A Christmas card for the man who killed her parents

Ten years ago today, Daniel Jay (apparently not his real name) went to a Christmas party, got drunk, then hit the road. Then he hit Emily Pothast’s parents. Her mom died instantly. Her dad bled to death in the hospital.

She’s going to send their killer a Christmas card, she writes.

He’s 54 now, the same age her parents were when they were taken from Emily.

“Car culture killed my parents just as much as any one person’s choices did,” she writes. “They were sacrificed on the altar of far-flung communities where people drive 20 miles to party and 20 more miles to get home.”

As the 10th anniversary of my parents’ death approaches, I have been thinking about sending Daniel Jay a Christmas card with a kindly worded note. Could it make him feel worse? Or could my acknowledgement that he is a human being who probably resonates in pain according to the same calendar that I do provide some semblance of solace?

Am I naive for assuming he feels anything at all?

Perhaps. But when my sister was cleaning out our mother’s home office, she stumbled on a folder with Daniel Jay’s name on it.

My mother, a bookkeeper, had once done his tax return.

It is likely that he had been in our home. I can only assume that he remembers who my mother was and is therefore aware of the light that he extinguished.

One of the unfortunate consequences of American culture’s puritanical roots is that we have done much to demonize the evil that others do, as though that evil is something we ourselves are incapable of. The reality is that Daniel Jay could be just about any one of us, or at least someone we know and love in spite of their flaws.

As long as we’re punishing the evil of others, she writes, we can ignore the evils in ourselves.

“The desire to ignore the evil in ourselves is powerful. It’s a power that builds prisons and can rationalize turning a profit from pain,” she says.

(h/t: Kevin Marshall)