New Year’s Resolutions

By | December 31, 2023 | 5 Comments

Times Square, New Year’s Eve

Many people make New Year’s resolutions. Often these include vows to eat less and exercise more. Rather than these healthful but self-centered goals, may I suggest a different set of resolutions:

Use compassion for those who deserve it.

After we have punished the criminal, expressed compassion for all his victims, and done our best to relieve their suffering, then we can feel compassion for the criminal. But till then, feeling compassion for both criminal and victim leads only to more criminals and more victims – who need more compassion. So we feel good about ourselves, while making the world a worse place.

If you doubt this, ask Dru Sjodin. The 22-year-old University of North Dakota student disappeared, and her blood was found in the car of a man who recently had been released from prison. Why a two-time rapist-kidnapper was set free was unclear. The search for the body was unsuccessful. The suspect has no incentive to reveal where he dumped it – authorities couldn’t offer not to impose the death penalty, because North Dakota has none. Dru’s body was found the following spring, when the snow melted. She had been tied up, beaten, raped, strangled, smothered, and thrown into a ravine. The murderer was sentenced to death under federal law.

This case illustrates that “better late than never” may be true, but it has definite drawbacks.

Or ask Roxanne Hayes, a Florida woman who was murdered by Lawrence Singleton. Singleton was sentenced to death but died before the sentence was carried out. Years earlier, he had raped 15-year-old Californian Mary Vincent, then chopped off both her hands and left her to bleed to death − but she survived. Singleton was sentenced to 14 years and paroled after serving only seven. This appeared to be a merciful punishment for a man guilty of attempted murder, mayhem, forcible rape of a minor, sodomy, and forced oral copulation. It was less than merciful for Mary Vincent, who lived in hiding for fear Singleton would return to finish the job. And it was less than merciful for Roxanne Hayes, who didn’t live at all.

This case illustrates that compassion is like money − if we squander it on worthless trash, we will have none left for essentials.

Or ask Samantha Runnion. The five-year-old was kidnapped while playing in her front yard. The murderer-molester had previously been charged with abusing two little girls, but was acquitted when his lawyer claimed the girls were “coached.” The lawyer listed that case as a “win” on his website. We might use other words. This time the murderer was found guilty and sentenced to death − too late for Samantha. But he will probably die of old age. A judge put California’s death penalty on indefinite hold, because lethal injection − the same way we put beloved dogs and cats to sleep − is claimed to be “terribly painful.” As painful as a five-year-old being kidnapped, sexually abused, then crushed to death? But the judge didn’t consider this question. He decided that his job was to assure the comfort of murderers, not the safety of children.

This case illustrates that if we don’t instruct our employees very clearly on what their job is, they will make up their own job to suit themselves.

Or ask Kathryn Steinle. The 32-year-old medical-technology worker was at a tourist attraction with her father. She was struck in the back with a .40-caliber bullet fired by José Inés García Zárate. He had entered the country illegally six times, and been deported five times. Returning after having been deported is a felony, so the killer was a repeat felon even before he was arrested for drug offenses in three states. He came to San Francisco because it was a “sanctuary city.” He was correct. Immigration put a hold on him, but San Francisco refused to honor it and released him from jail to do as he pleased. It pleased him to shoot Kate Steinle.

This case illustrates that if we want to proclaim a “sanctuary city,” we should clarify for whom it will be a sanctuary – women out for a walk, or habitual criminals.

Or ask Corporal Ronil Singh, who was serving on the 12-member police department of the small California town of Newman. The 33-year-old man of Indian ethnicity was born on Fiji. He was a husband and the father of a 5-month-old son. While patrolling on Christmas night, he was shot to death during an apparently routine traffic stop. The suspect is an illegal alien with multiple arrests and alleged gang affiliation. Why he was roaming free was not explained. But in the “sanctuary state” of California, one should not be surprised.

This case illustrates that if we want to show compassion for illegal immigrants, we should take care not to show cruelty for legal immigrants, which is all too likely to occur.

This case also illustrates that Singh came to America to become a good American. He succeeded. His murderer came to America with no desire to become a good American. He also succeeded. We used to distinguish between these two types of immigrants. It would be well if we did so again.

Ronil Singh and family
No sanctuary for them


Avoid saying “tragedy” when we really mean crime.

An earthquake is a tragedy. Of course 9/11 and other terrorist attacks were tragic for the victims and their families, but murder is a sin and a crime. Mass murder is a horrible crime. If the attack is planned abroad and carried out by foreigners, it is an act of war. Calling it a “tragedy” removes blame and reduces the event to the status of a natural disaster. Then we believe that punishment of the guilty, and prevention of a recurrence, are no longer our responsibility.

Avoid saying “mistake” when we really mean crime.

A mistake is confusing “who” and “whom.” A mistake is what gets a criminal caught, not his crime. Murder, rape, and robbery are often called “mistakes” by defense lawyers and other apologists for evil. Calling serious crimes “mistakes” trivializes them into moral insignificance. And if we can’t see things from a moral perspective, what good are we?

Avoid the vacuous expression, “Give peace a chance.”

A chance to do what? A chance for Al Qaeda to crash more airliners into office towers? A chance for Iranian fanatics to acquire nuclear weapons, while screaming “Death to America”?

A “peace” in which only one side renounces violence is called surrender. Real peace can come only when both sides agree to stop the violence, or one side destroys the other’s ability to cause violence. There is no reason to think that hate-filled fanatics will agree to stop the violence. That leaves the second option.

If “war is not the answer,” then what is the question? Apparently it is, “How can I feel self-righteous while accomplishing absolutely nothing?” The question surely is not, “How did we stop aggressive dictators and bloodthirsty fanatics in the past?” The question clearly is not, “How did we stop the Holocaust?” or “How did we end slavery?” Perhaps the question is, “What’s for lunch?”

Avoid the absurd expression, “Violence never settles anything.”

Is Europe still under the heel of Nazis? Is Asia still ruled by Japanese warlords? No? Why not? Is it because Britain followed Gandhi’s advice and surrendered rather than fight? Is it because Jews followed his advice and committed suicide to gain Hitler’s sympathy? (What sympathy?) Is it because Americans followed the isolationists’ advice and concerned themselves with internal problems?

No, it’s because freedom-loving people fought and died to rid the world of these scourges. It’s because rational people saw the vast difference between the British, who could be persuaded to leave India by non-violent means, and the Nazis, who had to be destroyed by the most violent means available.

The Bible tells us not to stand by idly while our neighbor’s life is at stake. (Leviticus 19:16). This advice is both moral and practical. If we ignore it, we may find our own lives in danger, while our neighbors follow our example and stand by idly.

Eating less and exercising more are healthful goals. But carrying out these resolutions will help us to recognize evil. And if we can see it clearly, we can fight it effectively. That would make for a really healthy and happy New Year – except for criminals and terrorists, of course.

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