When the feds quickly announce they won't press charges against runaway-bride Jennifer Wilbanks, 32, when the Albuquerque police chief discusses the "stress that she's been through" and law enforcement in Georgia is still noodling over whether to prosecute her for staging a kidnapping that didn't happen, you know you live in a country where actions mean nothing.
Don't get me wrong: There have been serious consequences to Wilbanks' apparently premeditated hoax -- she bought her bus ticket a week before running off, and left behind her keys, wallet and ring, which made her disappearance look like a kidnapping, or worse. Many suspected that Wilbanks' fiance, John Mason, had killed her. Cable TV news reporters were happy to inform viewers that Mason had not agreed to a police polygraph. In such an atmosphere, some vigilante could have hurt Mason. Then there was the nightmare endured by terrified family members and friends.
The mayor of Duluth, Ga., estimates that Wilbanks' faux kidnapping and solo honeymoon in Vegas cost taxpayers some $60,000 for personnel. Now, if there is a real kidnapping, concerned neighbors may be less likely to join the search.
Worst of all, her phony alibi was unconscionable. Wilbanks' tall tale -- that she was kidnapped by an armed "Hispanic man" and white woman in a blue van -- smeared and brought suspicion to Latinos, Latino-white couples and even blue van owners.
The outrage isn't that Wilbanks skipped out of her 600-guest, 14-bridesmaid and eight-bridal-shower wedding. (I should care? I didn't pay for it.)
The outrage is her apparent effort to report a false abduction. Backing out of a wedding -- that's between two people. Staging a kidnapping -- where government agents and citizens join the search -- is America's business.
Jilted fiance Mason told Fox News' Sean Hannity that Wilbanks' guilt "has got to be consequence enough for me." Mason also said Wilbanks is "a victim here, as well." And, "Haven't we all made mistakes?"
After the hoax came to light, the minister who was to have presided over the wedding, the Rev. Alan Jones, told CNN: "John said 'everybody has a right to make a mistake.' He said ,'The Bible calls that sin.' He said: 'The Bible also says every time we sin, we crucify Christ anew. And Christ forgives us, and that's what grace is all about.'"
Maybe Mason is in shock and doesn't really know what he is saying. But when other people, who aren't in his sorry shoes, are saying the same thing, his excuses warrant a response.
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