My mama once said to me during one of our frequent political discussions, “I don’t believe in the death penalty. I’ve known plenty of murderers, and they weren’t all bad people.”
Plenty of murderers, I wondered? Plenty as in “existing in ample quantity or number?” My sweet mama?
Well, yes. And come to think of it, so have I.
I knew a man who, in the 40s and 50s, owned a honky tonk just south of town and lived across the road from it. One night, a neighbor of his, fueled by a good deal of alcohol and rage over some unknown slight, proceeded to break all the windows out of the club building and then head across the road to see what the proprietor would do about it! Awakened by the sounds of banging on the door and glass breaking, the owner grabbed his shotgun, ran down the stairs, and shot the man he perceived to be a threat to his wife and young children.
Another friend of our family killed his father-in-law, who was notoriously ill-tempered and abusive. Again, alcohol was involved. A fight ensued, and only one man walked away.
One man had a wife who was known to run around on him. He loved her and tolerated her transgressions. But one night, out drinking with his buddies, they started talking about how she treated him and how he just took it. They teased and joked and put him down for not being a “real man.” The next morning, he found his wife. And shot her dead. It was Mother’s Day.
None of these three men were bad people. They were good people driven to defend or by anger and pride. Family men caught up in bad situations. People known to me who would go to the grave knowing that they had put someone early in theirs. Now that’s some reality for you.