Camel's Hair and Locusts

Dead End on the Road Home: the Eddie Geurrero Story 

Since this story is about my friend Eddie Guerrero, and Eddie has been a guest of the Michigan Department of Corrections for the past 45 years, it might seem odd that it starts out in Joe Nelson's Barbershop.  Joe Nelson’s Barbershop was in Alma, Michigan and Joe was widely regarded by those who knew him as being the best guy in town. 

Let me illustrate the extent to which this was so:

At this point, I guess this story really must begin at Larry’s IGA in Alma.  My wife, Jean, and my daughter, Hannah and I were shopping at Larry’s on the afternoon of Halloween back in the year of 2009.  I was chatting with the manager, my old friend Larry Mott, about our salad days playing City League softball back in the 1960s and 70s, which was what I usually did on one of our frequent shopping trips to the IGA store.  Larry had been amusing himself (and me) earlier by picking up bricks of IGA Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese from the dairy cooler and tossing them at Hannah, while looking at me and calling out, “Think fast!” Each time the cheese bounced off of Hannah’s hands as she gave out with a short, sharp, chirping scream.  This was a variation on an old softball drill.  It was done around a pulled in infield and the one conducting the drill would look at one player and throw the ball at another while calling out – you guessed it – “Think fast!”  My dad had taught me this drill with hard hit ground balls bounced at my groin, explaining that trying to field such balls would make my hands faster.  He was right: it did.  So when Larry looked at Hannah, and let the cheese fly at me with a little mustard on it, I was ready and fielded the cheddar cleanly as it smacked into my waiting hands.  Larry still had a pretty good arm and I told him so.  Hannah said, “You guys are too weird!” and went off to find her mother.

As Larry and I chatted amiably at the cheese section of the dairy cooler, Joe Nelson came into the store with his son, who was about eight.  Joe was dressed in the full regalia of a pirate ship’s captain in an outfit that would have made Captain Jack Sparrow sit up and take notice.  The young laddie was equally well attired in the uniform of his first mate, and both father and son were having quite the time rushing through the store and making threatening pirate gestures at the startled customers.  “Avast there, Cap’n!” Larry called out to Joe.  Joe leered at us and with a wink answered, “AAAARGH!” as his young matey called out, “You give ‘em what for, Cap’n!”  They gathered up some candy and some apples, made their purchase with plastic swords pointed at the Halloween weary clerk, and were quickly out the door and on their way to an event at Joe’s church that night called, “Pirate Joe’s Treasure Chest.”  Larry, still chuckling, looked at me and said, “There goes the best guy in town!”

Now this was something coming from Larry Mott.  Larry was the Babe Ruth of Alma softball, and many was the time he had broken our team’s heart as one of his titanic home runs climbed silently and quickly up into the night sky and disappeared over the lights at the old Euclid Street field.  And Larry was just as well known in Alma as the Babe was in New York for his generous acts, genuine kindness, and civic minded contributions to our community.  He had a shelf full of awards from the various civic organizations and clubs around town to prove it, and had won the “Order of the Tartan,” the City of Alma’s annual civic achievement award, more than anyone else.  For a couple of generations, Larry had been widely regarded by those who knew him as the best guy in town, so it really meant something when he said this about Joe.  It was almost as if the mantle was being passed right before my very eyes.

A week or so before this visit to the IGA, I was in the chair at Joe’s getting a haircut.  Joe ran a one man operation and was barbering to support himself and his family while he pursued his true vocation, which was studying to be a pastor.  More specifically a youth pastor, as he was clearly gifted with a way with children, and knew that this was clearly what God wanted him to be doing.  A blessed position to be in for anyone, and Joe knew full well how blessed he was.  “One is blessed as one is a blessing to others,” he used to say, and he was certainly right about that.  A blessed man is a happy man, and Joe’s shop was always a quiet but cheerful place to be.  Sometimes it would be only the two of us, with me in the chair and Joe running the clippers, and our conversation concerning Christian ministry – his to children and mine as a jail chaplain – often resulted in long stretches with the clippers humming idly as Joe and I talked. 

