anyway that they wish, as long as it remains within the law. They are acting out what they perceive to be their faith when they offer their “hospitality” to persons they choose to advocate for (with morality strings attached).

These persons offering “hospitality” are not really in the business of helping those that they claim to. Their efforts are really a passive form of hostility to the families and friends of victims who support the execution of their loved ones murderer. The alternative to saying what they mean in more simple terms might require some additional justification. They’d just be competing for the same attentions (and money) that other groups who oppose capital punishment do too.

If there is any comfort to come from these passive but hostile actions by this supposedly religious group (even holy scriptures support an occasional and deserved execution), it’s in dismissal. Yes, this group has dismissed the families of real victims in their quest to oppose executions. This doesn’t mean that in other ways that persons who oppose their point of view won’t get the same kind of support from another source. Persons who happen to support executions or advocate for real victims can dismiss these so-called “hospitality houses” and what they really stand for (hostility) because in the end, their existence is irrelevant.