law, politics, rants, Virginia

Virginia… turning into a place I don’t recognize! And that’s not a bad thing!

Yesterday, as the evening was turning into nighttime, a friend of mine shared a Washington Post article about my beloved home state of Virginia making a couple of very noteworthy changes to the law. The first change is that the legislature voted to ABOLISH the death penalty! That is HUGE news. Virginia has a history of being a very pro death penalty state. And now, it’s joining more progressive states that have done away with the barbaric practice.

I distinctly remember in twelfth grade, visiting the Virginia State Penitentiary in Richmond, just months before it was demolished. My government teacher arranged this field trip, which allowed us a tour of the prison, as well as a visit to what was death row. We saw the electric chair, and some of my classmates even sat on it. I remember touching it, feeling the hard wood and thinking about all of the men who had died sitting there. Sadly, a lot of people were laughing… including teachers. At the time, I didn’t consider the gravity of it. I was still pretty conservative and black and white in my thinking in those days. It kind of gives me chills, now.

The other change is that the legislature has voted to legalize marijuana. Again… big news! Marijuana is a legitimately useful drug for many people with medical conditions. It’s also potentially fun for some folks. While some people have issues with weed consumption, marijuana is, by and large, less harmful than either tobacco or alcohol are. Virginia is a big time tobacco producing state, so there’s a lot of money tied up in tobacco. But tobacco is not that good for anything but killing people. Marijuana, by contrast, may not be healthy to smoke, but does help improve symptoms in many medical conditions– everything from glaucoma to seizure disorders to multiple sclerosis to cancer. I have seen, with my own eyes, how CBD oil has helped my dogs who have had mast cell cancer. There’s no THC in CBD oil, so there’s no high. There’s only the benefits that come from the oil.

I enjoy marijuana. I have only had it a few times, and each of those times took place during a 2015 visit to The Netherlands. I probably wouldn’t mind using it for recreational purposes, but I am most excited that it will be used for medical purposes. That will help a lot of people. What’s more, potheads are usually much less violent than alcoholics are.

I looked at a few comments about these two revelations this morning. Most of the readers were very enthusiastic about them. One guy was upset about doing away with the death penalty, claiming that taxpayers shouldn’t be saddled with supporting convicted killers for life. I was a bit flabbergasted by that comment. Many people are under the mistaken impression that the death penalty is somehow a money saver. It’s not.

Consider this. A person who is sentenced to death is going to get an automatic appeal. Since a lot of the people who end up on death row are also unable to pay for their own legal defense, taxpayers end up paying for that, as well as the associated court costs. Death penalty cases often require more attorneys, some of whom have special training for death penalty cases. Attorneys cost money.

Also consider that death penalty cases usually involve DNA testing, which isn’t cheap. The DNA testing is necessary, since we want to make sure the right person is being held accountable, especially since innocent people have been executed or just put on death row in the past.

A person who is on death row also requires more security and special housing. That also costs taxpayers money. And consider that it often takes many years for death sentences to be carried out. I’m not sorry about that, since there have been recent cases of people being exonerated due to the evolution of DNA and other scientific testing. Imagine being sentenced to death in 1989 and being exonerated decades later. That HAS happened.

In the 80s, we thought we had state of the art technology. Obviously, we didn’t. Meanwhile, some poor person has been languishing on death row in prison for many years. How does one apologize for a mistake like that? Often, the wrongly convicted person sues and wins a settlement, which also costs taxpayers money. I don’t think they’re wrong to sue, either. I would sure want to, if I’d spent decades rotting in prison, in fear for my life, for a crime I didn’t commit. All too often, prosecutors are focused on conviction rather than actual justice. It’s fine to want to win a case, but it’s crucial to make sure the right person faces justice, particularly when it involves an execution.

The bottom line is, I only think the death penalty is appropriate in cases in which there is absolutely NO DOUBT of the accused’s guilt, no doubt that the person would kill again, and public safety is definitely at risk. Most death penalty cases don’t fit that criteria. So I’m glad to see that Virginia is going to abolish the death penalty… at least until someone comes along and decides it needs to be reinstated. But hopefully, that will never happen.

I noticed another person commenting about how Virginia now isn’t a “Southern” state, but a “Mid-Atlantic” state. Or, really, what he said in very excited, hyperbolic terms is that we should stop referring to Virginia as part of the South. He doesn’t want Virginia to be lumped in with the Carolinas or Tennessee or Kentucky, mainly because Virginia went from red to blue.