On this particular day, a warm October morning that felt more like June than it did like fall, there was an elderly gentleman sitting next to the table of old magazines that Joe kept for his waiting patrons. When I walked in, Joe said, “You're next, Phil,” and motioned me towards the chair.  Introducing me to the older man, he said, “This is Ed,” and he explained that Ed was just waiting and chatting while his wife got her hair done at Hair-We-Are, the beauty parlor next door.  Ed was dressed in a well-worn flannel shirt and work britches held up by suspenders, and looked every bit the part of the old farmer that he described himself to be.  He was from out west of Alma, near Elwell, and we quickly determined that he had been acquainted with my dad and Uncle Orv, and had been a patron of their auto repair business.  “Best mechanics in town!” he said and, of course, he got no argument from me.  He mentioned that when the war came he remembered that my dad had gone to the Air Corp, Orv to the Army, and that Ed himself had enlisted in the Navy and had served proudly in the Pacific Theater. 

With our mid-Michigan connections thus neatly established, Joe proceeded to cut my hair while Ed leaned on his cane and stared out the window at the traffic passing by.  As usual, Joe and I began talking about Christian ministry, and I had come in there that morning looking forward to asking his advice about a specific situation that had just come up.  As the Catholic jail chaplain in Saginaw, I was often called upon to deal with situations that arose in any area of prison ministry, and I had recently been given a letter that had been received by the Christian Services Director at the diocese from an angry and disgruntled inmate.  This was a well-written, but nasty and vitriolic letter, from a man who had been incarcerated for nearly 40 years for a brutal gang rape that had taken place when he was a teenager.  I had looked him up on OTIS, the “Offender Tracking and Information Service” provided by the Michigan Department of Corrections, and the photo of this man on the web site looked even more unhappy than the tone of the letter he had sent. 

As I was running all of this past Joe, Ed suddenly turned towards us and, pointing his cane at us and squinting with one closed, he said.  “Do you know what the Japs did to our boys when they were trying to land on those islands in the Pacific?  At Iwo Jima they had machine gun nests on the side of the mountain, and the men had to get out of the landing crafts in chest deep water due to the shoals and wade to shore.  The Japs cut ‘em to pieces with machine gun fire and the blood drew the sharks in.  You could hear men screaming from the sharks over the sound of the artillery and gunfire.”  Joe and I just looked dumbly at Ed, waiting to see where this was going.  “You know what they ought to do with your rapist friend?  You know what they ought to do with all of those assholes in the jails and prisons?  If it was up to me, they’d put ‘em out in the water like at Iwo Jima, and then hit ‘em with machine gun fire, and when it was done let the sharks clean the mess up!”  With that, Ed angrily pushed himself up on his cane then walked out the door and down the street, still mumbling about what ought to be done to alleviate the problem of an overcrowded criminal justice system.

Author: Infrogmation of New Orleans
“I apologize for that,” Joe said.  “Ed's not really such a nasty old guy, he just has some strong opinions and likes to blow off steam.” 

I assured Joe that I understood.  “While I have to admit that the example he gave was one of the most colorful I’ve heard, he surely isn’t the only person who thinks along those same lines.”

Neither of us spoke for a few minutes while the hum of Joe’s clippers filled the whole room with a warm, electric buzz.  Finally Joe said, “You know, I can’t imagine what it would be like to spend a day in prison, let alone 40 years.  How would it affect somebody like you or me to be locked up that long in that kind of a negative environment?  What would it be like knowing that so many people feel like Ed does, or, maybe even worse, they don’t care at all?  Maybe this guy – what’s his name?”

“Eddie Guerrero,” I said.

“Maybe Eddie Guerrero isn’t such a nasty guy either,” Joe continued.  “Maybe he has some strong opinions and just needs to blow off steam.  Maybe his letters don’t get answered, maybe no one pays any attention to him, maybe he’s frustrated and maybe he’s hurt because, you know, no matter who you are and what you’ve done, you still have the right to be respected and treated like a human being.  Maybe what he needs to know from you is that somebody does really care.  You know, Phil, if I were you, I think what would I would do is write Eddie Guerrero a letter, and just start a conversation.  Get to know him.  Find out who he is, what he’s all about, and see where it goes from there.  Maybe you can’t fix the injustices he’s done to others, or the injustices that have been done to him, but you can at least offer the basic justice found in compassion, caring, and common courtesy.  And, who knows, he may just surprise you.”

I looked up and saw Ed huffing and puffing back up the street towards the barbershop.  “Don't worry.  I won't say anything to him about compassion,” Joe said under his breath with a laugh.  Ed pushed the door open and made his way back into the shop.  The old fashioned little bell on the door jingled as he plopped back down onto the black vinyl seat of the tubular chromed steel chair next to the magazine table.  Once he caught his breath he looked at Joe and me and said, “Well, did you boys get all the world’s troubles figured out while I was gone?”

“We worked on it a little bit,” said Joe calmly. 

“Machine guns and sharks!” Ed exclaimed, looking at us with one eye, “Machine guns and sharks!”

Before we move on to the subject of Eddie Guerrero and his story I must wrap up this story about Joe Nelson by telling you that this was the last conversation we ever had.  Joe had some kind of an issue with blood clots in the brain.  He had gone to the doctor, had been reassured that his situation was easily treatable, and he was told that everything was all right and that he was going to be just fine.  Except one of those blood clots caused Joe to have a stroke.  Joe was driving his car down the street when the stroke occurred, and he managed to steer to the curb and stop.  And that’s where a passerby found him – slumped over the wheel dead.

I won’t go into how devastating this was for Joe’s family and friends (myself and Larry Mott included), or how the whole town came together to support his grief stricken wife and kids, but as you sit reading this know that it was every bit as sad and sorrowful as you are imagining it must have been.  Many of the fine Christian folks in Joe’s Church, the Catholic parish Larry and I belonged to, and many others found themselves on their knees all asking the same basic question, “Why, God, why?”  Larry Mott said, “We just have to accept that God’s justice is beyond our understanding sometimes and we just have to take it on faith that there is a deeper reason and higher purpose in this that we mortals just aren’t capable of seeing.”  He was right, of course.  I likened it to a summer course in English composition I took once at Montcalm Community College.  When three weeks into the term I handed in a paper that met the criterion for completing the class, I received it back with this note written upon it:  “You have finished the course.  Your grade is ‘A.’” That’s how I handled it.  I knew Joe had submitted his life to God and I figured God had it handed back to him with the same note on it: “You have finished the course.  Your grade is ‘A.’”

I had taken Joe’s advice, but by the time I got a letter written the diocese had received a second and even more pointed letter from Eddie.  In this second letter, he had made reference to his brother, Raymond, and so I called him and asked him about his brother.  “Eddie is still my big brother and I love him and look up to him,” Raymond told me.  “He has made some remarkable changes in his life and he has accomplished a lot.  He is not at all the same kid who went to prison all those years ago.  He hasn’t been for a long time.  He has educated himself, he understands what he did, he is truly sorry for it and, after 40 years, he just wants the chance to come home.  He gets angry and frustrated because every time he believes he is about to get released on parole, the door is slammed in his face.”  Then Raymond suggested the same thing Joe Nelson had: “Don’t take my word for it.  Get to know my brother.  See for yourself.”

I scrapped my initial response and I wrote one that responded to both letters, and I did so in a caring but not overly emotional way that told Eddie that I wanted to help.  The reason Eddie was writing the Diocese of Saginaw was because he had applied for a commutation of sentence and was anxious to know if the Catholic Church would be able to provide any support services for him should he be released.  He thought he had a reasonable chance at coming home this time.  Basic personal items were easy enough to come by.  Housing was a little tougher but could be done.  As for spiritual resources, Raymond attended St. Joseph Catholic Church in Saginaw, which was nicknamed the “Mexican Cathedral” because the majority of its parishioners were Mexican-Americans.  Two of my best jail ministry volunteers, Robert Delgado and Albert Vasquez, were both parishioners.  I called each of them and asked if they would be willing to help Eddie get established in the parish community and both were very positive and willing to do all they could.  However, Robert also told me that he was familiar with Eddie’s situation and told me that we shouldn’t count on him actually being released – now or ever.  When I asked Raymond about this he told me, “Eddie has some powerful people in high places who want him to stay in prison for life.  So far, that is what they have accomplished.  This is why Eddie gets so angry and frustrated.”

I didn’t expect to become friends with Eddie Guerrero, but that's what happened.  We began exchanging letters, we got to know each other, and it turns out that Raymond was right about his brother.  Eddie’s story goes like this:

On the nights of October 19, 20, and 21, 1971, Eddie Guerrero and four companions abducted and raped three different women.  It was a series of heinous crimes.  That’s not my word for it, that’s Eddie’s.  Heinous.  This series of rapes was the result of a drug binge of several days duration fueled by a combination of amphetamines and LSD, and the crimes began as an attempt to hijack a car from the Fashion Square Mall parking lot in Saginaw.  The first victim was a small and attractive 20 year old female, and while the original intent was to merely take her car, the incident escalated to robbery and forcible rape.  Ingesting more drugs and now intrigued by the thrill of the previous night’s crime, these same boys perpetrated a similar crime on the following night and continued this behavior into the next before being arrested and stopped. [1]

