Great literature can teach us a lot about life. Take for example, Hamlet. There is a scene in it where Claudius contends with his guilt for killing his brother, Hamlet’s father. There is honest regret in his words and a desire to pray to God for forgiveness. He states his moral dilemma thus:
But, O, what form of prayer can serve my turn? “Forgive me my foul murder?”
That cannot be for I am still possessed
of those effects for which I did the murder.
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
May one be pardoned and retain the offense?
In other words, he realizes it is useless to pray for forgiveness when he is unable to let go of what he has gained by his brother’s death. He then goes on to say that perhaps man’s justice might let him get away with it, but God surely sees through his lack of repentance.
The choices are stark. Claudius’ choice was between repentance or continued killing. If Claudius had passed his ill-gotten gains to his children, he would have passed along with them the need for generations of subjugation of those who were dispossessed. Our choice is not so different. The path forward will not be easy—as it has not been easy for generations of those who sought forgiveness while possessing the offense—but it is not obscure.
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