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Opening Arguments


Lot of history here:

After 35 years in prison, Arthur H. Bremer, the man who attempted to assassinate Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace during his 1972 presidential campaign, is scheduled to walk out of the Maryland Correctional Institute at Hagerstown in December.

Bremer, 57, has never publicly expressed remorse for the shooting that left Wallace paralyzed and in pain for the rest of his life, but Wallace's son said his family has forgiven him.

"I think God's law has been adhered to, and we're comfortable with that," George Wallace Jr. told the Press-Register of Mobile, Ala. "But having said that, I don't believe that given the suffering my father endured all those years from the gunshots and the constant paralysis -- I don't think Arthur Bremer's incarceration comes close to that type of suffering."

Bremer was a 21-year-old busboy from Milwaukee when he approached Wallace after a campaign stop before a boisterous crowd of about 2,000 in the Laurel Shopping Center parking lot. Wallace, a prominent segregationist who had won three Democratic primaries and was expected to win in Maryland and Michigan, had just finished speaking when Bremer shot him with a .38 revolver at close range. An Alabama state trooper, a Secret Service agent and a Wallace campaign volunteer were also wounded.

So many people were conflicted by that event -- a horrible act against the right kind of victim -- sort of like the modern John Brown, a lunatic in a righteous cause. George Wallace suffered greatly and repudiated his segregationist past, seeming to go through a conversion that many people think was sincere. He forgave Bremer and wanted to meet him, though Bremer never responded. Even the Secret Service agent who was shot has harbored no special hatred for Bremer.

Will Bremer find peace in his life the way some of those he harmed did? He was 21 when he went on his rampage. He'll be close to 60 when he walks out of prison. That's a whole life. What's left for him out here? We don't know much about what he might have learned or how he might have changed in prison, because he hasn't talked about it. We just know this, from a journal he kept up until the assassination attempt:

He wrote that Nixon had been his initial target before he shifted his focus to the Alabama governor, whose outspoken views opposing racial integration made him one of America's most controversial political figures.

"It's worth death or a long trial and life in prison," Bremer wrote in the diary. "Life outside ain't so hot. I want to do something bold and dramatic, forcefull and dynamic. A statement of my manhood for the world to see."

A statement of manhood. He will still likely find life "ain't so hot" out here. But if George Wallace could change, maybe he can, too.