Eddie ended up in the Saginaw County Jail.  He had turned 17 on October 10, 1971 and another of his companions was nearly 18.  This young man was bonded out of jail and proceeded to commit two more rapes before being re-apprehended.  In Michigan, seventeen years old is the age at which a juvenile offender can be tried as an adult, and Eddie was seventeen by 9 days when the first incident took place.  The three boys who were sixteen were tried as juveniles and were sentenced to one year each at the Michigan Boy’s Training School before being released back into the Saginaw Community.  Two of them live in Saginaw to this day, and the other boy moved to Adrian, Michigan, shortly after his release in 1973.  Eddie was tried as an adult, convicted, and was given three concurrent parolable life sentences.  He begins his 46th year in prison in October of 2016.

Complicating this situation for Eddie was the fact that one of his victims happened to be a relative of the Saginaw County Sheriff.  Eddie was not a model teenager by any means, had been in trouble as a juvenile, and was under juvenile probation when the more serious – the heinous – crimes occurred.  Eddie claims that his probation officer signed a letter stating that he had been previously released from probation for “good behavior” the day before the first crime took place.  He hadn’t, but this made it possible for him to be tried as an adult.  He also claims that this same victim and her family “...continues today to oppose my every effort for release.”

Eddie Guerrero is not a big man today and at 17 he was 5 feet 4 inches tall, and weighed one hundred and thirty five pounds.  I’m sure the Saginaw County Jail was not a kinder and gentler place in 1971 than it was when I was a chaplain there, and I have no trouble believing that Eddie endured a lot of abuse from inmates who were black and didn’t like Mexicans, inmates who were white and didn’t like Mexicans, inmates who didn’t like rapists, inmates who liked to pick on those who were more vulnerable, and jail staff who didn’t like the idea that one of his victims was a relative of the boss.  That seems to add up to a perfect storm of motivation, and the violence Eddie says he encountered and endured is surely understandable.  I’m sure he was beaten, beaten again, beaten severely, and beaten some more, just as he says.  It is also understandable that this kind of violence followed him into the Michigan Department of Corrections, and helped to shape him into an even angrier, uglier and more belligerent individual than the one who committed the ugly crimes that put him there.  Eddie learned to fight back and fight dirty, and he fought both the discipline of the prison system and anyone who got in his way. [2]

But little by little and day by day, Eddie Guerrero grew up in prison.  He became more introspective and began to see himself and his actions in a more realistic way, and he discovered that he not only didn’t like the man in the mirror, but that he desperately needed to change him and improve him. 

In 1977, Eddie began taking college courses, and discovered that the high school student who was told he couldn’t learn now thrived on learning.  He would go on to earn two degrees.  Eddie learned that a lot more could be accomplished by leading with his keen mind than with his clinched fists, and he joined and became a leader and organizer in numerous prisoner organizations.  He founded Hispanic Seeking Justice: Flight for Freedom, an organization aimed specifically at addressing the special needs of Spanish speaking inmates.  In 2003, his work would be officially recognized when he was awarded the Consulate of Mexico’s highest honor, The Consular Award for Service to the Hispanic Community.  As he wrote to me in a recent letter, “I had become responsible for others, and that too made a difference in my attitude. I was helping others!”  He now earned the respect of his fellow inmates rather than demanding it, and, in particular, he gained the respect of the prison authorities.  The words “model prisoner” began to appear on his reports, and this description remains with Eddie to this day.

While education, introspection and counseling surely played a role in the transformation of Eddie Guerrero, the key event that changed his life was a Cursillo weekend.  As he says in his own words, “Finally the COMPLETE 180 came after completing the Cursillo in 1981.  Like Jesus reached out and touched the guy in Mark 5, he touched me.   I have been on this road since then!”  The guy in Mark 5 Eddie compares himself to is, of course, the Gerasene demoniac.

This road of faith that Eddie Guerrero has been on for the past 35 years has taken its twists and turns through many of the dozens of prison facilities in the Michigan Department of Corrections.  He has been in several since I have known him, and is currently at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater.  Lakeland is a facility that specializes in treating inmates with long term medical and mental issues, especially elderly inmates, and Eddie asked to be transferred here so he could be of service to the wheelchair bound and others who need extra assistance or, more importantly, need an advocate who knows his way around in a system in which it is sometimes easy to be overlooked.  In my work as a spiritual director, Eddie was always there for me whenever I needed his help with an inmate who was troubled or in need, and on numerous occasions, I’ve known him to take a younger man under his wing and look out for him and then report his progress back to me so I could provide him better counseling.  My personal experience with Eddie is that you can’t ask for a better friend, and I can only imagine how much more this is true in prison than on the outside.

