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March 17, 2020 Tuesday 11:08:17 AM IST

Claims of Innocence!

Reflections

Al Capone (1899-1947) was a notorious gangster, racketeer and bootlegger who was dubbed by newspapers as ‘Public Enemy No. 1.’ The Chicago Daily Tribune attributed the death of 33 people “as a consequence of Capone’s actions.” Born in New York, Capone became a gangster at a young age and moved to Chicago to work for the local gangster, Johnny Torrio. When Torrio was attacked and wounded by rival gangsters, Capone became the head of Torrio’s criminal syndicate.

By the age of 26 Capone had more than 1000 people working for him. Even though Capone called himself a businessman who served the needs of the people, he was totally corrupt, aligning himself with the evil elements of the society. While it was generally believed that he was behind many murders including the 1929 Saint Valentine's Day Massacre in which seven people were gunned down, he was never arrested for any of these crimes. However, he was arrested for Federal Income Tax violations and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. 

When he was put behind bars he lamented he was innocent and his only crime was that he tried to make the lives of people better! Francis Crowley (1912-1932) of New York was also a dangerous mobster like Capone. Known as “Two Gun” for shooting with guns in both hands, Crowley was once talking to a woman by a roadside in New York. A police officer who saw him asked for his driver’s license to verify his identity. Instead of handing him his driver’s license, Crowley shot him in broad daylight. Then he took the revolver from the police officer and shot him again to make sure he was dead.

A few hours immediately after this incident the police surrounded his apartment and told him to surrender. However, instead of surrendering he started shooting at the police officers. In the shootout he was wounded in the hand and decided to surrender. However, before he did that he took a piece of paper and wrote, “Beneath my jacket there is heart which is so tired. Nonetheless, it is a kind heart that desires no harm for others.” After murdering a police officer mercilessly he claimed not only his innocence but also having a heart of gold!


Imagine claiming innocence after committing horrible crimes. This is what both Capone and Crowley did. In fact, they went one step further and asserted that they were really good people! They never showed any repentance for their crimes. On the contrary, they wanted others to believe their goodness and kindheartedness.

While they pursued a path of violence and crime without acknowledging their guilt, their lives came to a miserable end. Since Capone had contracted syphilis at a young age, he died of its complications at the age of forty-eight. Crowley was sentenced to death and was executed in the electric chair.

When we hear the story of Capone and Crowley we might wonder about their unwillingness to acknowledge their guilt. Also, we might be shocked at their claims of innocence. However, we should not hasten to condemn them since we also often behave like these two criminals. Of course, we may not kill or loot anybody; however, don’t we also commit all kinds of mistakes even though some of them may not be crimes as such? When we do that, do we always acknowledge our guilt and make amends for them?

The fact is that we are not always ready to acknowledge our guilt honestly; we also seldom make amends. Instead, many of us try to hide our wrongdoings, and, if needed, we will try to justify them. We may even claim total innocence when they are brought to light. And the frightening thing is that some of us tend to believe that we are innocent even when we are following a life of corruption!


What we need is an awareness of the wrong things we do in our life as well as the willingness to correct them and to make amends for our actions. The faster we do this the quicker we become honest human beings who are a blessing instead of a curse for our society. 


Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, CMI


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