Tuesday, March 15, 2005

THERE'S AN ARTICLE in the Christian Science Monitor that expresses exactly what I've been thinking over the past 24 hours about Ashley Smith. I've been thinking that Ashley Smith proves that there is truth to the idea that peaceful strategies can win out over violent strategies; that using words can be as effective as -- or sometimes even more effective than -- using bombs and guns. No one who is at all skeptical about the efficacy of negotiation or diplomacy would be likely to believe that it would be possible to disarm -- in both the literal and figurative sense of that word -- a man such as Brian Nichols. Brian Nichols had committed several violent crimes. He had raped and murdered. He had behaved in a way that was totally irrational. This was not a man anyone would have thought could be susceptible to a respectful, sympathetic, nonviolent approach.

But he was. It's profoundly moving that Nichols went from threatening Smith's life to calling her an "angel" and telling her that God had sent him to her door. It's equally moving that Smith had the capacity for the kind of compassion and generosity of spirit she showed Nichols, especially when you learn that her husband was stabbed to death four years ago and died in her arms. And despite Rush Limbaugh's predictably moronic comment that Ashley Smith let Brian Nichols "walk all over her," the truth is the opposite. Brian Nichols did not walk all over Ashley Smith; and Ashley Smith did not walk all over Brian Nichols. In that seven and a half hours inside Smith's home, both Smith and Nichols won. Why? Because neither of them was killed or physically harmed. Because Smith succeeded in getting herself unbound and talked Nichols into trusting her. And because Nichols DID come to trust her, he won, too: because her simple kindness allowed him to believe that he might still be a human being, able to feel remorse and hope in equal measure. Now that truly is a miracle.

No comments: