Luz Maria Forgiveness Notes

Luz Maria is Pablo Escobar’s sister. He was of course the notorious drug lord in Medellin, Columbia, accused not only of torturing but murdering numerous victims in his quest for domination of the drug trade. Luz Maria now leaves notes on the graves of many of her brother’s victims asking for forgiveness. Yet instead of a hero she has become a question mark. When I first heard the story, the BBC reporter surprised me by saying that she didn’t know what to make of Luz Maria. That is because Luz Maria does not see her brother as all bad. He was a good brother, she says, he helped the poor and she believes he did not commit some of the atrocities attributed to him. Luz Maria also does not receive a full endorsement from the families of those victims on whose graves she leaves notes. Felipe Mejia, the brother of one of Escobar’s victims says that forgiveness is not justice. That may be, but it would seem that the kind of justice Felipe Mejia would want is not within Luz Maria’s power. After all, how many of us would feel so strongly about atoning for the wrongs of a brother in a way that almost becomes a lifestyle? It’s hard enough to deal with the errors of a family member, but when those errors are a series of heinous crimes, how would we bear it? She ought to be lauded for her efforts. There isn’t enough forgiveness in the world, so I can’t help but praise anyone who engages in it.

Dear Officer Wilson

I saw clips of your interview with George Stephanopoulos and couldn’t help but be stunned by your certainty. You took a human life and you are apparently totally certain you acted rightly? Could it be that your moral compass is so narrow it doesn’t allow for doubt? There’s something about taking a human life and not questioning it that is very distressing. Often, that is what makes a criminal different from someone else. Being a police officer may familiarize someone with firearms, but in and itself does not restrict the use of that person’s conscience. I do wonder if you had handled the whole episode of the shooting as well as its aftermath with more humility—and I’m not even suggesting remorse or contrition, just humility—if the Ferguson Police Department and the DA had also handled the whole matter with more humility, meaning with some acknowledgment of doubt, if the reaction would have been as violent as it has been? It seems to me that wisdom would point to anyone in your position having some qualms, questions, regrets about taking a human life, no matter how justified the taking of that life might have been. Since there was none coming from you, I ask myself if what within yourself prompted you to shoot, or even to feel threatened, does not come from an equal lack of wisdom? That is why it is so hard to trust the verdict, or even what you say, for perhaps you are saying that you acted rightly in order to defend your action more than to describe what happened. You say you have a clear conscience, is that what you truly believe? As it stands your position and that of Ferguson’s police Department and DA have fueled anger, distrust and destruction. Naively or not, I do believe some acknowledgement of doubt, some show of humility, would have cast the whole shooting in a different light and at the very least lessened the violence. The Grand Jury did not charge you, essentially saying you are not guilty. But morally, and certainly spiritually, it’s a whole different answer.

Innovation or Exploitation?

Three Italian entrepreneurs think they have the answer to finding a parking place on a busy city street, something all of us know is hard to find. They developed an app that allows the person who occupies the space and is about to vacate it to signal that to other motorists who then bid on it. In essence the app allows the holder of a public parking space on a public street to sell it to whoever bids the highest. Not surprisingly some cities are fighting back. A few months ago San Francisco’s city attorney issued a cease and desist order to these apps. His basis was a police code that prohibits the buying, selling or leasing of public street parking spaces. The entrepreneurs’ next targets are Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, although their city councils have voted to ban the exchange of a public parking space for any form of compensation. And in Los Angeles, although the app is not yet available, the city council has preempted it by outlawing it. Obviously in any number of cities parking is a problem that requires solutions. What struck me about these apps was not they were attempting to solve a problem, but how. I find them opportunistic and exploitative. The idea of selling space that does not actually belong to the seller, that in fact belongs to the public, sounds nothing short of chutzpah. But there’s a larger issue here, of the use of technology. These apps remind us that just because something is possible, does not make it constructive, useful or desirable. As I understand their use, such apps do not serve the cause of innovation nor do they advance progress. But they do send us a signal: In a culture where freedom of thought is paramount, the onus falls on us to learn to reject such negative applications of technology.