Things just got real for many of us in the metal/hardcore music community. To be more accurate, things have actually become dramatically surreal due to the recent arrest of As I Lay Dying founder and frontman, Tim Lambesis, who has been accused of hiring someone to murder his wife.
I’m sure it is no surprise to many who know me, that Tim is a friend of mine. I have countless acquaintances from my years in the music business, but I only have maybe a dozen very close friends that I stay in touch with regularly, make sure to visit when they are in town, confide in, perhaps seek council. Tim is one of those people. I saw him less than two months ago and interviewed him for a forthcoming podcast. I went out of my way to interview him first for the podcast because of the interesting philosophical conversations we have had. I also recorded a guitar solo for the new Austrian Death Machine album, and discussed having him do guest vocals for a possible solo album I may do.
I have yet to say anything publicly about these events because I’ve really had to think about this hard. Emotions didn’t hit me quickly, because it didn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel real. I’ve witnessed two distinct reactions.
1.) The presumption of guilt based on fairly damning accusations, and the visceral backlash and somewhat justifiable judgement that comes with those emotions.
2.) The immediate defense of a guy we know and love. This is the faith in our instincts, that we can judge someone’s character.
For some reason, both of these knee jerk reactions feel wrong. At this moment, I am choosing to let the facts come out before making any moral edicts. Ultimately, I do believe in the “innocent until proven guilty” virtue of our justice system. This pillar is often forgotten in modern media culture. Being accused comes with an often assumption of guilt in the public eye. The court of public opinion is where the accused go to be crucified. I am aware that the US justice system is quite flawed and will sometimes bury the innocent or liberate killers. But that doesn’t mean presumed innocence isn’t the righteous path.
In a world where one’s credibility and reputation is everything, all it takes in just one single accusation to destroy someone’s credibility forever. I am not a proponent of conspiracy theories, but is it just a coincidence that WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, was accused of rape in the not too distant aftermath of consistently releasing explosive government secrets? Or what about what about ex New York State Governor, Eliot Spitzer, being exposed for a prostitution scandal in the midst of a career in which he was known as being a tough crusader against the abuses and powers that be in Wall Street? I’m not saying these men are innocent or guilty, but all it takes is for them to be accused for their careers to be destroyed overnight. Look at the West Memphis 3. Look at the Central Park 5. In both cases, these people were convicted, and later proven innocent. As a society, we convicted OJ, Michael Jackson, Casey Anthony, Kobe Bryant even if the justice system didn’t. Even if those people were guilty, this is not a good development because it lets conspirators know that people can be destroyed in the public eye by virtue of taking away their credibility and ruining their reputation. All with accusation.
The other side of that coin is even scarier to comprehend though. As someone’s friend, you want to have their back, especially in difficult circumstances. Isn’t that what makes someone a true friend? Sticking it out through the thick and thin. This is where I feel like a coward. Unfortunately, I am not a man of faith. I am not pointing specifically to Tim. I just generally don’t believe in things I can’t back up with evidence. Be it God or ghosts, Bigfoot, whatever. How well can we really know anyone? It seems a wholly selfish exercise to think about how the potential support of a friend in a crisis reflects on your judgement and ability to read people and gauge their intentions. If Tim is found guilty, are all of his supporters bad people by proxy? Are we all accessories to attempted murder, fucking hypocrites?
I have an old buddy from the New Jersey hardcore scene who I choose to not name. I wasn’t close with him, but he would be at every show. He lived and breathed the scene. A lifer. He supported God Forbid from the get go. Going back over a decade, he was convicted twice of statutory rape, and is back in prison for the 2nd time right now. Recently, he got in touch with me through one of his family members and started sending me letters from prison. They are long, handwritten letters. Very much rambled, stuck in the past, lamentations of guilt, self loathing, and regret. There seems to be some type of quasi-psychotic mental break. It’s not the same guy I knew.
I haven’t written him back after 3 letters. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know if it’s even right to accept the letters. But I can’t help but feel bad for the guy even if he admittedly deserves to be where he is at. Again, I feel like a fucking coward. Stuck in the middle. This situation is different because I actually am close with Tim, and he hasn’t been convicted, but there is some moral overlap. What do we do with people that break our code of civility? I know we lock them up, but how should we treat them in our hearts? Do we forgive, forget? Do we punish for a lifetime even after said “debt” has been payed?
Do I support a friend in the face of monstrous actions? I don’t know the answers to these questions. I just pray that Tim is innocent. That it’s giant set up. That it’s just a nightmare that we’ll all wake up from. But I also have to prepare myself for the possibility that it’s all true. I’m confused, and dumbfounded. The only thing that makes sense to me is to wait for the evidence to come out, and figure out how to deal with it all when I know what I’m looking at. I don’t own a “jump to conclusions mat”. Anything else is just getting ahead of ourselves.