It’s Not Good Enough – It’s Never Good Enough

David Murray was a city councilor in Pitt Meadows, BC. In December 2016 he was charged with sexual assault related to incidents that took place in 1992, involving a person who was 14 at the time.

David Murray was convicted on October 25, 2017.

There is no legal provision compelling a Pitt Meadows municipal councilor to resign because of a criminal conviction (not yet, anyway). Of course there was a general outcry over the whole sordid business, demands to resign, etc. The mayor arranged a meeting with David Murray and as a result of that meeting he resigned on October 29th 2017.

My reaction to all of this was that it took place so quickly. I don’t know if I am in the minority on this, but I appear to be.

The delay of 4 days (from the date of the conviction to the date of the resignation) is considered a disgrace. People are angry at the council, they are angry at the mayor, they are just plain angry. They want the law changed, or a law enacted, or a….well, some god damn thing. But none of it is expressed in a tone of genuine concern, nor has it been particularly reasonable. The tone is more that of an angry mob.

The man was charged in December of 2016. He was convicted basically 10 months later. He resigned within 4 days of being convicted. The mob is claiming credit for the resignation. Fine, here’s your community service awards. Happy now?

But, seriously, what’s the problem? I’m not talking about the crime, I’m talking about the speed with which David Murray’s resignation followed his conviction. What’s the problem?

You know, I see this all the time. Some guy gets drunk, gets behind the wheel and runs a red light, killing or maiming some poor, innocent person. Guy expresses deep regret, apologizes to the family of the victim, and gets a 10 year sentence.*

What happens then? You know what usually happens. Television news reporters interview the family and they say:

“He got ten years. We got life.”

“It’s just not enough for what he did.”

“I don’t believe his apology. It wasn’t sincere.”

“The sonofabitch is laughing at us.”

“The Justice System is a joke”

“What about the victims? What about our rights, huh?”

* The maximum penalty in Canada for driving offences causing death (including impaired driving) is 14 years. There is no minimum, so judges have significant discretion in sentencing. But even in cases where the maximum sentence is handed down, usually the family will still say ‘It’s not enough.’

 

It’s never enough. Quite frankly, I don’t think a death sentence would be enough. The victims, permanently damaged or dead, cannot be made whole. You rarely hear a reporter ask, “What would be an appropriate sentence?”**

In the end, I’m not arguing, not with the victims and not with the justice system, either. We are first comforted and given purpose by our anger. Later, we are merely poisoned with it.

** I do appreciate the feelings of the victims and the victim’s family. But of course that’s why they should not be allowed to determine punishments. In Canada the victims have the option of presenting a ‘Victim Impact Statement’

 

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Okay. Here’s something else. On November 7, 2017, Constable John Davidson was murdered in a shootout between Abbotsford police officers and a mentally ill man in his 60s who had stolen a car. His death has touched a nerve in the community, which has spread throughout the BC Lower Mainland and beyond. By all accounts, John Davidson was a hell of a good man, well known, well liked and active in the community.

That’s tragic and I am by no means attempting to diminish the death or legacy of John Davidson or the grief of his family and friends and colleagues, and of the many people who came into contact with him. It’s a good thing, that we honour our true heroes, that we pause a moment in our own lives to appreciate those who give so much to our communities. They risk their lives for all of us and I will always respect that.

No, I am just surprised at the extent of it. The death of a police officer isn’t a commonplace thing, but neither is it especially rare. In the period 1961 through 2009, 133 police officers were killed in the line of duty (in Canada). So, about 2.6 per year. I’ve been alive throughout that period and have certainly been paying attention to the news at least since 1968 or so. I don’t remember anything like the outpouring of grief and media coverage and events to pay homage to Constable Davidson.

But since November 7th there has been 5 to 10 minutes of every news cast dedicated to this story. When John Davidsons’ body was transported from Vancouver back to Abbotsford it was done with a police motorcade procession (advertised to and attended on an overpass by first responders) slowly running along the freeway to make a statement of respect to the fallen officer. We had one or two other events…I don’t know, candlelight vigils or something. The funeral was also advertised to the public and then attended by thousands (I heard some of the eulogies on television and it was heartbreaking). There are calls to have a street renamed for the constable.

Nobody wants to say that it’s too much (what the hell, man, are you against the police? Are you an ingrate? Don’t you appreciate the sacrifices of men like John Davidson?). We want to be respectful of first responders, we want to be respectful of grief. But, I wonder: at some point, isn’t it too much? Isn’t it a case of, ‘It’s Never Enough?’

