May 31 was 12 years to the day since my daughter, Murray, was murdered by a serial killer, a serial killer who continues to be the focus of those dedicated to “saving him.” Though 12 years is a relatively long time, my daughter still seems so very close to me, to us. She will always have her own space in our hearts. I think of it as a sacred space that memory allows for love.
These years have offered insights I might not have chosen had there actually been a choice. Today, after reading yet another article about controversy surrounding lethal injection, I thought again about the preoccupation of many with the offender, particularly the death row offender. I continue to be amazed by the logical disconnections associated with murder, specifically by the transformation of public attitude that often occurs with even the most lethal and horrific of offenders over the course of their incarceration.
Time provides distance to those not personally caught in the web of cascading shock and cruelty that murder weaves around those it touches. Distance from the details of such an event creates a philosophical disconnect, enabling us to consider the event “objectively.” I imagine that such considerations are like thinking about war as history without ever having experienced the immediate horror and loss of frontline conflict. The two experiences are very disparate.
Offenders become the focus of idealistic groups who apparently are compelled to try to serve, to amend or to save them. These offenders, these destroyers of persons, become fascinating objects of affection for besotted, ill-advised admirers. News sources and would-be novelists clamor to tell their stories.
In the course of a murderer’s incarceration, a subtle attitudinal shift begins to take place among those doing “the good” as a perception of the murderer as lethal offender gradually transforms into a perception of the offender as victim.
The awareness of or concern for actual victims dissolves like images in sand on a beach at high tide. Their presence, their voices, their lives are silent as they cede the floor to those who destroyed them. The offenders enjoy a public reassessment in their favor and seem to attract multiple advocates who support endless appeals, ardent prayers and ever-expanding privileges.
I agree with T.S. Eliot that “half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them ... because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”