On July 1st - the day before yesterday - the Director of Planning for Somerset County committed suicide. He also served as the Chair of the Board of Education. He was born and raised on Deal Island, an attorney who had his own practice. He was a leader in the local Republican Central Committee. He had a mother, father and three sisters. He had never married, and was 41 years old.
According to local news reports, he spent July 1st with the County Superintendent of Schools at an out-of-town workshop. Meanwhile, postal inspectors and customs agents, known for conducting probes into child pornography and Internet crimes, searched his home and office for evidence. An investigation began, and as an attorney he probably knew what the evidence would turn up. He returned from the workshop at about 5:30 pm, and later that night he got in his pickup truck, pulled into a parking lot on Deal Island and shot himself. He was found that evening... dead.
The community is in shock.
I casually knew this man. More shocking to me than the allegations against him and his suicide, are the nasty blog responses that surfaced only one day later. The scum has risen to top of the blog pond. One poster began with, "he dealt with people in an honest and upfront manner." but ended with, "he did us all a favor by shooting himself. Child Porn and those involved are the sickest most evil people on Earth and they all need to be destroyed."
Nobody beats Joe Albero, though ... a local blogger with a reputation for bashing, and destructive comments. He was the first to post a response to the news article covering the suicide. Albero began with, "When I started interviewing people about this man, each and every person praised him and spoke extremely high of him." and ended with, "Open your eyes Folks. A single man at his age, HELLO!"
The full story and complete postings are at the Daily Times website.
Do we have to stoop to this level to discuss this issue? It seems that when something bad - really bad - happens, we feel compelled to blame and punish immediately... but is it best to recklessly act on that compulsion with no restraint? Are there consequences?
This man, who hasn't been tried yet, was clearly not all bad. He had a family, and people in his life who loved him, valued him. He has a record of helping others in the community. Who does it help to make such statements after such a tragic end, even if he is guilty of a crime?
Does it make you feel better, Mr. Albero, to write such small minded content about a man who may have committed the unthinkable crime, then in shame and humiliation tragically took his own life? Should every 41 year old man who's never been married be suspect now in our communities? Should we be watching them? Should we allow never-married 41 year olds to be teachers, church leaders, run for public office?
Are you so perfect, Mr. Albero?
For the record, I was a victim of child abuse that included being exploited by those who peddled child pornography. It was a long time ago when the medium was Polaroids, and it was horrible. But being the victim didn't make me a hater, and I strive to keep my balance and perspective when making judgments. We cannot be civilized if we rush to judgment and wish the ultimate abuse on those we suspect to be guilty of violent crimes. This is the mentality of lynch mobs, and mindless followers that tag behind strong speakers that spew hate in the name of righteousness.
Child abuse is wrong - and there's never an excuse for it. Perpetrators should be justly punished. But we probably should resist the temptation of enjoying the punishment.
People who commit terrible crimes are still human beings. We demean our own humanity when we reduce ourselves to a mob mentality blinded by all perspectives save the one that sees the criminal as an object to be destroyed.
Jack Willing hasn't been tried for his "suspected" crime ... but he's been convicted by the ones with the loudest voices, and he's not even around to suffer the conviction. Only his friends and family are left to take the punches from the righteous - and it's clear that the righteous love throwing them.