I kind of bristle when people say that. I am a southerner, and I was born and raised in Virginia. I don’t think that has anything to do with a person’s political leanings. A person can be southern and not be a Trump supporting, racist, sexist, redneck. The southern United States has an ugly past. Virginia was very much in the thick of it. Trying to whitewash or deny that past isn’t useful. Moreover, not everything about the South sucks. I, for one, miss southern cuisine very much… and southern accents, which I hear every time my mom speaks. I used to hear it from my dad, too. And I have read some thought provoking, imaginative books by southern writers, who have a way with words… and have listened to great music inspired by the South. Being southern isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

No, Virginia is not like Mississippi or Alabama or Georgia (which has also turned blue, though perhaps temporarily). I’ve been to all of those places… and there are wonderful things about each of them. And they’re all going to have the history of the Confederacy in common forevermore. Changing and denying Virginia’s culture and whitewashing its history isn’t going to change its past. Why not let Virginia stay southern while cheering on its progression into the 21st century? Why not recognize that there are some proud southerners who are not like the worst southern stereotypes?

It seems to me that turning “southern” into a dirty or pejorative word is kind of an antithesis to progression, isn’t it? Don’t progressives like to embrace inclusiveness? Aren’t we always preaching about tolerance? Isn’t it a sin to dismiss an entire region and culture based on the bad actions of a few? And aren’t there racists and backwards people everywhere? I mean, if a person doesn’t want to be considered southern because he or she is from Virginia, that’s their right. But I am not unhappy to be a southerner. I’m a southerner who doesn’t embrace the backwards and toxic history of my origins. That’s a good thing, right? I don’t have to divorce my heritage to be able to do that… although if I’m being technical, I’m not really American, either. I’m a European who happened to be born in the South. But that’s a topic for another day.

Anyway… kudos to Virginia. Maybe, if we ever get back to the United States, we will move back to the place that will always be my home.

Today’s featured photo is of glorious Goshen Pass near Lexington, Virginia. I took that photo during my latest trip “home”, in November 2014.

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law

Yes, I’m pro choice. I’m also against the death penalty. They’re completely different issues.

Yesterday, after I wrote about Lisa Montgomery, I shared a link to the post on Facebook. A pro-life friend of mine was surprised that I’d be anti-death penalty. She commented that it was a very “pro-life” stance. Although she didn’t mention it, I have a feeling she was surprised I’d be against the death penalty because I also support a woman’s right to choose whether or not she wants to continue a pregnancy. But she should not have been surprised. I think there’s a huge difference between someone waiting to be executed by the government and a person deciding to terminate a pregnancy for whatever reason.

I’ve actually written several times about this phenomenon of people conflating a person’s views on abortion with their views on capital punishment. I know most of my friends are smart enough to know that there’s a big difference between killing a person who has already been born and has a concept of life and death, and terminating a pregnancy, especially in the earliest period of gestation.

In my 48 years of life, I have yet to meet a single person who remembers what life was like in the womb. As near as I can tell, developing fetuses are basically unconscious until they’re born. No one I know remembers the process of being born, or even their earliest days after being born. That does NOT mean I think it’s okay to kill babies that have been born, nor does it mean I think late term abortions are appropriate in every situation. Fortunately, the data suggest that the vast majority of late term abortions are done in dire medical situations that involve the potential death of the mother or the inevitable death of the fetus. They are also exceedingly rare.

Only about 1.3% of abortions in the United States are done after the 21st week of gestation; they cost a lot, typically aren’t covered by health insurance, and there is a huge stigma attached to them. Personally, I think people should have a lot more compassion for women who have late term abortions. They are usually losing babies that they wanted, typically due to a catastrophic medical issue that, frankly, is no one else’s business. Most abortions done for less tragic reasons happen much earlier in a pregnancy. And that is how it should be. Abortions are always going to happen. Laws intended to restrict them do nothing more than force women to wait longer or cause them to seek alternative arrangements that may be unsafe.

