In Hidalgo County, Texas, an 85-year-old ex-Priest has (finally) been convicted of murdering a beautiful and accomplished Latina, Irene Garza, in 1960. The Washington Post story ritually pronounces “closure” before probing “why so long?”
What is this “closure” that gets trotted out in news and commentary after every murder conviction?
It’s some relief that I’m not the only one asking, though until I Googled it, I feared I was. Here’s one exploration:
The idea of closure is powerful. It’s something Arkansas invoked in an April 15 motion that tried to fight a temporary restraining order that McKesson Medical Surgical, Inc., has used to block the use of its drug vecuronium bromide in state executions. (The drug is typically used as general anesthesia to relax muscles before surgery).
“The friends and family of those killed or injured by Jason McGehee, Stacey Johnson, Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams, Bruce Ward, Ledell Lee, Jack Jones, Don Davis, and Terrick Nooner have waited decades to receive some closure for their pain,” it read.
But even when executions take place, a surviving family’s pain doesn’t disappear with the perpetrator’s pulse.
Death penalty advocates and politicians, including Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, argue that when the state executes a person who has committed a terrible crime, the act brings closure to victim’s family. But it’s not that simple.
If you ask murder victims’ families, “closure is the F-word,” said Marilyn Armour, who directs the Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue at the University of Texas at Austin. She’s researched homicide survivors for two decades. “They’ll tell you over and over and over again that there’s no such thing as closure.”
Hypothesis: “Closure” is something politicians and society generally invoke to mask revenge (maybe there’s a better word) as altruism.
Alternate hypothesis from Mrs. Tipsy: It brings closure only to journalists, who don’t have to report on this case any more. (I should solicit her thoughts more often.)
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I would a thousand times rather have dinner with secular liberals of a certain temperament than with a group of religious conservatives who agreed with me about most things, but who have no sense of humor or irony.