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This article struck me today, mainly because I feel these are things that could have been said by Camilla’s family and friends had she lived and faced prison time.

The crux of my book, Not the Camilla We Knew: One Woman’s Path from Small-Town America to the Symbionese Liberation Army, is to highlight Camilla’s humanity and discover some reasons that may have led her down the path to radicalism.

Adam Fox’s family is trying to do the same thing. His mother wrote in a letter to the judge: “He’s not perfect, none of us are, but he’s not evil nor is he a terrorist or threat to democracy or others as the government alleges nor does he deserve life in prison.”

The family maintains that Fox grew up in an emotionally and physically abusive household with a single mother. It was after the death of a beloved grandmother that Fox joined an area militia. His mother said “he was never a leader.”

His aunt wrote: “We believe Adam to have been emotionally vulnerable after his father died of cancer, his own divorce, and losing his place to live. All of this may have been a determining factor in the poor choices he made up until his arrest. We do NOT believe him to be a radical.”

To quote Lemony Snicket, “a series of unfortunate events” seem to have led to Fox’s choices, and the same can be said of Camilla. Both Fox and Camilla seem to have had a great desire to be wanted and accepted. But as a result, any anger they harbored over government actions boiled over and when they found other people who thought the same way, joined them.

It’s a challenge to find empathy for people who have made poor choices. But does that one poor choice negate everything else that has come before? I’m currently reading Jamie Gehring’s Madman in the Woods: Life Next Door to the Unabomber, which addresses this same theme. To Gehring, Ted Kaczynski was an odd, yet kind, neighbor when she was growing up. In her book, she struggles to reckon her memories of the man with the terrible crimes he committed.

What do you think?