I have a lot of reasons for not liking capital punishment. The main issue I have with the death penalty is that, in so many cases, there’s a chance (no matter how small) that the person being condemned is actually innocent. If there is even the remotest chance that a person is innocent, I don’t believe the government has any business putting them to death. To this point, I’ve heard many people say that we’ve gotten “very good” at determining guilt thanks to DNA testing and what not. I hear that… however, I’m sure that people in the 70s and 80s were sure they had the most advanced technology, too. And back then, they did– but as years passed, the technology advanced, and there have been recent cases of people who were put on death row being exonerated.

How does one apologize for a mistake like that? If they’re lucky, the innocent might get released from prison or at least put in a much less oppressive prison environment. If they’re not lucky, they’ll be executed. What do we say when that happens? “Oops? My bad!”

Another reason I don’t like the death penalty is because not only is it very expensive to implement, but it tends to give criminals a platform. Aside from that, many of the cases involving capital punishment are politically motivated. Some lawyer, judge, or politician wants to make a name for themselves, so they use a “tough on crime” stance to further their own careers. That’s not fair.

I know many people will ask, “What about the victims?” And I agree, the vast majority of murder cases are absolutely infuriating. I remember getting extremely wound up a few years ago over a case in North Carolina involving an elderly pastor and his wife, who was a college professor. Thieves broke into their home, robbed and beat the elderly couple, forced the wife to go to the bank and withdraw more money, then brought her back to the house. The pastor and his wife were tied up, then the criminals set their home on fire and left them to die. The pastor was able to escape, but his beloved wife perished. I was really angry about that case and I would not shed a tear if the men involved were executed. However, I also wouldn’t shed a tear if they spent the rest of their natural lives locked in a cell.

I believe that capital punishment damages more people than the person who is condemned. Most condemned criminals have families who will also suffer. There are also people involved in the actual process of executing prisoners who, no doubt, grapple with what they’re doing. Some of them don’t have a problem with executions, although I would submit that people who are that callous probably shouldn’t be involved with administering justice. I would hope that civilized people would want to see justice tempered with mercy.

And finally… regarding Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row. I wrote about her yesterday. Someone commented that maybe it would be kinder to execute her, given her lifetime of mental illness, anguish, and pain. I was a bit taken aback by that comment. It’s one thing to administer a mercy killing on someone in great pain who asks for help dying. We all have to face eventual death, and sometimes it really is a kindness to help people die with grace and dignity. It’s quite another to observe the life of another person who has already been born and assume it would be kinder to kill them because you’ve judged their lives to be worthless. That’s getting a bit close to Nazi territory for me.

So– regarding abortion– I think it should stay safe and legal. I think women who are considering them should be encouraged to have them as early in a pregnancy as possible. That’s because developing fetuses are a part of their mother until they are born, and it’s her body, her life and health on the line, and her name on all of the medical bills. And I don’t think a person’s religious beliefs gives them the right to force another person to give birth.

Regarding capital punishment– I believe a person who is already born and has a concept of life and death is not the same as a developing fetus, who is unaware of what life and death are. We should never execute anyone unless there is absolutely zero doubt of their guilt and it’s a matter of public safety, rather than advancing someone’s political career or getting revenge.

So that’s how I can be “pro-life” and “anti death penalty”.

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true crime

Executing Lisa Montgomery… perhaps one of Trump’s last “achievements”.

It’s now abundantly clear that Donald Trump is soon about to be a president of the past. But he’s still trying to leave an orange skid mark on our lives or, in some cases, our deaths. Take death row inmate, Lisa Montgomery, for instance. She is currently the only woman on federal death row. In 2007, Montgomery was convicted of strangling pregnant Bobbie Jo Stinnett, cutting out Stinnett’s fetus, and kidnapping the baby, who survived the attack unharmed.

Montgomery’s execution date was recently announced. She currently has a date with the federal execution chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana on December 8, 2020. Montgomery’s official death date was announced last month, giving her just a few weeks to prepare. Normally, prisoners on federal death row get about four months notice before they meet the executioner. Montgomery’s two public defender lawyers are currently both bedridden with COVID-19. They seek to delay Ms. Montgomery’s execution on those grounds.

If Montgomery is executed next month, she will be the first woman in 70 years to be executed by the feds. Trump probably sees that as a feather in his cap– or, perhaps it’s Attorney General William P. Barr who is so eager to see Montgomery killed by the government. Since July 2020, Barr has reinstated federal executions, which had been on a 17 year hiatus. Consequently, seven federal inmates have been executed since then. Lisa Montgomery would be the ninth federal inmate to be put to death this year. President-Elect Joe Biden has vowed to end the federal death penalty.

