A Call For Peace: Reflections On The DC Sniper Shootings
Just a few hours ago, John Allen Mohammad was executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia for his role in the DC Sniper shootings in 2002. He was, most surely, a deeply angry and disturbed man who committed truly atrocious acts. I hope his death brings peace and closure to the family and loved ones of his victims. However, I also wish that Tim Kaine, the governor of Virginia had stayed the execution.
I lived through the terror of the DC Sniper shootings just 3 months after moving from Oklahoma City to Washington, D.C. It was a scary welcome to a new city and made my seriously reconsider if I wanted to go to high school in a place where something like that could happen. However, the response of the people in and around DC was uplifting. Everyone banded together and did everything they could do to support each other. So that time was simultaneously a time of hope and fear for me and many in the area. Obviously, though, we all wish that these tragic murders had never happened at all.
I understand that for many, executing the person responsible for the death of their loved one is comforting and helps them come to terms with that death. It’s not a sentiment that I can imagine feeling myself, but I know that it’s important to others. I think there are a lot of great arguments against the death penalty, everything from its enormous cost to the discriminatory way it’s often applied. More importantly, though, I think we as a society lose an essential part of ourselves when we come together to condone the killing of a member of our society. After the series of violent slayings committed by Mr. Mohammad, we have chosen to respond with more violence instead of with grace and peace. I hope in the future we can stand up as a community and denounce violence in all its forms, whether it’s committed by individuals or collectively.
So I ask everyone to light a candle tonight and, if it’s within whatever your spiritual tradition you follow, pray for John Allen Mohammad, Lee Boyd Malvo (the kid who worked with Mohammad), and the families and loved ones of the victims and the perpetrators. I hope they can all find peace and comfort tonight.