Eddie is a devout Catholic and a vocal one, and he is continually lobbying the Catholic Church, and everyone else of interest, on all issues from providing access to the sacraments in the local prisons to the most intricate criminal justice and judicial issues on a state and national level.  He is a prolific letter writer and his letters are regularly and routinely addressed to everyone from the local parish priests who come in to provide Catholic services, to individual bishops, the Michigan Catholic Conference, politicians at both the state and national level (including the president), prison officials, and even Pope Francis himself.  Eddie is never shy and never pulls any punches no matter who it is he’s writing to, including and perhaps especially when it is those in positions of political power or ecclesial authority.  When I once told him that his lack of diplomacy demonstrated an institutional mentality, his response was, “What do you expect?  I’ve been institutionalized for over 40 years!”  And while he often uses his own circumstances as an example, especially when communicating with politicians, prison administrators, and those who influence policy making, he does so knowing and stating that what pertains to him also pertains to many others.  I know of no one else who is as well read, knowledgeable, and well versed concerning the state of criminal justice and the judicial and corrections processes as he is, and he’d also be the first to tell you, from his own experience and his research, that there is lots and lots of room for improvement.               

The parolable life sentence that Eddie Guerrero received in 1972 was never supposed to be the de facto life without the possibility of parole sentence that it has become for him.  When this sentence was handed down, it came with an initial review for parole consideration at ten years and every five years thereafter.  The most common scenario for others in Eddie’s position has been to be denied parole (or “flopped”) at the ten year review, and maybe at the first five year review, but release usually comes with a maximum of 20 years served.  The “life” sentence, which is the maximum time that can be served (or the “tail” as inmates call it), is only for those relatively few individuals who, in the process of incarceration, show no improvement.  Eddie Guerrero is the poster boy for transforming one’s life in prison, an accomplished and model prisoner by all accounts, and a man whose psychological profiles over several decades all state that the likelihood that he would ever re-offend is minimal: no more than any of the rest of us.  The Michigan Department of Corrections has been recommending his release to the parole board since 1983.  And Eddie is a man of integrity who never asks anyone to take his word for anything, including me.  I have a file of documents several inches thick that back up these statements and more.  In fact, I have never met anyone who can make his case for parole in the way that Eddie can.  Yet the reality for him is that he appears no closer to release today than when he was first incarcerated in 1971.

In January, 2012, the issue of juvenile offenders convicted as adults and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole gained national attention when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled this practice unconstitutional, and ordered that all such cases must be reviewed.  Three states, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, argued that they were not bound to do this retroactively, which resulted in an expanded court ruling in June of 2016, which stated that they were indeed so bound. [3] Since this ruling was aimed at juvenile offenders who were charged, convicted, and sentenced as adults for murder, and who were given life sentences that were not parolable, it puts Eddie Guerrero in the curious position of not being eligible under this ruling, since his sentence is, technically, parolable.  It is possible, if not likely, that individuals who are guilty of murder, and who have much less time served, will be reviewed and released before Eddie Guerrero ever breathes the fresh air of freedom.  Heinous as his self-described crimes were, he didn’t kill anyone, and justice under the law, as well as common sense, demands that he should not be treated more harshly than those who did.    

Eddie has had 5 reviews for parole since his ten year review and his sixth is approaching.  Including his requests for the commutation of his sentence, he has had 13 reviews.  Each time he has been given reason to hope that he would be successful in gaining his release, and each time he had has these hopes dashed.  Eddie Guerrero has had the support of former Michigan governor William Milliken, the bishop emeritus of Lansing, Carl Mengling, and many, many other notable and influential individuals.  As Antonio Meza Estrada, the Head Consul of Mexico in Detroit (and also one of Eddie's supporters), wrote to the Michigan Parole Board in his letter of June 19, 2003, “As I first reviewed Mr. Guerrero’s complete file, the first thing that caught my attention was the volume of positive recommendation letters written on his behalf for various parole processes.  Community leaders, high ranking clerics, prison wardens, attorneys, and judges have all gone out of their way for Mr. Guerrero.”  Yet Eddie remains in prison and his current attorney has been told off the record that he will never be given serious consideration for release because his case is, “too political.”

