I knew Zack. We met at Junior College, years ago, and for as long as I’ve known him he has remained one of my closest friends. He was always ready to offer a shoulder for support, always willing to put a smile on a frowning face. He was one of those very rare individuals who knew true empathy for people, whether or not he knew them.
I knew Zack, and having his name plastered all over the Facebook feeds of the people who knew him, with messages of hate in dated word art and broken Maltese is not what he would have wanted. He was as politically opinionated as anyone his age, but he never let his politics get in the way of his relationships with people. You who are using his face to further your agenda, the fact that you are incapable of feeling shame for such a tasteless, blatant attempt at fear-mongering is infuriating. In such a short time, before we even have a chance to grieve, you attempt to twist his memory into some sick parody of a martyr for your pathetic cause.
But I knew Zack, and he wouldn’t have wanted me to hold on to such anger either. He would have wanted me to see both sides of the argument, and that is how I will remember his death. Even though it is easy for me to hate the boy who potentially killed my friend, I won’t. He is still young, and although it is conjecture, I am sure that at the end of the day, this was just a drunken brawl that went terribly, terribly wrong. Am I angry? Of course. Do I want justice? Again, of course I do. But justice must be fair, and it must be measured. If this person feels no remorse, no regret, then of course he must be punished to the full extent of the law. However, whether or not this boy made a drunken mistake or had malicious intent, he should not be scapegoated.
Yesterday, when I found out, I had a lot of hatred in my heart. The exact words I spoke to my friend were ‘If I saw the guy who did it in front of me right now I’ll probably kill him myself’, so do not tell me that I do not know what it means to understand the kind of sentiments you are trying to propagate. However, my friend provided me with some wisdom which, in hindsight, makes me ashamed to admit that I was ready to do bad things in the name of my friend’s memory. He told me,’ We were all young once, I was the same, full of testosterone and bravado, drinking, thinking I was invincible, picking a fight here and there. Imagine if I had killed someone back then, I would have ruined my life; so my heart goes out to the guy who did it too. Don’t hold on to that hatred, it’s not worth it.’
I didn’t like what he had to say at first, I didn’t want to accept the truth that at the end of the day this trauma was just a terrible mistake, not the act of some evil man who deserved every punishment in the world. But that is the unfortunate truth, and it makes the entire situation so much more tragic.
Let us who knew Zack remember him fondly. Let us who knew Zack grieve. If we are to do his memory justice, then the depth of kindness he had for us must be become a part of us. We owe it to Zack to be better people.