I’m not a fan of the death penalty. I won’t say it’s never appropriate– there are some cases in which executions should be done in the name of public safety. For instance, I fully believe that Timothy McVeigh, mastermind of the Oklahoma City Bombing, would have killed again if given the chance. I also believe that the DC Sniper, John Allen Muhammad would have killed again. In their cases, I think the death penalty was justifiable. However, I don’t think most death penalty cases are like that. I mostly think the death penalty should be abolished in the United States, as it has been in all of the most civilized countries around the world. But I especially think it’s wrong in Lisa Montgomery’s situation.

Lisa Montgomery is 52 years old and the mother of four children she had with her stepbrother, whom she married when she was 18 years old. She suffers from extreme mental illness. She had a mental illness when she attacked Bobbie Jo Stinnett. Montgomery told her husband that she was pregnant, but she’d been faking it. In fact, Montgomery, who was 36 years old at the time of the murder, had undergone surgery that rendered her unable to have more children before she’d ever met her husband. So when it came time to produce a baby, she determined the only thing she could do was resort to murder and kidnapping. Of course she was absolutely wrong to do what she did. She definitely belongs in prison. But there are mitigating circumstances in Lisa Montgomery’s case.

Lisa Montgomery has severe mental illness brought on by many years of childhood sexual abuse. Both of Montgomery’s parents were alcoholics, and her mother drank heavily during her pregnancy. Montgomery’s older half sister, Diane Mattingly, a product of an earlier relationship of their father’s, now works as a state employee in Kentucky. She has testified that Lisa Montgomery’s mother was extremely abusive to both girls and would beat them constantly. Mattingly has claimed that Montgomery’s mother would psychologically terrorize the girls, and they got no help from their father, who was in the military and gone for long periods of time. While their father was gone, Montgomery’s mother would bring men home. Sometimes, they would have violent fights in front of the girls. On occasion, the girls would be left with male babysitters who would sometimes rape Mattingly in front of Montgomery.

When Mattingly was about eight years old, her father and Montgomery’s mother separated. Mattingly was removed from the home by child protective services. For some reason, Montgomery was left behind. While Mattingly ended up being placed with loving foster parents who taught her self-worth and helped her recover her dignity, Montgomery was left in a cesspool of violence and depravity. There was no one there to protect her. Diane Mattingly was able to recover from her horrifying childhood because she had nurturing from kind adults who showed her a different way to live. Her sister, Lisa Montgomery, never had that.

After Mattingly left the home, Lisa Montgomery’s mother remarried and had three more children. Her next husband was a violent man who regularly beat the children and psychologically tortured them. He would force them to strip naked and then whip them. The family also moved a lot; by the time Montgomery was a teenager, she’d moved sixteen times. It was hard for her to form connections to other people who could have helped her escape her nightmarish home. But when she did tell people she was being molested– including her cousin, who was a deputy sheriff– no one did anything to help her. In fact, her stepfather used to allow her to be used as payment for services rendered when plumbers or electricians would fix things in the house. When her mother finally divorced her second husband, she told the court that she’d walked in on her husband raping her daughter. She was admonished by the court for not reporting the crime, but no one did anything about the abuse. Her stepfather was never charged. And according to a therapist who worked with Montgomery briefly during her mother’s divorce, Montgomery was left with the idea that it was her fault she’d been repeatedly raped.

Montgomery is an incest survivor who was also a victim of sex trafficking. She has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic features, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, temporal lobe epilepsy, and cerebellar dysfunction. There’s also evidence that Montgomery is genetically predisposed to mental illness, and the abuse she suffered during her childhood made that predisposition much worse than it might have otherwise been. Mental health experts assigned to her case have concluded that Montgomery was suffering from psychosis when she committed her crime. And finally, once Montgomery was appropriately treated for her mental illness, she became deeply remorseful.

Although Lisa Montgomery is clearly responsible for killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett in a truly horrific manner, it’s also clear that she won’t kill again. I would not put her in the same class as someone like Timothy McVeigh or John Allen Muhammad or Ted Bundy. I don’t believe she killed Bobbie Jo Stinnett because she got off on killing people. I believe she was out of her mind. And based on what I’ve read about her history, I certainly can’t blame her for being out of her mind.

