Many tensed, sharp nailed fingers are currently pointed at Casey Anthony, ignoring the multiple lazy fingers pointing right back at us. Sure, most of us will never be guilty of the type of neglect (or worse) that Casey Anthony was accused of committing. But do any of us really know what happened or what is in Casey Anthony’s heart? This high profile case and the surprising innocent verdict is an opportunity for all of us to look at our own hearts, overcome the need for vengeance in the self righteous guise of justice, and focus on what WE can do to make children safer. If Casey Anthony is guilty of neglect or worse, she has to live with herself which is the harshest punishment, the darkest hell, of all. Meanwhile a child is dead like children are tragically dying every day and as long as children are neglected, kidnapped, harmed and killed, it should be hard for any of us to sleep easily.
It’s a good time to put aside personal opinions, armchair verdicts, and paralyzing blame, and set about increasing the quality and quantity of love being spread in the world, beginning with children. Ironically, children are incredibly forgiving, and probably have the very qualities adults need to create the type of environment that would make children safe.
Forgiveness starts with understanding, often seeing the big picture as to how tragedy is perpetrated and perpetuated in the world. The examples we do well to look to at this time are the people who have found levels of forgiveness that most of us can barely remember from when we had the innocent trust of children. One of the most inspiring examples of extravagant forgiveness was the black preacher and civil rights activist Wade Watts who died in 1998. He was persecuted by a man named Johnny Lee Clary who was the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan’s White Knights. After spending his twenties terrorizing black people in his home town in Oklahoma, Clary renounced his racist past and become an evangelist for tolerance and respect. He described an experience he had with Wade Watts – and what he learned about loving enemies. When they first met, Clary accidentally shook the hand of Wade Watts and immediately looked at his hand in disbelief. He began calling Watts all the derogatory names he could think of. Watts said to him with childlike innocence,
God bless you, Johnny. You can’t do enough to me to make me hate you. I’m gonna love you and I’m gonna pray for you, whether you like it or not.
Later, Clary called Watts at his home to tell him that his church was being burnt to the ground by Klansmen. Watts prayed out loud through the phone, “Dear Lord, please forgive Johnny for being stupid. He’s a good boy.”
How did he do that? Did Wade Watts know more about Johnny than met the eye? Maybe he did. Maybe Wade knew that Johnny had a dysfunctional family life and, at age 10, watched the father who had taught him prejudice and hatred, kill himself. Maybe he knew that Johnny was moved from family member to family member and had no stable adult influence. Maybe he knew that Johnny ended up in the gang scene in East LA and joined the Ku Klux Klan by the time he was 14.
When you think of the hateful things he did and said as an adult; it’s hard to love Clary. When you think of a ten year old boy trying to come to terms with his own confusion; it’s hard not to love him. Wade Watts is a model for the type of forgiveness that can melt fear and hatred. He saw a bigger picture. Without for a second excusing what he did in the name of racial hatred, Johnny Lee Clary is a reminder that people DO change, that ALL people are capable of goodness and that EVERYONE deserves a second chance.
Bring the point closer to home. The media image of Casey Anthony epitomizes so much of what we loathe in the world. She appears to be narcissistic and neglectful. For many people, the very thought of Casey Anthony makes their skin crawl. What would it take to see the big picture like Wade Watts and love and accept Casey Anthony?
Watching the family through the trial and hearing the accusations of incest and abuse within the family leaves you wondering about the dysfunction that Casey Anthony may have endured. I have no idea of her upbringing, but feel that whatever hatred led to the death of Caylee and whatever patterns of abuse exist in the Anthony family, will only be deepened by the public cry for vengeance. It’s far better to break the cycle of dysfunction with love and forgiveness than perpetuate it with more hate. Follow the example of Wade Watts that no one in the world could do enough to make you hate them. Love the haters. Love the perpetrators, and break the cycle of hatred.
Then with a heart full of love and forgiveness, get actively involved in making all children safer in the world. One of the few productive things that I saw come out of this awful situation is the push for “Caylee’s Law” that would make it a federal offense not to report a missing child in a timely manner.
If Caylee’s young life can have an enduring legacy it will be actions that make other children safer. Lets call it Caylee’s Legacy of Love. We ALL need to be involved in this legacy, by busting some myths and recognizing that its family members who most often commit horrible abuse and not strangers. Check out this page for solid information about prevention of child abuse. If you suspect child abuse, be proactive. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline site gives warning signs and advice on what to do. The national hotline number in America is 1-800-4 A CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
Break the cycle of violence from the inside out. I kept a letter I read in a paper in New Zealand many years ago. It has amazing inspiration for all of us to break cycles of violence.
By the time I was 10 I knew my family was not like any other because my dad was a violent, abusive man, mainly when he had been drinking. By the time I was 14 I got thrown out of school, by 15 I was in trouble with the police. I was sullen, sometimes violent, angry and frightened. After a short stay in a woman’s hostel at 16, I realised this was a path I didn’t want to follow. Something within me changed; I didn’t want to remain angry for the rest of my life or blame other people or society for the way I felt. It was up to me to make the change. I went on to learn a trade, run my own business, get married and have a beautiful daughter. Unfortunately I was the only one in my family who broke the pattern of violence. It has been lonely, is sometimes still scary and yes the anger is still there. But I did learn that you can turn the anger into something positive. It can give you determination to make changes. (NZ Herald, 31 August 2002)
Change is always possible. It takes courage, but hatred can always be rerouted to love.
No thought or action is without consequences. While it seems difficult to get beyond the media and public frenzy of hate towards Casey Anthony, we have the power to offer something transformative. The world needs our positive energy, compassion and love. Just as anger attracts more anger, the same is true with loving energy. Love is stronger than hate. This is another incredible opportunity to rise above hatred and raise the energy level of humanity and do it one person at a time.
I will not participate in any form of hatred or judgment. I send positive energy to victims and perpetrators of violence. Please join me. As more people find the strength to do this, the cycle of violence and revenge will start to be broken which will make space for greater peace on earth.