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What do we make of situations like this?


Mark Anthony Stroman is a Texas man who shot several people he believed were Muslims just after 9/11. He murdered two (an Indian Hindi and a Pakistani Muslim), and tried to kill a Bangladeshi Muslim as well. That third man, Rais Bhuiyan has been pleading for a stop to Mr. Stroman's execution, which another article says is scheduled for today.

I'm not talking about the execution, really. Or even the fact that he still seems to Not Get It (see comments about how not all Muslims are evil, for example). What struck me was the interview responses he gave. See, Mr. Stroman was sent a letter and provided written responses which the NY Times printed. Here is him responding to what he thinks of Mr. Bhuiyan's efforts:

Yes, Mr Rais Bhuiyan, what an inspiring soul...for him to come forward after what ive done speaks Volume’s...and has really Touched My heart and the heart of Many others World Wide...Especially since for the last 10 years all we have heard about is How Evil the Islamic faith Can be...its proof that all are Not bad nor Evil.

I'll be honest, I found myself cringing as I read that paragraph and others like it - and not because of the sentiment expressed in that last sentence. The random capitalization, the overuse of ellipses, the apostrophe use... I found myself wondering whether the word "literate" could truly be applied to him. And that's not a swipe; it's tragic. Here is a man offered a national spotlight at the very end of his life, facing the exact day he knows he'll die, but he cannot express his ideas or even his outrage or angst in a way that communicates those ideas to others. I struggle to see anything but a killer and a racist lacking all education. And I know no person can be boiled down so simply.

This is the purpose of education: to give people the tools needed to express what they think and feel. It is in a way a human right. I know it's hard to work up pity for hate crimes, but the fact that Mr. Stroman can't offer something better than this when he has several days to work on it and knows it's going in a major newspaper - or maybe that he doesn't feel better is expected of him? - that's truly pitiable.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 21st, 2011 01:20 am (UTC)
I had forgotten about this case until today, when I heard an interview with Mr. Bhuiyan. It is so seldom that we hear of a victim (or victim's family) who pleads for mercy for the one who wronged him/them. Yet it does happen sometimes.

I wonder where that extraordinary capacity for mercy comes from? Even many good people find it hard to be merciful to murderers, feeling that somehow they have forfeited that right to mercy. Yet we are still admonished to do so in a number of faiths. And there are those people who can do so, like Mr. Bhuiyan. I always wonder if I'd be capable of that kind of mercy. I'd like to think I could, and yet I don't know.

And you are quite right: the shooter's efforts to express himself is sadly lacking. Perhaps if he had had the education and the tools to express himself more easily, he might not have felt compelled to use violence to show his feelings in the first place.

Jul. 21st, 2011 01:30 am (UTC)
I'm too tired to be particularly eloquent, so I'll just go on record as saying that I agree with all of this. And Mr. Bhuiyan is a far better man than I.

I think I can comprehend the way some people are able or feel the need to forgive the people who have perpetrated crimes against them-- I've heard this, for instance, from the families of murder victims-- that they needed to forgive the criminal because otherwise their rage would break them down and they want to be free of that. But to forgive someone as a means of coping with your own grief and rage is still quite different from actively campaigning for mercy on behalf of the killer. Perhaps (perhaps!) I would be capable of the forgiveness, but I would not have the capacity to seek mercy for them.
Jul. 21st, 2011 06:16 pm (UTC)
I really didn't mean to be judgmental about his lack of education. As I just said to Alex, this doesn't make him a bad or inferior person. And education doesn't prevent violence (Ted Kaczynski was a Harvard alum, and earned a PhD in math from the University of Michigan), but this seems like a crime of frustration more than anything else. And education can give an outlet for that frustration. In my experience, at least.

Really, I feel very sorry for him because when I read his words I see a man who had something important taken from him. Or denied to him, I guess. He also seems capable of reflection - the fact that he was able to see that his first ideas about Muslim were mistaken, or at least misapplied. The fact that he died without that coming through as clearly as it might have, the educator in me finds it a bit sad.
Jul. 21st, 2011 06:53 pm (UTC)
I didn't find your remarks to be judgemental. In general the lack of a good education is not the fault of the person who lacks it-- it is usually the fault of a system that failed to convey it. Not always, but more often than not.

And I do think that in this crime of frustration, being able to better express his feelings might have helped.

On the other hand, it might not have. Some people (as you note) see violence as the best way of expressing themselves regardless.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 21st, 2011 04:58 pm (UTC)
No, I wouldn't say that, and I don't think I was saying that. But there's a world of difference between "at the standard of A level or graduate English" and the bit I quoted. If he had messed up a homonym or too or omitted an Oxford comma, I might have noticed (it's the beta-reader in me) but I certainly wouldn't thought less of him. But the kind of mistakes he were making were much more fundamental than that. The random capitalization seemed like he just didn't care enough about the situation, and the ellipses made his sentences seem fragmented and unorganized.

That sounds so judgmental given that the man just died (Mr. Bhuiyan's plea was unsuccessful, unfortunately.) And I think he actually is worthy of the respect that all humans are due. But there's a big difference between how someone is perceived and what they actually deserve. Some mistakes are understandable, but if you can't even write something that basically resembles proper grammar I find myself wondering why your thought deserves my attention. Were you just so rushed that you didn't put the time to write it properly? Or are you incapable of doing so? It's a bit like applying for a job on wall street wearing jeans and tennis shoes - especially considering the circumstances these sentences were written for.

None of that makes him a bad person. Or unintelligent for that matter. It just gets in the way of his thoughts showing through, and people taking him seriously.
Jul. 21st, 2011 09:23 pm (UTC)
I don't think I find the grammatical and punctuation errors frustrating in themselves - I can follow well enough what he was saying, as such - but because, as someone who "doesn't know what I think till I see what I say", I suspect that someone who can't put what they think into words very coherently can't, in fact, think very coherently. That's my bias in favour of verbal intelligence over other forms showing, perhaps.

But I can't help feeling that someone who had been served better by the education system might have had a better understanding that, for example, "How Evil the Islamic faith Can be" had to be a huge oversimplification of a very complicated global political and cultural situation... or even, more simply, that not everyone whose ethnic roots are in the Indian subcontinent is a Muslim. (Or vice versa.)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )



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