I think Lisa Montgomery’s execution date has been settled so quickly because Trump is about to leave office and it’s clear that a lot of Americans are changing their opinions about capital punishment. Some people will always be in favor of taking an eye for an eye, and want to see Lisa Montgomery put to death. Frankly, I think a lot of people enjoy the spectacle of the death penalty. But the larger portion of Americans are finding capital punishment barbaric and repugnant, and wouldn’t have a problem with seeing it go away for good.

Lisa Montgomery may not even know she’s about to die. Her mental state is so poor that she’s not very lucid. She spends her days doing needlepoint while her lawyers fight to try to save her life. She has exhausted her appeals to stay her execution. She’s had a hellish life so far. No, she should not be excused for her crimes, but the circumstances in her case are so absolutely terrible that I think she should be granted the chance to have her sentence commuted to life in prison. It’s not ethical to execute someone as mentally ill as Montgomery is. But then, I don’t think it’s ethical to execute most people on death row. I truly believe it’s a punishment that should be reserved for the most extreme cases that involve many people’s deaths.

Unfortunately, I think it’s likely that Ms. Montgomery will be put to death next month. She’s the victim of an administration that doesn’t care about anyone, but especially people like her. Lisa Montgomery’s life has been incredibly tragic and there was no one there to protect her when she needed it the most. The system failed her spectacularly, and now it will be responsible for her death.

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obits, true crime

RIP Mary Kay…

I woke up to the news that Mary Kay Letourneau passed away on July 6th. She’d been suffering from colon cancer and spent the last month in hospice care. Her ex husband, Vili Fualaau, was at her side taking care of her. This would not seem like such a strange thing, except that Mary Kay Letourneau did seven years in prison for raping Vili when he was almost 13 years old. She’d been his teacher in both the second and sixth grades. Although Mary Kay Letourneau was regarded as an excellent teacher who, to my knowledge, was not a habitual sexual abuser, for some reason she couldn’t resist Vili Fualaau. It cost her everything, including her freedom and access to her four children from her first marriage.

Mary Kay Letourneau also had two children with Vili. They were married in 2005 and split up in 2017, finally divorcing in 2019. I remember reading that the split was mostly because Vili wanted to start a marijuana farm and couldn’t do so legally as long as he was married to a felon. In spite of their divorce, he was with Mary Kay until the end, even though she was technically his rapist.

Mary Kay Letourneau’s story was certainly unusual. In the late 1990s, she was a fixture in the tabloids. Lots of people had, and still have, very strong opinions about her. Just this morning, there’s a thread on RfM about Mary Kay Letourneau’s passing. A couple of posters are steadfastly taking people to task for expressing sadness that Mary Kay died. I am one of those they’re judging. They claim I’m a “rape apologist” because I expressed condolences. Incidentally, I remember a few months ago, someone else on RfM implying that I’m a racist because I described the people who punctured our tire in France as “swarthy”.

The person who implied I’m a racist is also among those claiming that anyone who empathizes with Mary Kay Letourneau is a “rape apologist”. I guess this puts me right down there with Donald Trump. Actually, I think these folks, both of whom are very intelligent, but sometimes quite rigid and argumentative, are guilty of extreme black and white thinking. And they seem just fine with telling other people how and what they should think, too. I’ve learned that there’s no point in having discussions with people of that ilk because it goes nowhere. Their minds are made up, and they simply aren’t willing to consider other viewpoints.

I often get into trouble with people because, for the most part, I try not to engage in black and white thinking, even when it comes to what should be done with rapists, child molesters, and murderers. Perhaps it’s because of my social work training, although maybe if I had actually had to do a lot of work with victims, that “open-mindedness” might have gone out the window. I see most people as capable of being and doing good things, even if they’ve committed a heinous crime. I like to hope that most people are redeemable on some level, even if I know some of them aren’t.

Anyway, my thinking about this case is what it is. I don’t tend to think of most people as all good or all bad. For instance, I despise Bill’s ex wife, but even she has her redeeming qualities if I stop and think about it for a moment. She could have been much worse than she was, although she was certainly bad enough. She did some really terrible things to people– to include rape. But I can still think of worse people in the world. I also realize that whatever I think of her, she still has loved ones who wouldn’t want to see her dead. Or, I assume she does, anyway.