What does “too political” mean?  It means that one of the victims of one of Eddie Guerrero’s heinous crimes, and her own powerful supporters, have been able to successfully influence the parole process behind the scenes and, as Eddie puts it, “...continues today to oppose my every effort for release.”  While debating the rights of victims as opposed to the constitutional rights of perpetrators is beyond the scope of this written piece, it does, nonetheless, give one pause to ponder what exactly this means in what is, supposedly, a free society.  Too often, we see those who have been hurt by crime encouraged by the court system itself to interpret justice as a realized vendetta rather than as an opportunity to explore forgiveness and reconciliation.  And the question I will leave you to ponder is, simply, which truly leads to the closure victims seek?

Concerning forgiveness, it should be mentioned that Eddie Guerrero has tried for years to express his remorse and seek the forgiveness of those who were injured and damaged by his actions.  I personally know one priest who has approached Eddie’s victim, offered an apology at Eddie’s request, and has offered to moderate a meeting between her, her family, and Eddie for the purpose of seeking reconciliation and healing according to the restorative justice model.  These efforts have been rebuffed, and Eddie’s effort in seeking to offer such an apology, in person, is interpreted as merely and solely a grandstand attempt on his part to get himself out of prison.  From my conversations with him, I know that coming to the full realization of what he had done, and accepting the responsibility for it, was part of Eddie’s conversion experience at the Cursillo back in 1981.  The bitter tears he wept at the time have given way to 35 years of Christian life and service, and this is testified to by many, myself included.  Eddie is not one to wear his heart on his sleeve, and he can be brash, and even abrasive, in his passion for the causes in which he believes and for which he fights.  I also know him to be a sensitive and honest man and, as his spiritual counselor, he has never given me any reason to question the sincerity of his repentance or the reality and depth of the conversion that brought him to it.

The greater question Eddie Guerrero’s case poses for us going forward is that of what kind of justice we want defining America in the 21st century – a time in which we are increasingly seeing the removal of religion, and particularly the Christian religion, from the position of influence in society that it once enjoyed.  The result of this is a wildly spinning moral compass that has us moving in the direction of a profound marginalization of the most vulnerable among us by increasingly removing them from access to their constitutional rights.  Interestingly enough, this means that we are now seeing a body politic shaped on the left by the desire of Democrats to ensure that those who might pose a risk, or be a burden to society, are separated from their rights and eliminated in the womb.  On the right we see a halfhearted desire on the part of Republicans to restore and preserve this life in the womb so that the neediest of these individuals might later be denied their right to opportunity, and so be exploited through an ever increasing and growing gulag of prisons and detention camps in which we “lock them up and throw away the key.”  

The danger inherent in removing God from our political discussion in the way that we have can be seen in the fact that the justice of men is demonstrated in the cross, whereas the justice of God is found in the resurrection.  While we in Alma mourned the loss of our Christian friend Joe Nelson, “the best guy in town,” we did so believing that who he was and how he lived removed him from the terminal justice of men and into the eternal justice of God.  Like Larry Mott said, “We just have to accept that God’s justice is beyond our understanding sometimes, and we just have to take it on faith that there is a deeper reason and higher purpose in this that we mortals just aren’t capable of seeing.”  When we allow those who seek no deeper reason nor higher purpose to determine the state of the nation, we separate ourselves from God’s justice, and this leads us as a society to the Golgotha of the culture of death.  We witness this in the wanton murder of the unborn through abortion as well as in old Ed’s approach to criminal justice: “If it was up to me, they'd put ‘em out in the water like at Iwo Jima, and then hit ‘em with machine gun fire, and when it was done let the sharks clean the mess up!”

When individual citizens, even those who are the victims of crime, are able to remove an individual from his right to due process, then it is not just Eddie Guerrero who has lost, it is all of us.  Liberty and justice for all means just that, and when we allow ourselves to believe that it is all right to remove the rights of some of us, such as the unborn and the imprisoned, then we need to understand that in doing so we have also removed the rights of all of us.  Eddie Guerrero is widely regarded by those who know him as being “the best guy in prison.”  He has been trying his best and waiting for decades to receive that paper that says, “You have finished the course.  Your grade is ‘A.’”  If political correctness has gotten to the point where Eddie’s consideration for release on parole is “too political” then how long will it be before life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will be “too political” for the rest of us?

The truth we may well be discovering in 21st century America is that when we absent God from our political discussion we all end up in imprisoned.  And when He Who was hung upon the cross is denied, who will hang there in our place? 

Phil Ropp

Phil Ropp is the owner of the Catholic news portal Radio New Jerusalem.