Dear Boise Weekly, 

I'm writing this as a response to your April 13th True Crime piece "Fashionable Super-thug Facing Heavy Charges." I mean this to stand in defense of Harlan Hale as a person, as my friend, rather than in defense of his actions. I met Harlan showing some of my art to a friend, and we exchanged numbers. Over the next several months Harlan sold several carvings for me and I got to know him. When I read the news about what had happened, I could hardly believe it. The Harlan I knew had become one of the best people I knew. He is a solid, honest and reasonable person, straight forward and loyal, the kind of friend that would stand up to the world in defense of a friend. He is soft-spoken and kind, and not, to his friends at least, troubled.

This is part of my point to writing this. When we look at people who society and/or the law calls criminals, we see the criminal person and often fail to see everyday person. This includes every last " criminal" probably ever known to the world, that the everyday person in them, just like you and me, has some pathology that has damaged them in some way, whether its something known, such as a thing that can be remembered, or something unknown, such as beginning life from natal through age four imprinting is responsible for. No one upon conception is a criminal, or is inherently troubled, planning shooting sprees and high-speed chases. Maybe that comes when Mom starts abusing drugs while pregnant or Dad or boyfriend is physically or mentally abusive to mom, or when, as an infant, the person faces screaming or violence or mistreatment or neglect, or perhaps as a young person they are exposed to traumatizing adversity that damages some part of them so wholly that it manifests as criminal behavior at some point in their life.

I'm not arguing that society can tolerate criminal behavior. Some people have to be put in jail. That's common sense. But what is not common sense, sadly, is that there is always more to the picture, that somewhere in what we call the criminal is a person just like anyone else, who is hurting or has been damaged in some someone's deserving of compassion at least.

When I read the articles in the Statesman, I half expected the condescending, one-sided attitude. After all, that's what most people in this country have come to expect and appreciate, as is evidenced by so many attitudes in the support of the response to 9-11 and resultant war on Iraq. But I was sort of surprised and disappointed with finding that in the article about Harlan in the Boise Weekly. I've come to see you guys as intelligent media, a step above the rest locally, and you failed to maintain that standard by writing Harlan off as nothing but a thug and an idiot. To me and to the rest of his friends he is neither. All of us find it incredibly unfortunate and are saddened by the notion that he won't likely be among us again.

-August Voss ,


Editor's Note: Our True Crime section is more light-hearted and self-consciously dramatic than those of other local media, and as such, our use of titles like "criminal" or "super-thug" are not meant to be quite so mean, or accurate, as our readers sometimes believe. Let us know when we cross the line.

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