Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Sympathy for a foolish young man
Yesterday, when I was out walking, I saw a shrine at the intersection of SE 43rd Avenue and Hawthorne Boulevard.
A teenage pedestrian was hit and killed last Friday afternoon by a car speeding down the center turn lane, westbound, on Hawthorne. Eyewitnesses estimate that the vehicle was traveling upwards of 60 miles per hour in an area rife with pedestrians. The driver of the car, Abdulrahman Noorah, faces manslaughter and other charges. (You can read about it here.)
A young life ended and a grieving family left to pick up the pieces of their shattered existence. A terrible tragedy that will leave the survivors, including the victim's mother who saw the event firsthand, forever scarred.
The shrine, decked with flowers and placards posing impossible questions ("Is your convenience worth a death?"), reminded me of the fragility of life, of how everything can change in the blink of an eye.
And while we all grieve for the victimized family, is it impertinent of me to suggest that there might be another party deserving of sympathy?
I mean the perpetrator.
I mean Abdulrahman Noorah.
Almost certainly, he will go to prison. He is forever cast a villain and outcast.
If he is human enough to care (and the sight of him on the local news, weeping at his arraignment, convinces me that he is), he faces an impossible karmic debt. Even were he to dedicate his life to winning redemption, the odds are long. He can never redress the hurt he has inflicted on his victims. One moment of impetuousness and impatience (Hawthorne Boulevard is interminably congested on Friday afternoons) invoked his doom.
It's a terrible fate, made all the more terrible by the fact that it is utterly just. By our human reckoning, Noorah deserves opprobrium.
But here's the thing. I don't believe he meant to harm anyone with his reckless behavior. Rather, I see him as a foolish young man who made an astoundingly bad decision. When I recall my own youth, enraptured, as I was, with myself, with my priorities, with my desires, I can see how easily I might have shared his fate.
At 20 years of age, Noorah is saddled with a debt for which he must atone. Years from now, he will undoubtedly remember his foolish decision last Friday, and wish with all his being that he had had more wisdom in that fateful moment. To live one's life like that would be an unspeakable horror.
I hope my words won't be interpreted as lacking in sympathy for the victim and her family. But I can't help but remember those times in my life where my own bad decisions have earned me the condemnation of the people around me. It's a lonely and terrible place to be. And it is where Noorah has placed himself, irretrievably, for the rest of his days.