December 17, 2008

Peace Without Justice

When I was four, I remember fondly heading to the toy or electronics section of Kohl's department store. I remember watching kids play video games. I remember staring at Lego's boxes and dreaming inside two dimensional space. I wondered off frequently when my parents went shopping. I got lost once...and remember being very scared. Thankfully, some nice people helped me talk to store workers and eventually they called for my parents over the loud speaker.

Adam Walsh was not as fortunate. Some decripid person abducted Adam when he too was playing in a department store. His parents never saw him again.

While some might say the parents were at fault or that even my own parents took quite a risk, I say back, no, I ask back, why? Why are there people who see children as targets? Why do we let other adults kidnap, abuse, murder young children? Why can't we, as a society, despite all our regular conflicts and quarrels at the very least, come together and protect our children; ensure that those who attempt to hurt or harm our children are thwarted?

Fox was a young network and was known for two types of television: outside the box, outrageous sitcoms and the early beginnings of reality TV. While the hit show, Cops, enraptured many with seeing folks arrested and confronted, there was a show that was literally making a difference, empowering viewers to help take action.

America's Most Wanted showcased real criminal activity, documented and presented timelines of major criminals. The show's popularity sparked practicality when viewers called in with tips and information regarding the perpetrators they saw on TV. According to the show's website 1049 criminals have been caught. The man responsible for creating the show was John Walsh, Adam's father.

I grew up watching this show, my mom an avid fan of it. I remember watching this stern silver haired man, week after week, go over criminal dossiers constantly encouraging folks to call in. I had no idea, as a child, that his child was missing. As I reflect now, even if I had I known, I would've been shocked at how he kept in all that pain, confusion, saddness over not knowing what happened to Adam.

It wasn't until college when I knew the real story. When I discovered that this serious guy had been doing this for most of my life. That he'd been meeting with goverment officials and police organizations to do whatever he could to prevent further children from being abducted. And all the while, not getting any closer to finding out what happened to his son. I reccomend reading the bio on his website, as the details of his sacrifice and hard work need no additional poetry...this is an admirable and humbling tale.

Thankfully for John and his wife, today that tale is over. Investigators have finally closed the case on Adam's disappearance, naming the man responsible, and providing approximate dates of Adam's death. Closure. That is all the Walsh's ever wanted. I watched his press conference through tears. Not once did John lash back, or feel satisfied that Adam's abducter had died years ago. Nor did he say that his crusade for children was over.

He simply cried relief.

This column goes out to all of those, like John, who gave up their comfort to fight for a larger cause. Who dedicated themselves to helping solve larger problems, making others lives eaiser. We're likely never to meet those people, but the next you get a chance, send a empathetic note to John or anyone who you know is fighting for something. Tell them thank you.

And for ourselves, this paints a beautiful lesson. Justice is not simply having the 'bad guy' get theirs in the end. It's not about someone paying for what they did. Justice is about patience, and determination, and passion to help others. John will continue to help ensure that our cities and towns are safe from those who would harm our children. John will continue to push for tougher laws and coordinated efforts.

John will remain a reminder to all of us, that internal peace can be achieved through selfless perseverance.