I had a social work professor who did a lot of work in prisons with domestic abusers and child molesters. While that work is certainly considered distasteful to a lot of people, it’s very necessary, just as defense attorneys are necessary to advocate for people who are accused of crimes. My professor explained what it was like to work with pedophiles and child molesters (there is a difference). I remember thinking how difficult it must have been for him to work with that population, but I later came to realize that working with them was a kindness. He provided a much needed service for the offenders, but also for anyone who has to deal with the offenders, including their families and other incarcerated people.

A person can be a pedophile, but not a child molester. A pedophile is someone who is sexually attracted to children, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have molested children. It could be that they’re just attracted to them and have fantasies. A child molester molests children, but may or may not find them sexually attractive.

Many people think that someone who victimizes children should simply be executed. I can understand why people feel that way. Children are innocent and powerless, and they are never in a position of strength over adults who victimize them. I agree that people who harm children must be punished and prevented from harming other children. However, many people also have issues with the death penalty. Although I grew up being all for executing criminals, my mind changed as I came of age and saw the death penalty unfairly administered. I read horrifying accounts of innocent people being exonerated, sometimes after they had already been put to death. So now, I’m mostly against executing people, unless it’s a matter of public safety, there is absolutely no doubt of the person’s guilt, and there is certainty that given the opportunity, they would offend again. I think it’s something that should be done exceedingly rarely.

What should we do with someone who confesses to being a pedophile, but never actually harms a child? If someone dares to admit to those feelings, especially to someone with training in counseling, should we just round them up and shoot them? Or should we offer them some kind of help? Do pedophiles have any intrinsic worth as human beings, despite their attraction to children? Can they be salvaged? Do they deserve compassion and understanding? As my professor said, people who are attracted to children are dealing with a very powerful drive. If they are brave enough to seek help before they hurt anyone, and even after they’ve hurt someone, I think that should be encouraged.

I also don’t think that all sex offenders are created equally. What Mary Kay Letourneau did was certainly very wrong. She did rape a child. But she was not on the same level as someone like Warren Jeffs, who repeatedly victimized scores of women and children for many years.

From what I have read about the Letourneau case, the relationship Mary Kay had with Vili wasn’t violent. He could not legally consent to having sex with her when they first got together, because he was a child. She certainly abused her power by giving in to having sex with him when she was his teacher. But he was, apparently, her one and only victim, and for whatever reason, he later married her and willingly stayed with her for years.

Did Vili have the right to make the decision to marry his rapist as a consenting adult? Yes he did, even if I don’t agree with his decision. It would not have been right for the government to say that he couldn’t marry his abuser, even if most people think it’s icky and wrong. Americans value their freedoms, as we’ve especially seen during the coronavirus pandemic. And Vili, evidently, did not consider Mary Kay Letourneau abusive, even if the law says differently. Mary Kay was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which may have had some bearing on her behavior, too.

I don’t see Mary Kay Letourneau as a monster, even if I definitely don’t condone what she did. I think what matters most is what her victim thinks. Vili Fualaau was Mary Kay Letourneau’s victim, not me, and he hasn’t been a child in many years. Apparently, he loved her, despite what she did. Mary Kay Letourneau went to prison for her crimes against him. She did her time, and to my knowledge, did not reoffend. She can’t ever hurt anyone else because she’s now dead. Colon cancer is also not a very pleasant way to die.

I don’t understand Mary Kay’s and Vili’s relationship, but since Vili is an adult, I respect his choices, and yes, I am sorry for his loss. That does not make me a “rape apologist”. Aside from that, Mary Kay Letourneau was still the mother of six people. I don’t know what her children think of her, although I did read that she managed to “mend fences” with her eldest children. Her daughter, Mary Claire, was even the maid of honor at Mary Kay’s wedding to Vili. They’re probably sad that she died. Or maybe they aren’t sad. They’re entitled to whatever their feelings are. As a fellow human being, I have empathy for them. It’s not my place to demand that they hate her or be glad she’s dead. It’s not my place to demand that anyone thinks or feels the way I do. It doesn’t mean I admire Mary Kay Letourneau or think she was a paragon of virtue. It means I see her as a flawed human being who suffered and is deserving of basic compassion. There are people who loved her and will miss her, in spite of her shortcomings as a person. And I am sorry for their loss.

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