 

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Another one: Terry Fox.

Terry Fox was a real person, but you’d never know it. He’s been transformed into a Canadian legend, an icon of bravery, self-sacrifice and heroism. He has buildings and roads and parks named for him, and statues erected. There is an annual Terry Fox run that raises money for cancer research.

Terry Fox was a nice young man whose life was ravaged and ultimately ended by cancer. After having his leg amputated at 18, he got an idea to raise money for cancer research by running across Canada. His run started at the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in St Johns, Newfoundland, with an artificial right leg and little or no fanfare. I remember seeing a show that featured three different inspirational stories – Terry’s run as he travelled through the Maritimes was one of the stories. It was one of those ‘good on you’ type of stories and it didn’t seem to me that I would remember this one any more than a thousand other inspirational stories I have seen in my long, comfortable life.

But as Terry continued his run, he began to get more and more notice. Soon there was daily coverage and a national surge of pride arose in support of him. But the run ended, tragically, when the cancer returned, Terry having managed about two thirds of his marathon. He had to ‘temporarily’ suspend his run. The run’s was terminated when he died of his cancer just 9 months later.

He’s been dead for 35 years. Had he lived, he would be about 57 now. I think of all that has happened to me since I was 22 and can’t help but appreciate the loss. That’s the case for all premature deaths, but that doesn’t make the pain any less acute.

Most people would say he was a better person than I have ever been. I agree with that. There are lots of better people than I am. There are quite a few people who are worse than I am. I’m just a regular kind of guy, given to occasional but infrequent acts of charity, generally respectful or at least not disrespectful to symbolic or actual acts of caring.

And yet, there’s a kind of irritated, distrustful side of me, too. Rebelliousness against insincerity. Rebelliousness against official and sometimes dictatorial urgings towards concern and sympathy. An annoyance with sanctimony. A resistance against being sold, against being enlisted, against the bullshit that inevitably arises when too much public attention turns a brief and pure and beautiful thing into ongoing dogma and falseness.

You can point out a million problems with my views. You’re probably right. I have no doubt that I would have liked Terry Fox (had I ever met him) just as much as I admired his spirit and determination. I’m just asking why it’s never enough. ***

*** Of course, as the newest and latest celebrated or notorious event comes along, it will be enough. Boredom will extinguish the fire more effectively than my selfish irritation.

Okay. I’ll shut up now.

Gary Fletcher – November 23, 2017

2 thoughts on “It’s Not Good Enough – It’s Never Good Enough”

  1. Food for a good discussion. To me, it’s important to draw a distinction between story and narrative; the news cycle grinds stories into narratives, and the narratives often supercede the stories. Decades, even centuries later, historians will try to set things right sometimes, but more often they just update the narratives, twisting the stories so out of round that they’ll never roll properly again.

    Updated narratives – revisionist history – just make it harder to find the stories, and the further we get from primary source evidence, the harder it gets to get back to what actually happened. An example I see a lot … Christopher Columbus had a day named after him, and for centuries he was credited with discovering America. That narrative turned out to be wildly exaggerated, so there was a push to set the record straight … but THAT story just got hijacked by the revisionists, who want to blame Columbus for everything from the Black Plague to Slavery to America’s obsession with corn syrup.

    These three stories are all titanic struggles between the series of neat, tidy narrative tributaries to the messy, flowing story and the story itself. Most of the public reacted to the narratives, which – did we have this discussion? – which were like Plato’s mirror images of the actual stories.

    Is it enough? We all have our own opinions about it, which is why it’s never enough – or it’s too much. Since each individual story is written by someone with a single opinion, it’s going to be one or the other. Nobody ever writes “well, it’s complicated” unless THAT’s their narrative. The story is rarely neat enough to fit a narrative, so the narrative will almost never be accurate.

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    1. That’s an interesting segue, that the more people think about and write about and read about a story, the more the story is just a story, and the less it is about the original events and more about what we get out of it.

      I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction I might get, granted that there’s pretty limited readership here. I thought there might be annoyance with my take on these things, chastisement even (snagglepuss reference). As you no doubt understood, I meant no disrespect to the original subjects of these events, but certainly did mean some minor disrespect to the subsequent narratives.

      And that’s probably unfair, too. Oh, well.

      On Thu, Nov 23, 2017 at 12:25 PM, THE BLOG EMPORIUM wrote:

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