My heart is hurting tonight.
Today, the son of one of my oldest friends was sentenced for a crime that he committed.
The sentence, while harsh, is fair. He screwed up. He screwed up in a really big, really bad way. There's no getting around that. He admitted it. He has apologized and is remorseful, but that doesn't change anything.
I met this young man several years ago. I was impressed with his attitude, his demeanor, his respect that he showed to those around him.
But sometime after that, he made mistakes. There is no excuse for what he did.
I have watched the reports about him in the media. Most of them have been neutral. Fact-based. Emotionless. This happened, and then this happened, and he did this, and then this.
But that's where the neutrality ended. Hiding behind their monitors, the keyboard warriors struck out at this young man and his family. His family, who had nothing to do with the crimes committed, was attacked.
His mother - my friend - was called every name in the book. She was blamed for his wrongdoings, as though she was the one egging him on to commit the crimes. The comments left by anonymous people turned my stomach. People suggested that his parents were to blame, or that they somehow encouraged this kind of behavior from him, or worse yet - that they should be punished for what he did.
Honestly, in the past, I never really thought about the families of criminals. They were generally nameless beings, someone who floated around in the background at the trials or tried desperately to hide from the barrage of video cameras.
But I know this mother. I've known her for close to 30 years. I remember the letters that she wrote to me when she was in the service, the ones telling me that she was pregnant, and the ones including baby pictures of her boys. We lost touch for a while, but through the miracle of social media we reconnected and I loved seeing the pictures that she posted of her sons. The love she has for them is incredible.
Somehow, she has managed to hold her head up high through all of this. She has shown such an amazing amount of strength and courage despite what people have said. I don't know how she manages to do it.
I do know that she doesn't deserve the nasty names.
She doesn't deserve the hatred.
No one has the right to threaten her or her family.
She shouldn't be judged based on his actions.
She didn't commit the crimes.
She is already being punished. She has had to watch her child make mistakes and suffer the severe consequences for his actions. She questions herself as to what she could have done differently or how she could have prevented this, knowing full well that despite what anyone else thinks, she did her best.
It is not her fault. She is not to blame.
The victims of the crimes are not always the only victims.