Saturday, December 29, 2007

Everybody Loved Him

Last night while listening to the news on the radio, I heard a story about yet another murder, which included an interview with a friend of the victim. This person described the victim as someone who had a great sense of humor who made people laugh and that "everybody loved him".

As I listened, I thought of how nearly these exact words are used almost every time there's a story about someone who was murdered or simply died suddenly at a young age. The victim is, almost without exception, a blessing and a joy to everyone they ever met.

A listener taking such reports at face value would be led to believe that humorless, misanthropic people are never murdered, nor do they ever die before their time. It's the "Only the Good Die Young" syndrome.

There's also a second, underlying assumption going on. Some people seem to assume that if the person had been anything less than a saint that "everybody loved", then that person somehow deserved to be murdered, so they rush in to assure everyone that the victim was a spotless paragon of virtue.

This brings to mind one prominent murder that happened during my years on the police force. The victim was a well-to-do older widow, who had been murdered by a man she'd been keeping company with. The media had portrayed her in the typical fashion as a wonderful, generous woman whom everyone in the community adored.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. In reality, she was a slumlord whom we'd dealt with several times in disputes with her hapless tenants. She was a mean, unpleasant harridan of a woman about whom few people had anything good to say.

Nevertheless, she didn't deserve to die in the violent way she did. Her character and esteem in the community or lack thereof had nothing to do with her right to remain alive until she died of natural causes. Her death was a tragedy, regardless of her personality or popularity.


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