Monday, February 06, 2012

The face of human evil

There are several good reasons why I rarely discuss news or talk explicitly about religion on this blog. I know that discussions of current events stay fresh about as long as an order of sashimi, and although I have very definite religious beliefs, I've largely held off sharing some of the things that are closest to my heart.

But there are times when I've got to say what must be said. This is one of those times.

Image of Josh Powell taken from CBS News
I'm not going to rehash the entire saga of the Powell family, nor the increasingly bizarre turns the story has taken since Susan Powell first went missing in 2009. But the most recent news -- that her husband Josh Powell, the only person of interest in the case, appears to have killed both himself and his two young sons in a horrifying act of self-immolation on Sunday -- needs to be addressed.

Police are still gathering evidence to prove that the three bodies found inside the charred remains of the house in Graham are indeed Powell and his boys Charlie and Braden, but I'm going to go wayyy out on a limb here and assume that's precisely what they'll find. At this point, any lingering questions anyone might have about Josh Powell's involvement in his wife's disappearance/death should be blown away in the wake of his own fiery destruction. Someone who carefully planned this act down to the small details, even taking the time to donate his sons' toys to charity days before he killed them and himself, is someone who almost certainly has prior job experience in the skill of taking life.

A social worker who was supposed to supervise Powell's visit with his sons said that once the boys, ages 7 and 5, had entered the house, Powell pushed her away, shut the door in her face and locked her out. She called her supervisors to report what had happened and stated that she could smell gas -- and then the house exploded.

Before the explosion and fire took place, Powell sent a three-word email to his lawyer: "I'm sorry. Goodbye."

At this point you cannot convince me that Josh Powell didn't know precisely what he was doing. You may say there is evidence to suggest that he was brought up by a pedophile, but that is merely a contributing factor to his behavior; it doesn't explain or justify anything he did. No one can justify his actions by saying he was a sick man; the only time sickness is a valid excuse is when the sick person is trying to get better, and there is no indication Josh Powell was making any attempt to get rid of the evil festering inside him like a cancer. And yes, I feel perfectly justified in calling this an act of evil. A man who kills his own wife and dumps her body, gives the police a ludicrous alibi, moves out of state to avoid the investigation, then deliberately destroys his sons and himself after he loses custody of his children -- if you can't call these actions evil, can you identify anything at all as evil?

Events like this also cement in my mind a fierce need for an afterlife and a God of justice and rational action. If there were no such God and no afterlife -- no paradise or prison, no heaven or hell -- there would be no chance for justice to be served in cases like this one. Powell would never pay for any of the cruel and murderous acts he accomplished, and the lives of his two innocent sons would be short, meaningless and punctuated by an excruciating fiery death. Could you live with that kind of perpetual injustice? Because I can't. I need to take consolation from the belief that when unpunished and unpunishable acts of injustice take place in this world, there is a promise of perfect justice to be meted out in a world beyond this. I need to have the faith that those two young boys and their missing mother are together in a place of light, and that the man who callously destroyed their lives and devastated their families is wretchedly alone in a place of darkness. I don't demand the impossible -- that this life always be fair -- as long as my heart holds the understanding that eventually, all will be dealt with fairly and justly. You may call that a crutch if you like, but it's a crutch that keeps my heart from becoming bitter and furious in the face of so much human evil. Crutches, after all, help us heal.


MarieC said...

Well-said, Sooz! You articulated everything I've been thinking ever since I heard the news of this unbelievable act of cowardice.

Soozcat said...

Thanks, Marie.

The more I read about this case, the worse it gets. I don't understand how a person could do those things to any child, let alone his own sons. What puts you into that mental state, that hacking at your children with a hatchet and then setting the house afire seems like a good plan?