The parents of Amy Biehl, the 26-year-old Fulbright Scholar who was hacked to death by black militants in South Africa in 1993, are perfect examples of liberals as defined by Thomas Fleming: people who would refuse to take their own side in an argument. Ms. Biehl, a Stanford graduate researching women’s rights and helping to register voters in South Africa, was murdered while driving some friends to Gugeleto, a black township. A band of black South Africans ripped her from her car and stabbed her repeatedly in the head, chanting “one settler, one bullet.” On July 28, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission released the three men convicted for the murder. According to the judges who granted the men amnesty, “at that moment, to [the killers]. Amy Biehl was a representative of the white community.”
The release of a child’s murderers must be a bitter pill for any parent to swallow. Yet Mr. and Mrs. Biehl have made quite a show of their willingness to accept the Commission’s decision. In newspaper interviews and public appearances, the Biehls exhibit a steadfast refusal to be mugged by reality. On the day of the decision, the Los Angeles Times reported: “The Biehls say they understand the social forces that drove the young men to kill their daughter . . . they never harbored anger against her killers—only sadness at the apartheid system that drove them to murder.” Said Mr. Biehl, “Hate is also extremely selfish. And self-serving.” To which Mrs. Biehl added, “and self-defeating.” At amnesty hearings in 1997, the Biehls hugged the attackers’ family members, and shook hands with their daughter’s murderers.
Any normal parent would be tempted to kill his daughter’s attackers with his bare hands. Most would merely pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, consoling themselves with the hope that their daughter’s tormentors are suffering in jail. The Biehls, who no doubt loved their daughter, have taken a different route to effectuate the “healing process,” as it’s called these days. They have spoken to the press, and gone on National Public Radio to express their support for the killers’ release. With the help of a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, they now run an anti-violence project in Cape Town.
“We’re not angry, just empty,” says Mr. Biehl. Sadly, that’s so—in more ways than he realizes.
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