American minister and abolitionist Theodore Parker stated, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
It’s quite a long bend we are experiencing.
It’s been difficult to find justice in America these days. The rot of injustice starts at the top. Our institutions, like the ironically named Justice Department, operate under destabilizing double standards.
But the rot reaches down to the individual level as well. An unfolding tragedy in Massachusetts highlighted how destruction, irrationality and injustice are intertwined. It also provided perspective on how we can respond.
On Sept. 30, Adam Howe, 34, allegedly murdered his mother, Susan Howe.
As reported by the New York Post, emergency personnel found 69-year-old Susan Howe deceased on the front lawn of her $900,000 home in the Truro area of Cape Cod. Her remains had been set ablaze.
Authorities had received calls for both a welfare check on the occupants and a report of a fire, according to the Cape Cod Times.
When they arrived at the scene at 9:30 p.m. Friday, responders saw a man and a fire on the front lawn of the home, authorities told the Times.
“[T]he man ran inside the home and locked himself in,” the Times reported. “Responders realized that the fire on the front lawn was a human body burning.”
The Cape Cod Regional SWAT Team was called in to arrest the victim’s son, Adam Howe, who had barricaded himself inside his mother’s house, the Post reported.
After a psychiatric evaluation at a local hospital, Howe was transferred to the Ash Street Jail and placed under a suicide watch, with rip-resistant clothing and visual checks every 15 minutes, according to the Post.
— New York Post (@nypost) October 4, 2022
Despite the precautions, Howe was found unresponsive in his jail cell Sunday, having clogged his airways with wet toilet paper between officer rounds, according to the Cape Cod Times. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital, but was pronounced dead.
A UK paper used an anonymous source that claimed drugs were a factor in the tragedy.
The Daily Mail reported, “A source close to the family told DailyMail.com that Adam and his wife both suffered from heroin addiction prior to the horrific events of Friday night.
“The source said that Adam had been living with his mother and that she had been on the verge of kicking him out due to his drug use.”
One of the frustrating aspects of this senseless waste of life is we may never know what happened.
Adam Howe never had a face a jury. We cannot say whether he acted out of desperation, remorse or instability. We don’t know what led to such unthinkable actions.
The American legal system declared Howe was innocent until proven guilty. At some point, an official inquiry will reach a conclusion, but it will have to do so without testimony from the most important witness.
Comprehension and closure for the larger community are an aspect of justice. We want to know who did it, why and what punishment fit the crime. That kind of resolution may never come in the case of Susan and Adam Howe.
Ultimately, Adam Howe will face the justice of God. We all will. The best we can do in the meantime is to pray for wisdom, perseverance and forgiveness for ourselves and each other.
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