Are we Really Going to Free an Assassin?

California parole commissioners have recommended political assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, for parole after serving 50 years in prison. As a society we should be outraged… yet there is little heard about this not-so-surprising turn of events. The decision is now up to Governor Gavin Newsom to either accept or reverse their finding.

Sirhan, a Palestinian militant and Jordanian citizen who lived in California, was actively fighting against U.S. support of Israel in the 1960s. His radicalism culminated in the cold-blooded attack against a sitting senator, Robert F. Kennedy, who was running for the presidency and had pro-Israel leanings. Shortly after midnight on the morning of June 5, 1968, as RFK was celebrating primary victories in California, Sirhan attacked and assassinated him in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. In addition to the death of RFK, Sirhan wounded five others; although they were able to recover from their injuries and survived.

RFK’s assassination came at a very tumultuous time in American history. In April of 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was brutally gunned down in Memphis. The country was battling race riots and contending with the effects of the Vietnam war. All of this transpired just five years after the assassination of JFK. The nation was battered and bruised and the senseless loss of life due to political differences was heartbreaking.

Our society must preserve the rule of law and punish those who break it. Sirhan, regardless of his time served, committed a heinous act. Not only did he murder a man, but he also scarred countless lives. Think of the children who grew up without a father, or the nameless victims that suffered wounds at his hands. There are many unknown, tangential stories of pain and grief because of his violent act. This should not be discounted.

If we are unable to hold criminals, especially political assassins, responsible for the crimes they commit then our society will fall into anarchy. Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening. Anarchy already exists in our cities and at our border: we see catch and release of illegals who have broken our immigration laws, scenes from San Francisco of people looting and remaining unpunished as long as the value of their stolen goods doesn’t surpass the prescribed threshold or criminals in New York who are being released arbitrarily back into society.

And so in this culture of empty law and order, we have parole commissioners who have decided to take it upon themselves to further erode the rule of law by releasing a proven assassin. This is a man who was convicted and sentenced to death -- a sentence which was later commuted to life in prison when California abolished the death penalty in 1972.

Conspicuously, neither Los Angeles district attorney George Gascón nor any of his attorneys were present during the parole hearing to represent the prosecutorial side of the case. It is Gascón’s policy to remain “neutral” during these parole hearings, and so once again we see the feckless application of the rule of law. Essentially, the political elites have determined that it isn’t worth their time or effort to reinforce the earlier findings of the court, and ensure this assassin, and other criminals, remain behind bars.

RFK’s wife, Ethel, once desired to show mercy to Sirhan for his crimes and requested that he not be put to death, but neither did she request a complete release, something which her son Joseph is currently battling.

We can forgive someone for their crime, but it doesn’t take away the fact that they still must face the consequences. Sirhan was forgiven by many of the Kennedys, but it doesn’t lessen the need for him to pay the price for his actions. He faces a horrible consequence: life in prison, but it was his own personal decision to act, to commit a crime, to take another’s life, that put him there. We must also never forget the price that was paid by RFK: his own life. He didn’t get to choose. He didn’t have the opportunity to have a board of commissioners, some five decades after the sting of the crime, to give back his life. We must honor the life lost, uphold our laws, and never forget the pain that Sirhan caused. Forgiveness does not mean that we should forget.

There’s also something to be said for allowing a convicted assassin to walk free again in our society. It is embarrassing. How do we as a society say that it’s acceptable to kill someone and injure several others, convict them, and then later, as the social and cultural tenor changes, release that person back into our society, the same society they hated and attacked. In this case, it shows that political violence is acceptable… at least at some level. It shows would-be assassins and criminals that an attack on a political leader is justifiable, as long as your political beliefs align with the current, popular narrative.

This mindset, a shifting of cultural mores to wokism, has not only undermined our national history but also our own law and order, and now we see it coming to fruition with the probable parole of Sirhan, a convicted assassin.

I respect the fact that many of the Kennedys have forgiven him, that Sirhan himself has asked for forgiveness, but it doesn’t negate the importance of our laws and the application of them without concern for emotions, feelings, or present-day woke sentiments. Enforcement of our laws is to be blind and focused on finding justice for the victims, not meeting the political ideals of our current elected officials.

Let’s not forget who Sirhan was and is -- an assassin. Let’s not forget that his crime incurred a penalty. We can still forgive, but that debt must be paid.

Jason D. Bland is a Doctoral student at Regent University, specializing in Strategic Leadership. His writing focuses on leadership as well as social and political commentary from a conservative, Christian worldview. He has led organizational operations in both the military and civilian sectors, and also provides freelance leadership consulting and coaching.

Image: California Department of Corrections

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